Running a business is always a huge challenge. When you’re in the initial set-up phase, there’s a lot to get your head around, and a lot of questions to ask yourself — including where you’re going to find any contingent workers you need. In addition, you need to do thorough research to understand the marketplace you’re entering.
Once you’ve got your building blocks in place, your small business call center being not the least important of them, you can then proceed with launching your firm. But if you’re to succeed, you’ll need more than a robust customer engagement plan — as important as this is. You’ll need a thorough understanding of what consumers are looking for, what your rivals in the field are already doing, and how you can steal a march on them.
In the modern retail marketplace, when consumer expectations are higher than ever, it’s essential to have an intimate understanding of what your customers want. It’s never been easier for savvy consumers to shop around — and this is certainly true in the food industry, where takeout options are more plentiful than they’ve ever been before.
This means that if you want to establish yourself in such a cut-throat, ultra-competitive market, you need to offer an exceptional customer experience. You have to offer the kind of service your competitors just can’t match. Of course, the quality of the meal is the ultimate yardstick, but there’s more to the wider experience than just great food.
Here we’ll run through eight of the most effective ways of improving the customer experience through online ordering. Read on to find out more.
1. Create an optimized menu
If you’re offering delivery, you must make sure that your menu is optimized for takeout. The chances are some of the dishes you offer to people eating in, wouldn’t be practical for delivery. This might be because it doesn’t travel so well (the food may be prone to becoming soggy or cold), or the margins simply don’t make it financially worth your while to deliver.
Bearing this in mind, your takeout menu must be both practical and financially viable. The meals you offer for delivery must offer customers a great experience wherever they’re eating them. You should also make sure your takeout menu is up to date, so if there are any items you no longer offer (or any new items that you’ve added), ensure your online ordering menu reflects this.
2. Timing is key
When people order food online, they expect their meals to reach them in a timely manner. This is why it’s a good idea to consider working with more than one delivery partner, so that more drivers are available to make deliveries on your behalf.
Obviously, there’ll be times when you’re snowed under with orders and things take longer than they otherwise might. Setting up a call center is no easy feat. But if you keep your customers waiting too long, it’s unlikely that they’ll come back and order from you again.
Make sure you keep customers informed about the progress of their order. They’re used to being kept up to speed when they order elsewhere (for example, through an advanced shipping notice) and they’ll expect transparency from you, too.
3. Offer incentives
If you want to entice customers to order online, it’s a good idea to make it worth their while. Anyone who knows consumers at all — which should include just about everyone, since we’re all consumers ourselves — knows they love to have little extras thrown in. These incentives can make a world of difference.
So, why not offer them discounts or special offers they can only obtain by ordering online? Or you could just throw something extra in there unannounced as a thank-you. It’s a small gesture, but it’s one that can earn a lot of goodwill.
4. Don’t make customers download your app
If there’s one thing customers hate, it’s unnecessary inconvenience. Nobody likes hassle where they can possibly avoid it. So why would anyone make people go to the trouble of downloading a particular mobile app to make an online order? And yet, there are restaurants that do exactly this. It’s entirely counter-productive.
There might be more money in it for you to use your own app rather than a third-party service, but the latter is much easier for consumers when it comes to mobile web ordering — so, even if it costs you more in commission, it’ll most likely bring in more orders. A live chat function, in addition, can help you keep customers informed until they complete their order on your website shopping cart.
5. Keep branding and POV consistent
Branding is highly important, even for small businesses. How you promote your business also makes a big difference — social media marketing and video marketing, for instance, can raise awareness and introduce your business to more customers. But you do need to keep your branding and tone of voice consistent across all channels.
6. Actively reach out to customers
Following on from the previous point, when you’re trying to introduce your business to more potential customers, you need to be active. Make the effort to reach out to consumers via social media — intelligent use of social channels can bring in a lot of business.
Furthermore, you must always be responsive and attentive to any queries they submit to you via social media, even if it’s just to inform people of your return policy. Other people will be watching and will take note of how you respond. They’ll want to see you deliver top-class customer experience.
7. Welcome feedback — even negative
Customer feedback is important, and you should actively seek it out. Encourage customers to leave reviews and provide you with their thoughts. Sometimes this can produce genuinely useful insights. Customers, after all, have a unique perspective and might see things that you’ve missed.
You will get negative feedback at some point (this is inevitable) but if you respond to it in the right way, you can earn goodwill even from those customers who’ve had a bad experience.
8. Don’t forget phone orders!
It’s easy, with all this emphasis on online ordering and contactless payment, to neglect more traditional methods. But these still matter. Phone ordering remains very important for food outlets in particular, and you’ll also find that customers who’ve ordered online will sometimes ring you for information about where their order is (especially if there’s been a delay).
VoIP phones can help you manage call volumes more effectively and make it easier for customers to reach you when they need to. Depending on the size of your business, they may make a savvy tech addition, and there are tons of 8×8 alternatives to choose from.
Online ordering is an integral part of doing business, especially for food outlets — but it has its own particular quirks, and you need to be aware of these if you’re going to get it right. The above list should give you some good ideas about how to make online ordering work well for your customers.
Online order volumes are only likely to grow in the years ahead, so it’s a good time to make sure your VoIP router can handle the intake. It makes sense to get to grips with this stuff now, so you’re in the best possible position to take advantage of the increasing demand.