Effective communication and its importance are nothing new to the restaurant industry. It’s evolving at an unprecedented pace and customers have increased their expectations. In fact, 76% of consumers report that they will take their business elsewhere if their experience doesn’t match their expectations. This is why your communication with your customers needs to be top-notch.
These days, the way we interact and engage with customers happens on multiple levels. What once took face-to-face customer interaction has now shifted to mobile. With the prevalence of social media and mobile technology, communication tactics have advanced. Fast forward to now, as we deal with the effects of COVID-19, it becomes even more important.
Your customers need and want to hear from you. Below, we’re going to show you why you need a customer communication strategy and how to create one that pays off.
What is a Communication Strategy?
A communication strategy details your business, in this case restaurants, communication and marketing goals and how you plan to achieve those goals. This can be done as a step by step process, or just general information about what your mission is and how you plan to get there.
The Importance of a Communications Strategy
In order to reach your business goals, it has to be backed up by a communications strategy. This is a series of specific tactics and communication channels that will help you reach your target market. Your communications strategy can be broken into three simple parts. This is going to be what you want to say, to who you want to say it, and what mediums you’ll use to do so.
There are various types of communication such as:
- Phone Calls & SMS Messaging
- Email & Newsletters
- Social Media
- Online Review Sites
Check out our Restaurant Communication Checklist to learn more about these methods.
The 5 Steps to Creating an Effective Customer Communication Strategy
1. Identify Your Business Goals
Your business goals are the foundation of your communication strategy. Here is where you can refer to your restaurant business plan. Think about your mission statement, core values, and brand. From here, what do you want to achieve? Create goals that are realistic, specific, and actionable.
2. Define Your Communication Goals
Once you’ve outlined your business goals, you can specify your communication goals. These both will come together when you use the SMART strategic process. SMART stands for:
- S: Specific – What is it exactly you want to achieve?
- M: Measurable – How will you track the process and measure the outcome?
- A: Achievable – Is the goal within reason to be accomplished?
- R: Realistic – How is this goal relevant to you?
- T: Time-bound – When do you want to reach your goal?
Here’s an example of a relevant business goal supported by SMART communication goals:
- Business goal: Increase online ordering sales by 20%
- Communications goal: Increase awareness of online ordering
- SMART Strategy:
Specific: Compare awareness growth through social media vs advertisements over 2 months. A budget of $3,000.
Measurable: Track sales and actions that are taken from each online order social post and channel.
Achievable: Add a bold, visible online ordering button to your restaurant’s website. Add call-to-actions on each social media post – “Order Online Now!”.
Realistic: Awareness of online ordering will help keep business running due to dine-in closures.
Time-bound: Design social media calendar and advertisements about online ordering the first week. Launch both starting the same day and check progress every 5 days.
3. Create Messaging that Supports Your Vision & Business Goals
Your message is what brings together your communication strategy and business goals. It’s a representation of who you are and what you do. Your messaging is like your personality. It’s your brand’s voice. This will set the tone for all your communication methods. Clear targeted messaging will help attract customers and support your business goals.
4. Decide The Communication Channels
Start off by identifying what channels you currently use. Then, analyze the performance of each of them over specific periods of time. Which communication channel is going to best serve your goals? You want to direct your effort and spending on the channels that will have the greatest ROI.
A big factor in determining the channel will be your communication goal. As this varies, some messages may be better in a newsletter versus on social media. Make sure you’re going through each step from the stop as you set new goals.
5. Create Metrics and Evaluate Your Strategy
The last and most important step in your communication strategy is evaluating how well your strategy is doing. Your strategy is only as strong as your ability to make changes when needed. In this final step, use your SMART strategy as a baseline to review quantifiable findings.
You want to create metrics for each of your goals as well. For instance, this could be the number of online orders per channel. Or, the number of new Instagram followers after a giveaway. Your metrics will depend on your communication goal and however many you want to track is up to you. But, remember to have relevant reasoning behind it. Include in your communication strategy how you plan to track your efforts.
You can find communication plan examples and free templates here. Now, let’s look at a couple of examples of effective communication.
Centralized communication is key
The secret to staying competitive in the restaurant industry is providing effective communication. Consistent strong messaging leads to consistent loyal customers. Navigating communication throughout COVID-19 can be difficult but we’re all in this together. Your customers want to hear from you so they can continue to support you.
Use the 5 steps above to help you create a customer communication strategy. This is the go-to plan for all your business decisions. With all the changes in the ways we interact, a customer communication strategy will help you figure out what the best method is for you.