When was the last time you considered yourself a ‘regular’ at a local restaurant? The food service industry is changing at a rapid pace, and delivery apps and home meal kits are on the rise. Other industries are feeling the heat, too; witness how Uber and Lyft are shaking up the transportation sector, or how fast fashion has forced retailers to change their game.
What do all of these disruptions lack, however? Customer involvement and engagement. This is how brick-and-mortar businesses can thrive in the digital age: by fostering a community and engaging customers in new and innovative ways.
Let’s explore the importance of customer involvement and engagement, and look at some strategies for doing it right.
What is Customer Involvement?
Customer Involvement, or customer engagement, is a business strategy that aims to actively involve customers in all aspects of the company. This can include everything from product design to marketing to customer service.
The goal is to create a connection with customers. When customers feel invested in a company, they are more likely to be loyal and return. Companies that guide their customers through the entire buyer journey attract 95 percent of business revenue, compared to companies that only focus on the first sale.
Customer involvement comes in many forms, but a few key strategies include:
- Asking for customer feedback.
- Offering customer voting or polling.
- Allowing customers to participate in product development or design.
- Letting customers contribute to marketing campaigns or content.
- Encouraging customer reviews and ratings.
- Providing customer support and assistance.
- Hosting events or meetups for customers.
Initiatives like this create a sense of community and customer ownership. When customers feel like they are part of the company, they are more likely to evangelize for it.
Consider the likes of Netflix, which has an excellent and consumer-relevant social media presence; or Apple, which regularly invites customers to its headquarters for product launches and other events. These companies have mastered the art of customer involvement and engagement.
Why Customer Involvement?
Engaged customers are valuable customers – that’s a rule of thumb in business, and it’s been proven time and time again. In the hospitality industry, fully involved customers bring in 46 percent more revenue. A similar trend is seen across other industries, including tech at 40 percent more revenue.
Why? Because customers want buy-in. They want to see their loyalty reciprocated, and to feel like they’re a part of something special. When you give customers that opportunity, they become invested in your company. They are more likely to return, recommend you to others, and forgive any mistakes made along the way.
What Customers Expect
Fortunately for businesses, plenty of studies have been conducted on what customers want and expect from customer involvement. Here are some key findings:
Customers expect consistency. According to Deloitte, over 60 percent of customers prefer to interact with brands via multiple social media channels. They expect brands to consistently update their social media profiles, website, and other digital channels with the same tone and style.
Customers want relevance. Of consumers surveyed, 91 percent suggested they would prefer to shop with brands that send relevant recommendations and pay attention to their individual needs. This can be done with tailored marketing, customer surveys, and other initiatives that get to know customers on a personal level.
Customers value personalization. While the majority of baby boomers still value privacy over a personalized shopping experience, millennials and younger generations are more than happy to share their information in order to receive relevant content and offers. In fact, 70 percent of consumers say that personalization increases their loyalty.
Customers want to be heard, and heard quickly. In fact, 75 percent of consumers expect a response from their inquiries in 5 minutes or less.
These statistics are instrumental in creating effective customer involvement strategies. By understanding what customers want, businesses can better cater to their needs and create a more meaningful connection.
For instance – if you know that consumers value consistency, it makes sense to invest in a well-thought-out social media strategy that has content planned for weeks or even months in advance. If you know that customers want personalization, you can create a customer profile and target them with relevant ads and offers.
The bottom line is that customers want to feel engaged and important. They want to feel like they’re a part of something, that their voice is being heard. When businesses take the time to involve customers in decisions and get them invested in the brand, it pays off in significant ways.
How To Get Involved
There are countless ways to get customers involved. Some businesses opt for online surveys or feedback forms, while others prefer to host focus groups or customer panels. In-store activations and events are also a great way to get customers engaged.
In the hospitality industry, it’s important to consider the competition. The food delivery service is predicted to grow exponentially between now and 2029 to around $320 billion. More delivery apps and home meal kits means that restaurants need to find new and innovative ways to involve customers.
Some establishments are turning to technology for help. Interactive menus and touch screens can give customers the ability to personalize their orders, or even help chefs develop new recipes. Social media is another powerful tool for customer engagement; businesses can use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to solicit feedback and run contests.
Customer involvement doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Sometimes, the simplest gestures – like thanking customers for their business – can make all the difference.
Keep customers in the loop
Something to note about highly successful businesses is their marketing strategy. Rather than sending out stock-standard emails or blanket advertisements, they make sure to keep customers in the loop about what’s happening with the company.
This is a great way for restaurants, in particular, to keep customers involved. If there’s a menu change, for example, send out a quick email or post about it on social media. If you’re offering a new dish, let customers know what to expect.
It’s also important to be responsive to feedback. If a customer has a complaint, address it as quickly as possible. Showing that you’re listening and that you care about your customers’ experience is a surefire way to keep them involved.
Make up for lost interaction
Now that many restaurants are having their food sent via delivery app, it’s harder to create a dining experience that gets customers involved in the culture of the restaurant. With just an Uber Eats profile and menu to go by, customers can feel like they’re missing out on the full experience.
There are ways to combat this, however. Restaurants can embrace social channels to give customers a glimpse into the action. Live streaming of events, such as wine tastings or chef demos, can help to bridge the gap.
Another way to make up for lost interaction is through customer loyalty programs. These programs offer benefits like free food, discounts, and exclusive access to events. They create a sense of community and give customers a reason to keep coming back.
Pay attention to feedback
When customers provide feedback – whether it be positive, negative, or neutral – it is the company’s chance to learn and improve. It’s important to be responsive to feedback, whether it’s in the form of a survey, social media post, or review.
Businesses can use feedback to improve customer service, product design, marketing strategy, and more. The key is to pay attention and take action. Ignoring feedback will only frustrate customers and make them less likely to be involved in the future.
Here are a few tips for responding to feedback:
- Thank customers for their input.
- Address the feedback promptly and appropriately.
- Take action based on the feedback received.
- Keep customers updated on the progress made.
- Show gratitude for continued involvement and support.
Some companies only acknowledge feedback, but don’t act on it or make changes. Whether they do this due to negligence or ignorance, it can be frustrating for customers who took the time to provide feedback, and it also turns them off from providing future input or even continuing to be a customer.
Instead, be sure to make changes based on feedback and keep customers in the loop. Not only does this show that you’re listening and care about customer satisfaction, but it also demonstrates that you’re taking steps to improve your business.
Be innovative and creative
Time and time again, the businesses that think outside of their industry’s box and innovate are the ones who succeed. This is no different when it comes to customer involvement and engagement.
Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if they seem risky. If you’re not sure how to get started, consider looking at what your competitors are doing. Observe their best ideas and tweak them to fit your own company’s culture and customer base.
The goal is to create a connection with customers, and that takes innovation, creativity, and a willingness to try new things.
Customer involvement and engagement is essential for businesses in the digital age. By understanding what customers want and need, businesses can create a strategy that engages customers and builds loyalty.
There are many ways to get customers involved, and it’s important to be responsive to feedback and keep customers in the loop. The Retention360 Direct Response Tool can help with this by allowing customers to give feedback immediately as problems occur.
Retention360 has a solution for every stage of customer engagement, from analyzing feedback to taking action and making valuable changes. Request a demo to see the benefits it has to offer your business – it’s the all-in-one strategy tool you’ve been looking for.