social media and customer loyaltyCultivating and increasing customer loyalty is one of the biggest challenges faced by restaurants. Some businesses are thinking outside the box and finding new ways to engage customers and foster loyalty. One way to achieve this goal is providing customer service on social media.

Here are steps you can take to make it work for your restaurant:

1. Relationship building. The stronger the relationship your restaurant has with your customers, the more inclined they will be to return to your establishment again and again.

The best relationships with customers are based on meaningful, helpful, friendly — and sometimes even humorous — communications. So, when delivering customer service on social media use a warm, conversational tone and perhaps a bit of levity.

2. Gaining credibility. If your customers are active on social media and reaching out for service and support on those platforms, they are also learning about your business there. Make sure you are projecting the right brand image so customers form a great impression of your business. Consider sharing relevant content on a range of topics — like trending menu items, ingredient sourcing information, suggestions for romantic nights out — that shows you care about your customers and their dining experiences. If you are involved in your community or charitable causes, post that as well.

3. Timely responses. When you decide to deliver customer service on social media, keep time in mind. Consumers check their social media with such regularity that using these channels to respond to questions, comments, and other feedback must be far faster than doing so by other methods. In the world of social media, an acceptable response time is probably hours (maybe even minutes) rather than days.

Meeting customer expectations for the timing of your response conveys the message that you care about their needs and you want their issue to be resolved quickly.

4. Tact. In addition to responding quickly, you should also craft responses with tact and care, reflecting customers’ importance to you. Your team members responsible for customer service on this channel should keep in mind that the proper tone and intent is harder to convey in brief social media posts. Thank customers for their comments, whether positive or negative. Apologize when they’ve encountered a problem and state that you want to make things right. Acknowledge any suggestions, and let customers know you value them.

5. Eliciting feedback. Asking customers their opinion on your food, service, and staff is an added bonus of offering customer service on social media. As you engage with customers on social media sites, invite them to share their views. Their feedback can help you refine operations and the services you offer to improve dining experiences and boost loyalty.  

Connecting with customers in a push to gain and retain their loyalty is and will continue to be a key objective and differentiator for restaurants. Delivering top-notch customer service on social media can help you not only achieve, but exceed, that goal.