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Hospitality: Consider your comms as you reopen your doors

As a waiting nation stands by to visit its favourite pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants from 4 July, what are we all expecting from our much missed hospitality businesses as they reopen, and how can they help to safely ease us out of our safe havens and back out into the world?

The heart and soul of our social experiences

 

One thing is certain, we have all missed the freedom of meeting friends and family at our eateries of choice so it is great news that these businesses have an opportunity again to provide the heart and soul to our social experiences. But how they communicate to their loyal and new customers has never been more crucial as lockdown leaves many of us feeling uncertain about venturing out again.

 

Communicating with customers

 

From the tone of voice and the safety guidance they give, to the language they use on their social channels, website and signage inside and outside their establishments – each of these businesses is having to think very carefully about the instructions it gives to its customers and how it communicates these messages. Safety is the priority, but it is important also to remember that customers want to enjoy themselves.

 

We give our communications tips to get the balance right between commanding and invitational language to ensure hospitality businesses bounce back and we all bounce back with them.

 

How to talk to your differing customer profiles effectively.

 

People generally fall into two main categories when it comes to effective communications.

Goal oriented people dive in and do. These are the people who don’t bother wasting time thinking about stuff – these are the get up and goers. Commanding language suits this profile of customer. Efficiency is everything and they don’t mind being told directly and in as few words as possible, as long as it meets their goal. They respond to enabling language to motivate them forward with their chosen goal. For example:

 

  • Wait here to be seated
  • Three people inside at any one time
  • Book before you arrive
  • If you pick it up, it’s yours

 

Problem solvers on the other hand, are more thoughtful in their approach. Will check out all the options first before making a decision and certainly want all their questions, worries and concerns answered. They would be completely put off by the commanding language of goal-oriented customers. They will respond to inviting language which lets them know that the problems – in this case social distancing, safety and cleanliness – have been considered and solved for them. They respond to inviting language, more thoughtful in its approach and reassuring in tone.

 

  • We have thought of everything so you don’t have to.
  • We invite you to book a table to ensure that we can serve you safely.
  • Our staff will wear PPE for your protection.
  • If you will kindly wait to be seated, we can ensure that you receive the best possible service.

 

Since these two groups of customers require such overtly different language, it is always better to play the safe hand and tailor your communication for ‘problem solvers’ by using their motivational language.

 

Staff training

 

Are your staff on board? Importantly, do they want to be there? Sounds simple but if you have nervous staff who aren’t really sure they want to be out of the home and in front of your customers – then your customers will also be nervous. Body language and the expression they carry on their faces, will let your customers know exactly how they are really feeling despite everything they say to the contrary.

 

Your staff are representing your business – in everything they say and do. Both outside of your business and within it. You and all of your staff have the power to influence your customers’ experience positively and unfortunately negatively. And as the adage goes, you only get one chance to get it right.

 

Ensuring your staff are trained in how to communicate with your customers (post-Covid) is of paramount importance to the experience of your customers. This is because customer advocacy and referral is even more essential for ensuring our hospitality businesses get back on their feet as quickly as possible.  People will come back to you if the service is spot on, if they feel safe and importantly, if they feel welcomed and valued.

 

It’s worth spending time with your employees before the doors open, listening to any concerns they have and helping them to offer the best service to your customers, anxiety free.

 

Written communication

 

So, consider the greeting on your door – signage with single commands is never welcoming and will put off a whole group of target customers – the problem solvers, who like to be invited to do something, not told.

 

Do tell your customers in advance on your social media channels and your website what they can expect from you – from when they arrive to when they leave. How are you configuring your tables for example? How many staff will you have on the premises? What is happening with toilet facilities? What is the process for ordering food and drinks and is it essential to book in advance?  Make the language inviting rather than commanding.

 

Reassure them that you have thought of everything and let them know this before they arrive. It will put their minds at ease and they will be more inclined to book a table or walk through the door.

 

Feedback and opinion

 

Take their feedback – ask for it and act on it. Your customers’ opinions and feedback is crucial in making them feel listened to and heard, comforted and reassured. Proactively ask them what they want, how could the experience be better for them? Do the same with your front-line staff. Never stop communicating with them and your customers – verbally, written and sub-consciously through your body language and demeaner. It makes a huge difference to confidence and trust.

We wish you luck. Don’t give up hope and we will be there supporting you. Everybody wants you to smash it.

 

If you’d like social media support for your reopening, get in touch with the team today.

 

By Rachel Cullis Dorsett

Rachel has over 20 years’ B2B and B2C PR experience within the entertainment and food industries. Rachel devises effective communications and engagement strategies which deliver the right message to the right audiences, and she has significant experience in brand management, stakeholder relations, and crisis communications.

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