5 Ways QSRs Can Use Technology to Keep Customers Loyalty

Quick-service restaurants have tough competition these days. From “better burger” chains like In-n-Out to idealists like Chipotle, many QSRs have found valuable ways to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

One key to standing out enough to not just bring diners in but keep them coming back is technology. Used right, technology can help any QSR build loyalty with customers and drive revenue to the bottom line.

Here are five ways QSRs can use technology to keep customers loyal:

1. Amp Up the Convenience Factor

We’re all busy these days, so any way you can make life easier for customers will be a welcome differentiator. For example, you could take Taco Bell’s lead and make it easy for customers to pre-order their meal before they arrive, whether they’re sitting down or getting take-out. This eliminates some of the “interstitial” wait time and lets them get back to their lives quickly, which many will appreciate.

Offering mobile payments at the register can also increase convenience, especially if you integrate offers into the platform, so that they don’t have to dig out coupons or rewards cards. (We’ll talk more about the value of mobile payments in number 4 below, too.)

 

2. Leverage Social and Mobile to Get Customers Involved

One great way to drive loyalty is to make customers feel like their opinions are important to the future of your business. This has the added benefit of ensuring that, when you make changes—whether big or small— you’re doing so because it’s what your customers want.

For example, you can use social media to poll your customers on where they’d like to see you open your next restaurant. You could also hold a social contest and ask people to suggest a new seasonal menu item or flavor. If you have a mobile app, polling users about their likes, dislikes and preferences around the dining experience is a smart way to keep them thinking about you even when they aren’t in your restaurant chowing down.

 

3. Be Responsive

The ubiquity of smartphones means it’s never been easier for customers to connect with businesses. It’s also more important than ever for QSRs to have a helpful and valuable social presence. This can mean offering exclusive deals to followers, keeping them “in the know” about any fun events you’re planning and just generally being engaged and responsive. A well thought-out social strategy is a low-cost, effective way for restaurant operators to stay in touch with customers before, during and after dining.

Additionally, review sites matter. While not a traditional “social network,” Yelp is a popular app that people often consult before choosing a restaurant. If you want to build loyalty with your customers, make sure you monitor Yelp and other review sites on a regular basis and respond to any questions or complaints. You can also thank commenters for their positive reviews. This shows that you care and can also help you improve your rating, which will also help bring new customers in.

 

4. Give Them Payment Options

At the register, mobile payments can help you serve your customers quickly and securely. With NFC technology, customers are protected from credit card fraud through the use of passwords and sometimes fingerprint ID technology. Beyond these precautions, it’s also hard to commit fraud using NFC technology because it requires the device to be in very close proximity to the POS. Additionally, most people keep close track of their smartphones, so if they go missing, they realize quickly (often quicker than they would notice a missing credit card) and can deactivate the devices remotely. In today’s breach-ridden climate, giving customers peace of mind is key.

In addition to building loyalty by ensuring security, mobile payments can also help make the transaction a more meaningful touchpoint with customers. Often, when customers pay with mobile technology, it’s relatively frictionless to ask them to opt-in to email or text communications. Be careful that you don’t overuse these communication channels, but if you offer good deals and communicate strategically, they can be very impactful. For example, in a survey we conducted last year, for example, we found that 91 percent of respondents were “somewhat likely” or “likely” to shop at a store they don’t typically shop at during the back-to-school season if the store offered a discount or reward. The same is true of restaurants.

 

5. Make it Local

Finally, one great way to build loyalty with customers, even if you’re a large national chain, is to participate in local events. Join the city’s chamber of commerce and find out what’s going on near your location. There might be good co-marketing opportunities in the form of event sponsorships, local festivals or special holidays that you can use to show the community you’re interested in being a part of it. Additionally, you can offer specials that center on local sports teams to show solidarity and build loyal fans in each area where you have a brick and mortar presence.

QSRs have their work cut out for them if they want to stand out from the pack today. The good news is that technology offers all kinds of opportunities to reach and connect with customers authentically. Done right, technology can be used to build loyalty and ensure that visitors don’t just come in for one meal but keep coming back time and time again.

How are you using technology to build loyalty with your customers? Tell us on Twitter @cayan!