A Comprehensive Approach to Building True Guest Loyalty

Loyalty. In our industry the terms “guest loyalty” and “customer loyalty” are mentioned when discussing marketing, innovating, and demographics. But what do those terms mean?

As far as Tim Dumas of Servus Leadership, Inc. is concerned, true guest loyalty is the conversion of a one-time guest into a “raving” fan or customer “evangelist.” As he explained during his 2016 Nightclub & Bar Show presentation, the following is the trajectory for building true guest loyalty. The guest:

  • came to your bar,
  • didn’t complain,
  • left happy,
  • said they were happy,
  • came back,
  • told their friends,
  • and became a customer evangelist.

A customer evangelist, since you’re likely curious just what that means, is a walking billboard for your brand. Your goal should be to transform as many as guests as possible into customer evangelists or raving fans. These are guests that have had such a great time inside your venue that they leave beaming and excited to tell everyone who will listen about their experience. Ideally, you want a group of truly loyal guests. A tribe, if you will, consisting of the best form of advertising and marketing: unpaid brand ambassadors.

So, how loyal are your customers? How can you measure loyalty? It does seem to be a nebulous or at least difficult to quantify concept. Well, Shep Hyken, author of The Cult of the Customer: Creating an Amazing Customer Experience that Turns Satisfied Customers into Customer Evangelists, believes loyalty can indeed be quantified. He measures it by wallet share:

  • How often do your customers take their business somewhere else?
  • How often do they drink at another bar or nightclub, or dine at another restaurant?
  • How close is your venue to 100% of your consumers’ wallet share?

In order to increase that wallet share you need to emulate the successes of brands like Nike, Apple, Amazon, and Chipotle. That is, you need to build a brand with a high level of loyal customers. Your bar, nightclub or restaurant needs to be have the most loyal customers in the community. You accomplish this by meeting your customers’ growing expectations, differentiating yourself from your competitors, engaging with your customers, and building a relationship with them. Pull off those four goals and you’ll create customer evangelists.

Creating an emotional connection with your customers makes accomplishing the above easier. Make them feel valued, make them feel listened to by resolving issues or problems quickly, and communicate with your customers clearly and plainly. What that all boils down to is delivering excellent customer service. But before you think that you just need to deliver better service than another bar, nightclub or restaurant, think again. That’s a good plan but it’s somewhat shortsighted. Your customers are not going to only use parallel comparisons when it comes to service. They are going to compare your service to that of any business with which they have a relationship. Want to crush your competition? Model yourself after major companies that deliver the highest levels of customer service: Disneyland, Southwest, Trade Joe’s, and FedEx.

You need a plan if you’re going to achieve true guest loyalty. Dumas says that it starts with hiring and training: hire for attitude and train for aptitude. You must know what you’re looking for in candidates if you’re going to hire for attitude. But that isn’t enough. You need to look your business, really take a hard look. Are you always hiring? How would you describe your workplace culture? If you’re having a problem with recruitment and retention, it could be because of your culture. You shouldn’t always be hiring, you should always have people asking – begging – to work for you. That means your workplace culture is healthy and your staff are letting it be known.

Of course, hiring means training. Ask yourself the following: What is your current training process? Do you spend money on training? Have you created and do you use a training manual? Is there a great leader or trainer on your staff? Do you offer professional development? Training can be expensive but not spending money on it can be even more costly. You need a training manual, it needs to be a living document, and you must update it regularly.

Next, create a culture of staff loyalty. Before you produce customer evangelists you’re going to need to make staff evangelists. How do your employees feel about working for you? Are they invested in the success of your bar, nightclub or restaurant, or is it just a job? When they’re not at work are they acting as staff evangelists? Engage your staff, create a culture in which they feel a sense of ownership in terms of the success of your business, and be an employer of difference. As Dumas says, if your employees aren’t evangelists, your customers will never be evangelists.

Then, engage with your community. Find out how you and your business are viewed by the community and peripheral customers. Learn how the community views your staff. Look at the interactions you have with your customers and potential customers outside of the four walls of your venue. Network with local businesses and get involved with community and charity events, and encourage your staff to do the same. Not only will that plan result in customer evangelists, it results in excellent customer service and true guest loyalty.

Another step towards true guest loyalty is the implementation of a loyalty program. DataCandy, a loyalty and gift card software program, claims that 84% of consumers said that they’re more likely to visit retailers that have customer loyalty programs. But before you decide to create one you will need to understand the goals of such a program. Your loyalty program must be designed to increase repeat business from existing customers, increase the average purchase of existing customers, attract new customers, create brand ambassadors (your raving fans and customer evangelists), and gain valuable insight into your customers so that you can enhance your relationship with them and market to them more effectively.

Building customer evangelists will require you to take a long, hard look at your bar, nightclub or restaurant. You may have to make some difficult decisions but if those changes result in an army of raving fans, it’s more than worth it. Your rock star staff, customers and bottom line will thank you.

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