Best tech to boost customer experience in your venue

Posted on 25 may 2018

Whether you’re all aboard the tech train, or still thinking about buying a ticket, the noise from the station is getting harder to ignore. The fast-moving tech world and permeation of smartphones has brought with it a wave of switched-on consumers who’ve embraced the upsides of innovation; they not only prefer the convenience of transacting through their phones, but an increasing number of them expect it.
 
Here, we look at some of the different tech options you can utilise to improve the customer experience in your venue.
 

1. CREATE LOYALTY

Move over hole-punch loyalty cards, there’s some new kids on the block!
 
Rewardle combines membership, points, rewards, mobile ordering, payments and social media integration into a single cloud-based platform. Unlike a traditional loyalty program, consumers with Rewardle can use the one card or app at multiple locations. But it’s far from a one-size-fits-all approach; as a Rewardle merchant, you can fully customise the loyalty program to suit your business. Set the increments at which customers receive a reward and what they get….a high-five from the barista or the 10th coffee free, right up to a personal cooking class with the head chef! Rewardle also allows you to send push notifications to your customers using the app to promote flash sales or special offers. Depending on your package, monthly fees cover all the hardware, multi-use cards and support you’ll need to integrate Rewardle into your business, including tablets, bump screens, and even digital leaderboards to encourage some friendly competition between your regular customers!
 
Hey You was primarily designed as an order-ahead and online payment app, with loyalty program functionality built in. Like Rewardle, the one app covers multiple venues, serving up recommendations based on location services and user-set preferences. So you’ll get the double benefit of rewarding loyal customers and attracting new ones. Hey You works on iPhone, Android and desktop. A service fee is applied to all orders paid on a pay-as-you-go basis, but there’s no cost to merchants. With the efficiency of ordering ahead, plus the fact customers spend about 30% more when ordering on a phone, it’s a win all round.
 
Bobile / iBuild App / App Institute are just a few of the platforms that allow you to create your own branded loyalty app using pre-coded templates, if you’d prefer to go your own way. Inclusions and packages vary, but they all start at around US$30 per month. Some offer a simple digital alternative to the printed stamp or punch cards, while others allow you to host a blog, publish your menu, do SMS marketing and more.
 

2. EMBRACE SUSTAINABILITY

Increasingly, conscious consumers are going out of their way to seek cafes that align with their beliefs. Responsible Cafes is a website that enables customers to search for cafes that offer discounts to customers who bring reusable cups. Participating cafes get marketing collateral to display including a vintage-style poster and an information sheet, as well as bi-yearly metrics on the benefits of the program and the opportunity to be promoted through various social channels.
 

3. ONLINE OPENS NEW OPPORTUNITIES

One of the greatest advantages of transacting online is the wealth of information it generates, which can be used effectively to improve customer experience. Imagine how impressed a customer would be if you could offer them their favourite wine or table preference, without them having to ask for it? Or wish them happy birthday, without them telling you? Guestbridge is an online reservation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that allows you to track and tailor service to your repeat customers.
 
Domino’s has offered it for years, but now online ordering apps like Uber Eats and Menulog easily allow customers to re-order recent purchases and save favourites, fully customising their own ordering experience. Real-time updates of their own order progress from cooking to delivery and allowing customers to feel in control has greatly improved the customer experience of online ordering and has been a key driver in its growing popularity.
 
Digital menus have brought about one of the most drastic changes to customer experience in the hospitality industry in recent years. Allowing customers to see food before they order it, find out what’s in it, order on demand and, in some cases, pay – all without speaking to a staff member – has been a game changer. Menus can be updated in real time, so no more ordering something that’s just sold out. You can also help customers make intuitive choices, by suggesting drinks or sides that suit their menu selections. Fine Dine Menu and eZee iMenu are just two of the many digital menu platforms available for an ongoing subscription fee.
 

4. CARDLESS CASH IS KING

While we’ve been watching cash payments slowly fade into the ether, it seems card payments are on the decline now too as wallets make way for smartphones. An increasing number of people in the core 18-45 age demographic are opting for the convenience of cardless payments as technology such as Apple Pay becomes more widely available.
 
If you don’t have a PayWave or PayPass-enabled EFTPOS machine, it’s time to upgrade. Any of the latest generation EFTPOS machines will have contactless functionality, or you may want to consider something like Albert from Commonwealth – an integrated EFTPOS terminal and point-of-sale all in one.
 

5. OPEN THE COMMUNICATION LINES

The closer a customer feels to your business, the better their customer experience is likely to be. The key to connectivity is communication, and an increasing amount of that communication is taking place when customers aren’t even at your venue, thanks to advancements in technology. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have obviously paved the way for online engagement. When done well, social media opens up an unprecedented two-way communication channel between customers and businesses anywhere, anytime. If you’re struggling to find the time to post regularly –particularly across multiple platforms – scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Buffer might help you get organised in advance.
 
But it’s the two-way part of that loop that’s most critical. Giving customers the ability to leave feedback – both good and bad – and feel like their opinions are valued, cannot be overlooked. Review sites Yelp, Zomato and even Google reviews allow potential customers to start bonding with you, long before they’ve set foot in your venue, and allow your supporters to become advocates. Businesses can take control of their own listings, populate the ‘about’ section, upload photos and, in some instances, respond to negative reviews (and dispute fake ones). Yes, take online reviews with a grain of salt, but also understand they can have a huge bearing on your customers’ experience. Plus, use a service like Review Trackers to see and manage all of the different review sites in one place and make the process a whole lot easier.
 
 
Regardless of how tech savvy you decide to be, embracing the right kind of technology should be a positive for your customers and, in turn, your business too. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but implementing at least some technology changes will go a long way to keeping your customers happy and, importantly, keep them coming back.