A survey carried out by Retail Eyes in late 2009 shockingly showed that only six per cent of almost 7,000 consumers asked rated the quality of customer service in pubs as 'very good'. There's clearly a lot of work to be done to bring levels up to scratch.
Retail Eyes works with companies including JD Wetherspoon and JD Sports to improve customer experience. It carries out more that 50,000 mystery visits a year in the licensed trade. And people are three times more likely to tell friends about bad experiences than good ones, so ensuring quality of service is vital.
The pub trade has had a torrid time over the last couple of years. With both independents and pub companies finding themselves in administration, the need for customer loyalty has never been greater. Customer retention will be critical over the coming year. Customer expectations have shifted during the recession. There has been greater emphasis on value for money and this is likely to continue as we slowly edge our way out of recession.
In many cases pub operators have had to adopt aggressive pricing strategies in order to drive footfall, but this is likely to be unsustainable. So what else can you do to drive customer loyalty and advocacy?
People are looking for an experience when they visit pubs and while these expectations will differ depending on your positioning, one thing is certain; it's the little things that can make a huge difference to ensure customers keep coming back. These are, more often than not, driven by your staff.
What a turn-off...
For example, our National Customer Satisfaction Survey found the things that turn off customers the most include: tables with empty glasses or dirty plates left out, not being served in turn at the bar (or even acknowledged), having to wait a long time to be served, not receiving check-backs for satisfaction during meals, and disinterested staff.
All of these points are very basic, but they are also exceptionally common errors. Even things so small can ultimately influence whether customers return or spend more money - but they are all relatively easy to rectify.
There are simple golden rules that every establishment should be implementing to ensure customers enjoy their experience. By following these rules, pubs can see a measurable impact on their bottom line by making customers want to come back, spend more, and by passing positive recommendations on to their friends.
Five golden rules
Here are five, easy to execute tips that will help your business start to see results:
1. First impressions are everything. Give people a warm welcome. By greeting them as soon as they get in the door, they're more likely to settle down, stay longer and spend more money. This can be supported by having tables cleared and cleaned quickly and directing customers to a free table.
2. Mind your manners! It's the first rule of customer service. Even when it's frantic, it's important to be polite - it doesn't cost a thing but poor manners can cost you business. Retail Eyes' research shows that 56 per cent of customers have left an establishment before making a purchase if they get poor service - so good manners can have a direct impact on your bottom line.
3. When all around you are losing their heads… be calm. Busy times can be stressful with long queues and waiting times. Customers can get frustrated and sometimes staff bear the brunt of their frustration. The best way to deal with aggressive behaviour is to be calm, don't raise your voice, and treat the customer with empathy and understanding. It's unlikely that they will expect this response so you can turn the situation to your advantage. Generally, Britons are happy to queue up for something they value, but by communicating with them you can make their experience a much more positive one.
4. Check that your customers are satisfied with the service. Retail Eyes' research found that only six per cent of customers rated pubs and bars as delivering good customer service. It's vital for any business to get feedback. Only then can you be confident that you're meeting customer expectations and improving the operation of your business to achieve the best standards.
5. Keep it clean. It may sound obvious, but sticky floors, shabby toilets without toilet roll, dirty glasses and unpleasant odours give customers a really bad impression. Many will be put off ordering food if they are worried that hygiene standards in general are low, so you could be missing out on additional customer spend by neglecting to clean thoroughly and regularly.
Tim Ogle is chief executive at Retail Eyes. For more information visit: www.retaileyes.co.uk