How to Meet Customer Expectations Post COVID-19

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

52% of business leaders expect an increased desire to support local from consumers1

This is why the first article in our “Localism and Community” series focuses on how businesses can understand what their customers are looking for during and post-lockdown to lead to long term advocacy. 

People in conversation

What do customers want?

Meeting customers’ expectations starts with understanding what they really want. Here are some of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed what customers expect from a business.

Trust and transparency

When restrictions are lifted, consumers will be looking for trust, with hygiene procedures, sourcing and supply chain transparency ranking highly in terms of importance.

  • 54% of consumers will be interested in knowing more about a venue’s hygiene procedures once they’re allowed to reopen2

In the most recent CGA BrandTrack poll, chain restaurants Côte, Miller & Carter and Pizza Express scored highly for trust and cleanliness, and research shows likelihood to visit is influenced by both of these factors along with how brands behaved during lockdown.2

 

Good communication

Communicating clearly will impact consumer choices, with reliability and trust being key decision-making factors and reassurance being paramount. Brands who have been regularly communicating with their customers during lockdown are likely to fare better than those who haven’t, and safety and reliability messages have never been more important.2

 

Deals and offers are less important

Pre-lockdown, deals and offers were a major footfall driver but post-lockdown these are less important, with quality of food and ingredients more of a focus.

  • Less than a third of people (31%) would be interested in a venue’s deals and offers once reopen; a 12% decrease vs before lockdown2

 

How to meet customers’ expectations?

A brand’s positive behaviour now has the power to impact perceptions for the long-term and consumers are likely to have greater long-term affinity with brands who demonstrate their understanding of what their customers want and a willingness to listen. 

Offer reassurance

To help with reassurance, operators could look to:

  • Provide information about how their business has adapted to the recent changes
  • Show how they’ve listened to their customers and have responded to their changing demands
  • Show transparency and commitment to quality and hygiene
  • Demonstrate the steps they’re taking to getting back to serving food their customers love

 

Focus on customer experience

Once venues have reopened, if a consumer has a great experience, they’re likely to recommend a venue to a friend, and although priorities have shifted due to recent events, when it comes to meeting consumer expectations the key drivers before lockdown still apply.

  • Service and value for experience were seen by operators as top drivers for consumers when choosing where to eat and drink out3

 

Encourage positive reviews

Consumers often search for online for reviews prior to choosing a venue, and a positive online reputation helps reassure, build trust and boost local rankings. Operators should encourage visitors to post positive reviews if they’ve had a great experience.

 

Reward loyal customers

Consider ways to reward the most loyal customers. Being the first to try new food or drink or being recognised with something on a birthday or key date makes consumers feel valued and helps build an emotional connection which is one of the key drivers of brand loyalty.

  • 80% of consumers who consider themselves to be loyal also state that they are very or extremely likely to revisit4

Over time, competition will start to increase again, and consumers will become less cautious, so meeting consumer expectations by providing a great experience and point-of-difference now will help lead to loyalty - securing repeat visits and word-of-mouth recommendations.

When it comes to what consumers want, it’s important to take sustainability and waste into consideration as well.

Discover how the public sentiment has changed regarding sustainability in restaurants, in our next article from the “Localism and Community” series.


Sources:

  1. CGA Business Confidence Q2 2020
  2. CGA Consumer Analysis, April 2020
  3. CGA Business Confidence Survey, Q4 2019
  4. CGA Peach and Zonal Go Technology Big Data Research 17