Build customer relationships based on trust
Being clear and open with customers can draw them in and keep them coming back. Among consumers, 67 percent say a good reputation may entice them to try a product from a trustworthy company, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. Furthermore, 85 percent of customers say they’ll give a business a second chance after a poor experience if it has a reputation of being transparent, per research by Sprout Social.
With today’s communication tools and online connectivity, it’s become easier than ever to take an authentic, honest approach to customers and operations. “I have always valued transparency, so it was pretty natural for me to want to integrate it heavily within my own operations,” says Madisen Saglibene, owner of Pizza Stone’d, a mobile woodfired pizza service in Las Vegas. “With the emergence of social media, it has only created more of an opportunity for us as business owners to actually show the world what we do.”
Implementing the right strategies can help build customer relationships, boost your reputation, and stand out among competitors.
1. Take social media to the next level.
Saglibene uses social media to highlight the ingredients her place uses. She also makes callouts to brands she collaborates with, and shares messages that relate to her company’s values.
“Have a social media presence that’s open and honest about the work that happens in the restaurant,” says Olivia Newman, content marketing assistant at Giraffe Social Media. You might showcase recent news from the restaurant or mention upcoming items you will soon have on the menu.
“Share offers and discounts and allow people to leave reviews, so other individuals know your business is legitimate,” Newman adds. For a personal touch, make videos of staff members and have them express why they enjoy working at the restaurant. Let them talk about how long they have been at the place and what benefits they have received during their time of employment. Then share the clips on Facebook or Instagram. Viewers will get a sense of who works in your restaurant and what they find meaningful.
2. Show what sets you apart.
“I am very clear that Pizza Stone’d is a women-owned business, which can help make us more identifiable to other women who may want to support female-led businesses,” Saglibene says.
If your establishment has been in the family for several generations, consider communicating its history clearly with customers. Put pictures of the founders on the walls or create a timeline that highlights special moments and awards from the previous decades.
For new places, try holding a meet-and-greet event where you can interact with customers and explain why you opened your place. Dedicate a page on your Web site to explain your purpose, including what’s important to you and how you want your pizza place to impact the community.
3. Place an emphasis on truth.
“When asked questions about products, whether it be about ingredients or process, an honest answer is always given,” notes Saglibene.
Nick Herntier, owner of Pizza Man in Shakopee, Minnesota for the past 15 years, focuses on being upfront early in conversations with customers. If the place is running behind on deliveries over the lunch or dinner hours, “I’ll come out right away and say something like, ‘Just to let you know, we’re looking at about an hour right now for delivery,’ even before they make the order,” Herntier says. Customers are then able to decide if they want to continue with the order or come back at a different time.
The setup has led to repeat customers. “Being transparent on whether you can be there at the designated time helps build confidence in your brand to the customer,” Herntier says. Most of his restaurant’s day-time sales come from businesses that have to take a lunch break at a certain time. “If you are upfront and say, ‘we can’t be there at noon, we could do 12:15 to 12:30,’ then they could move around meetings and not have employees waiting around, and they appreciate that,” Herntier says.
4. Don’t shy away from poor reviews.
Negative feedback, especially in today’s interconnected online world, is nearly inevitable. “I personally rather embrace that than try to resist,” Saglibene says. “Addressing less than optimal reviews has led me to gaining a customer for life because he appreciated my genuine approach and apology.”
When you see a negative review online, you can respond in writing so others can view your position. You might note any mistakes that were made or plans to change in the future. Even if no promises of a free meal or future discount are made, both current and new customers will get a glimpse of your approach to customer service.
5. Open the kitchen.
“The way we’ve found our restaurant and pizzeria clients to have more transparency is to quite simply promote the idea of an open kitchen,” says Christopher Grozdon, co-founder of DASH-SEO, a SEO and digital marketing agency. If your structure allows, you might be able to put in see-through glass that separates the kitchen from the eating area. You could also completely open the kitchen, making it visible to customers when they enter the restaurant.
Another way to create an approachable kitchen appearance is to film the tasks that take place by the ovens. Saglibene has used cameras on site to record and share videos outlining what goes on in the kitchen.
6. Offer a Full Picture of Ingredients.
Start by including nutritional information, such as a list of ingredients and calorie counts, on menus. For an in-depth display, add that same information to your walls or front counter so customers can access it with a glance.
Then look for ways to add more meaning. “Pizzerias should know where and how their millers’ source, and even what farming practices they value,” says Michael Chapman, CEO of Fieldcraft, an online marketplace for crops and ingredients for food and beverage companies. “This presents greater opportunity to share that story with customers, not just as an ingredient list, but as an integral part of their brand narrative.”
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.