Repeat customers have multiple benefits, as they:
- Are a source of regular sales
- Are likely to bring friends and therefore also promote business growth
- Are likely to have good relationships with café staff and improve café atmosphere
- Will come in peak periods despite wait times or crowds
But getting to the point of having a large group of loyal customers isn’t just luck. While many café owners recognise who their repeat customers are – what intentional steps can you take to encourage higher levels of loyalty from your customers?
1. Customer service
We’ve listed this first as it is ultimately the most important, and crucial for any customer. Customer service can be as simple as a smile and a greeting – but cafes that miss the mark are unlikely to see repeat customers. Therefore it is necessary to train all staff, even if they are new and learning the ropes, to be welcoming and friendly. Anyone, with any level of experience, has the ability to be polite, so make sure this is something you highlight as an essential part of your business model from the very beginning.
In addition to this – go the extra step and build relationships! Your customers are your revenue – treat them like they are important. Ask genuine questions. If you know their name, use it! Even remembering coffee orders goes a long way. You can create a list of regular customer orders to make it easy for your staff, and it will make all the difference to your repeat customers when they see that you’ve made the effort.
2. Reward programs and free tasters
Loyalty cards (e.g. buy 5 coffees get 1 free) are a great way to encourage people in the area to drop in. At a small cost to your business, you can gain a loyal customer, who will likely purchase more than just the coffee anyway. You can also customise these to fit your individual café brand, so that the customer is carrying a physical reminder of you in their wallet.
Tasters of new food products create excitement and mean that every time someone re-enters your café they can experience something new – and are a great way to drive loyalty. And if the taster is good then sales will increase, so it’s ultimately a win-win.
Free sweets with coffee. This can be a regular thing or introduced on specific holidays... think mini Anzac biscuits or chocolate easter eggs. It won’t cost your business much but will be a nice surprise for your customers and definitely build a good reputation.
It only takes one bad experience to lose a loyal customer to a competitor. This means making sure that your baristas are properly trained (to your individual café methods) before they start serving coffee, having a clear ordering system to reduce missed or lost orders, using the same amount of ingredients/mixes for drinks like milkshakes and hot chocolates, having clear plating guidelines, and always using the same priority system for takeaway/dine-in customers.
Mistakes are undoubtedly going to happen, so if any errors occur make sure that your staff know to apologise immediately and have clear guidelines in place for how to handle customer complaints.
4. Transparency of any changes
Loyal customers return to your café for a reason and can sometimes react negatively to changes, such as swapping brands or price increases.
The good thing is – if they genuinely want to support your business, these customers probably won’t mind. It’s just important to make sure these changes are transparent so that they don’t come as a shock. This can be done through signage or even just telling them in-person.
5. Points of differentiation
Do customers return to you because your coffee is strong? For certain meal deals? Free wifi? Do you source local products?
The best way to figure out your selling point is to consider what existing repeat customers you have and consider what they come back for – and then push that as your point of differentiation.
In addition, listen to what people are asking for... certain milk options, vegan meals, gluten free bread? It’s likely that if you have multiple customers asking for the same thing that there are no other cafes in the area that supply these options. If you are the first to implement it then you are guaranteed a number of repeat customers that can't find what they are after anywhere else.
If you are on socials - reply to all messages and comments. Reshare photos that any of your customers post, as this will encourage them to share their experience and will result in even more people seeing your café name.
Interaction is key to staying top of mind.
Hopefully these tips have provided some food for thought.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure that your customers are happy is to always see things from their perspective and work from there.