- On April 2, 2020
Everyone is wondering the same thing – when will we get back to ‘business as usual’?
The simple answer is, we won’t.
The hospitality landscape following COVID-19 will be unlike anything we have experienced before. Apart from restrictions that will no-doubt be placed on operations, the real question marks are will the public come rushing back in for a frosty, draught beer or will they stay away in fear of getting sick or large crowds?
Will they be used to having food delivered to their lounge, do they prefer to gamble online or would they rather spend money on their new puzzle obsession?
One thing is for certain, your doors will be allowed to open again, and when they do – is your team ready for the challenge it brings?
How pub & club operators can break the routine and earn back the trust
Right now, the two biggest challenges facing the hospitality business is how we will earn back the trust of the customer and how to break the lifesaving habit of ‘staying home’ in exchange for a visit to your venue.
Here are 6 tips for a strong bounce-back
1. Refocus your management team
No doubt your staff and management team have had to pivot to keep up with the changing landscape and keep operations afloat, but it is time to start focusing on the strategy moving forward.
Remove the distraction of the everyday and get your team in a (socially-distant) room working on an action plan to reengage your customers over the next few weeks. If you’re having this conversation after its announced on TV, then you’re already behind your competitors.
2. Refine your point of difference
One thing a few months of isolation has taught people, is how much they value human connection and socialising. Things might have gone digital in a BIG way, but why not use this lesson to refine your on-site hospitality offer. People are thinking about how they spend their time and when this is over, they will want to spend it with brands that offer connection and an experience.
Start now by engaging your local community from afar, for example:
- Contacting customers directly to offer support or say hello, believe it or not but they miss you as much as you miss them
- Lending a hand with local associations or businesses
- Have staff members represent the brand in community areas (e.g. setting up free branded water bottles for people exercising or present in local shopping centres)
- Delivering goods to local medical centres / hospitals / aged care facilities
- Send a lotto or scratch ticket to your best gaming customers in the mail
- Offering something of value to the local families struggling at home
Consider how you will create connection for your customers when they are onsite. Connect them to your community, to your staff and to each other through clever marketing strategies and promotions.
3. Get a communication plan in place
Develop a 6-month communication plan for engaging with your customers and break it up into 4 phases.
- Now – focus on customer communication (health and wellbeing check)
- 6 weeks out – focus on re-engaging the customer, remember their habits have changed
- Pre-open – ensure you are offering reassurance to your customers and obtaining their trust that you are safe
- Post-open – prepare a variety of strategies to relaunch operations
Whenever pubs, clubs and casino’s get the green light to reopen, you can pick up the right strategy for your business and hit the ground running.
4. Rebuild the trust
Fear and uncertainty around public health is enough to keep people from venturing out. A critical element to your relaunch is a comprehensive Health & Sanitation Program that demonstrates your dedication to keeping your customers, staff and community safe. This needs to be in addition to your regular cleaning and must have a physical presence at every touchpoint possible. Let’s call it ‘Health Marketing’.
Customers will be hyper-aware of cleanliness and need a consistent reminder that you are taking precautions, ideally above what the mandated requirements of the time are. Some things to include in your own ‘Health Marketing’ include:
- Physical distancing, seating and spacing limits
- Sanitisers and cleaning systems – surfaces, cash, ATMs etc
- Promoting touchless systems (sign-in, pay pass, POS, cashiers, meals)
- Front and back of house signage
- Staff training information
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – gloves, hairnets, aprons
- Air purifiers / sanitisation – consider scent marketing
- Safety reminders through audio and visual systems, create internal messages via staff posters and messages
5. Deliver an experience you can’t get at home
Giving your customers a reason to leave the comfort (or confines) of their homes goes beyond just offering a 2-for-1 Parmy or some cash up to win in the pokies room. This is further challenged by social distancing limitations and also the necessary reduction of marketing spend through promotions or even outsourcing entire marketing operations to save precious dollars.
Whether you have $100 or $100,000 to spend on marketing – the objective should be the same; use it to deliver an experience that you can’t get at home. If we are to encourage customers to break their daily routines and habits, we need to ensure we are offering something of value.
Sure, you sell cold beer – and we can get that at home, but what else are we buying? Feeling important, relaxed, a part of something joyful and simple.
Translate that to the real world and it looks like remembering customer names, ensuring glasses are cold and clean, crisp beer lines, offering great spaces to relax in, providing the right mix of entertainment, helpful and competent staff, a welcoming atmosphere and temperature control for customer comfort.
So when you are penning your upcoming promotional schedule, make sure you consider all aspects of the experience including our critical, but often forgotten friend, FUN. We all need it, and it never goes out of style.
6. No room for bad service
The gift of time we all wished we had more of just weeks ago has realigned our expectations as customers. We now know a lot of work can be done from home, essential meetings can be done from anywhere and teachers are saintly beings. People now put greater value on their time and they also know that we need them more than they need us.
Put simply for Pubs and Clubs, there is no room for bad service anymore (if there ever was). If customers choose to spend their time with you, they expect it will be valued in return with exceptional service.
Customer service in hospitality is a vortex of opinion but throwing your cheap casuals or your (sometimes worse) ‘been-here-20-years’ veteran at the public without the skills to reengage with this new ‘public’ isn’t going to stick.
Engage a professional to develop a dedicated customer service program – it will be the best investment you make for your business.