Cultivating Guest Loyalty
Cultivating guest loyalty is fundamental to keeping a venue alive. Embracing key techniques to deliver on your venue’s brand promises and enhance the experience of each guest should be a key focus for all bar professionals.
Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Guest loyalty goes beyond the products you sell and the service you provide and is intrinsically linked to emotion and how you make your guests feel when they're in your venue. Providing a consistently excellent product, good value for money, and a team that genuinely cares about each guest's experience should be your minimum standard. If you want to develop authentic loyalty and guests who seek you out time and again you need to ensure that each and every interaction they have with your business makes them feel special.
So how do you deliver these minimum standards? And how can you ensure you're forging an emotional connection with your guests?
Forging an emotional connection
If you look at almost any successful consumer brand, you’ll see that their success goes beyond the core goods or services they provide. What they all have in common is that they create an emotional connection with their customers.
That emotional connection might not resonate with everyone, but that’s OK. These successful brands don’t look to please all the people, all the time. They identify their core audience and double down on pleasing those people, forging an emotional connection with their core audience that ensures brand loyalty.
You can replicate this approach by identifying your WHY - why the world needs your business to exist. This isn’t why the world needs bars or restaurants to exist, it’s what you do differently that makes your loyal guests choose you over the available alternatives. A good place to start is to ask your existing loyal guests. What is it that keeps them coming back? What do they love about your business?
When you’ve identified your WHY, you need to articulate it as a series of brand promises. These promises might not be directly communicated to your guests but they should be communicated to your team so they can ensure that they’re delivering on your brand promises with every interaction.
These promises highlight your core values and commitments to your guests. They form the foundation of the experience you offer, shape staff interactions, and articulate the emotional connection you’re trying to create to build brand loyalty.
Here’s an example of a simple brand promise from a well-known operator of bars and restaurants.
“’In Here, It’s Always Friday’. We promise a fun and lively atmosphere with great food and drinks, to make every day feel like a Friday”.
Delivering on your brand promises
When you’ve created your brand promises you need to ensure all your team can communicate all the promises, and that they actively strive to deliver them in every guest interaction. In doing so they’ll deliver that emotional connection that creates true loyalty and keeps guests coming back time and again.
You can help your team by creating a service strategy that formalizes your expectations and includes the non-negotiable behaviors you expect your staff to adopt and deliver.
Delivering Brilliant Basics: Value, Consistency and Quality
Value for money is a key factor in bringing repeat customers back to your business. This does not mean ‘cheap’. Value can be determined by many factors from positive interactions with bar professionals and ambiance, to a serve’s presentation and, of course, taste. Upping the quality of the customer’s experience will, in turn, affect the amount the guest is happy to pay. You always want a guest to leave with the feeling they have received good value for money.
Consistency is key. Top-quality products must be served promptly and to the highest standard without failing to achieve a customer’s requirements for great value for money. Don’t let exterior factors get in the way of quality – speed, and efficiency can be vitally important in your venue, but don’t sacrifice the quality of your product or service to achieve it.
Ultimately, if the minimum requirement for guests is top-quality food and drink and this isn’t delivered, those same guests won’t return and in a worst-case scenario, they may deter others from visiting.
No matter how well you define and deliver on your brand promises from an experience perspective, without the underpinning of brilliant basics you’ll struggle to develop true customer loyalty so quality, consistency, and value should be at the heart of your product delivery.
Don’t shy away from going the extra mile or doing something out of the ordinary to make a guest’s experience memorable. For instance, if a guest drops into a conversation that it’s a special occasion, consider adding an extra garnish to their drink or something for added aesthetic appeal to amplify their experience. These are just a few of the low-cost actions and gestures that bar professionals can offer to enhance a guest experience, exceed expectations, deliver on brand promises, and build customer loyalty.
Cultivating guest loyalty essentials
Cultivating guest loyalty is fundamental to keeping a venue alive. It is a fact of the industry that without returning guests, positive recommendations, and customer loyalty; a venue cannot be sustainable. Therefore, embracing these key techniques to deliver on your brand promises and enhance the experience of each guest should be a key focus for all bar professionals. Remember and put into action the following techniques to cultivate guest loyalty:
- Identify your WHY. Why the world needs your business to exist and which customers your business is there to serve and delight. If you’re unsure, asking your existing loyal customers is a good place to start.
- Create strong brand promises that deliver on your WHY. Clearly communicate these brand promises to your team so they can deliver them in each and every guest interaction.
- Create a service strategy that formalizes your expectations of your team and includes non-negotiable behaviors that support their delivery of your brand promises.
- Ensure you’re delivering brilliant basics. Your guests will expect great quality food and drink that represents great value for money as a minimum standard, and they’ll expect you to deliver it consistently, without exception, on each and every visit.
- Remarkable customer service will set your business apart from the rest and forge an emotional connection with your guests. Make sure your guests feel comfortable, valued, and looked after and they will repay you with their loyalty.
- Brilliant basics – quality, consistency, and value for money – are just the building blocks of customer loyalty.
- A well delivered “brand promise”, that encapsulates why customers should return to your venue again and again – including service benchmarks, how staff interact with guests, and the atmosphere they enjoy – will keep them coming back.
- It’s OK if you don’t please all people, all the time. Understand your core audience, what they’re looking for, and how to form the strongest emotional connection with them.
- To understand what drives loyalty, start by asking your regular customers what they love about your venue.
- Low-cost gestures, such as an extra garnish on a special occasion, or aesthetic changes, can significantly enhance the guest experience, and make your venue stand out.