Category Archives: Food

There’s no such thing as bad publicity

At the Food For Thought workshop on 22nd March Richard Evans shared the insights into social media marketing that he gained while developing social media strategies for national brands such as Greene King, Wagamama and Kwik Fit. This was easily the section that generated the most discussion of the day as Richard challenged the audience to get out of their comfort zones and really engage with their customers.

The most debated point related to negative feedback on TripAdviser and other review platforms. Every customer facing business is aware of this problem, and whether or not the complaint is justified, the question remains: how do you respond, given that your response will be visible to the world at large?

First Richard used an audience survey to illustrate the importance of responding to negative feedback: everyone in the room had used TripAdviser to research unknown venues, and everyone agreed that they would look in detail at the negative comments rather than the compliments.

This illustrates the power of reviewing sites, and the value in building a good reputation on them, but the more interesting conclusion has to be that your response to a negative comment will be read by a large percentage of your prospective customers; probably far more than notice the carefully crafted marketing blurb on your website or promotional material!

Using a real life example of a complaint from his time working in a restaurant business in 2018 Richard illustrated how to use a polite response to diffuse the complaint. Within a carefully crafted reply he:
– responded directly to the complaint
– included references other customers positive feedback
– included highlights of special offers, and
– most importantly, he offered the customer the opportunity to discuss the issue further in an email exchange, in order to avoid having a “he said, she said” war of words in public.

All the businesses in the room ran highly regarded operations delivering excellent customer service, but it is a fact of life that you can please everyone – this line of defense is not designed to ignore the customer’s complaint.

Often the first reaction to a complaint is to be defensive and offer money off a future visit, but it is clear that with the reach of the internet it is essential to do more than just address the actual issue in the complaint. If you look on your response as your opportunity to offer potential new customers more information about your business you can make much better use of your efforts.

Service with a smile

The latest Food For Thought workshop was run in conjunction with Food Drink Devon in March and looked at ideas for attracting and retaining customers in both retail and hospitality businesses.

The challenge for both retailers and cafes and restaurants is very similar; you still can’t eat lunch online, but increasingly customers’ expectations have altered dramatically due to the advance of Amazon, Ocado and numerous order online delivery services.

Barbara King faces that change everyday at The Shops at Dartington and generously shared her experiences with a thought provoking presentation focusing on how to stand out from the online crowd and retain a loyal customer base.

Customers no longer go to “bricks and mortar” shops purely for supplies; they want to enjoy spending their money and feel content about parting with it. Shoppers will always appreciate good value, but also our increasingly aware customers want to know the provenance and local/ ethical credentials of the goods they buy.

By explaining to customers why you have chosen particular products in the range you show that you are carefully curating the massive selection of options currently on offer so that they don’t have to look any further. This is easy to do with some simple signposting and labelling, and often producers supply their own material.

Creating a welcoming environment for customers is absolutely crucial to making them feel at home. We are all aware of the “have a nice day” style of customer focus, but independent retailers and eateries have an opportunity to use the initial greeting, maybe even just a smile and a hello, to show that they offer a unique service and genuinely care about their customers.

Finally, why not make it easy for customers to find a reason to visit again; give them a loyalty offer (free coffee on your 6th visit?) or tell them about future events (a postcard with an invitation to a launch event?) and stay in touch via a newsletter, relating new developments and other news.

Ultimately happy customers are returning customers, and happy customers will spread the word about you do to their contacts, all of which does the marketing hard work for you!

There will be more blogs summarising the topics discussed in March over the coming weeks and if you would like to find out about the next workshop, planned for autumn 2019, please leave a comment to let me know.