How technology can help the hospitality sector during COVID-19

While many pubs, restaurants and cafes were already noticing a drop in footfall due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday 20th March 2020, saw most close their doors for the last time.

Though numerous establishments are insured and the government has put various financial measures in place, there was still a lot left to consider. Staff on zero-hour contracts, leftover stock in the kitchen and the impact on the local community during this uncertain time. As such, many businesses opted to remain open and offer a food delivery or take-out service to customers.

For many companies, this is a great solution. It enables establishments to retain and repurpose employees while supporting the local community in a safe way since contact with the public is minimised. But it also presents a challenge – how do you communicate these new services and protocols to your customers?

Under normal circumstances, social media can prove very effective for the hospitality industry. Photos of delicious food and a cosy corner in a pub, will undoubtedly entice potential customers.

However, at a time when you are trying to pivot your business and focus on communicating hygiene precautions and take-out services, it’s likely to be less effective. Moreover, understandably, there is a lot of content centred around the COVID-19 crisis at the moment, so there is also a risk that your message may get lost.

In order to weather the storm, businesses will need to utilise more than social media. By using all channels at your company’s disposal – email, phone and SMS, you increase the likelihood that customers will see and engage with your business during this challenging time. After all, customers are 35 times more likely to see a business’ SMS than their email.

Furthermore, personalising your customer messages can also be a great way to get your communication noticed. For example, you could send a message to a regular customer asking if they’re missing their favourite dish or whether they’d like to place an order which they can get delivered straight to their door? What’s more, phone, email and SMS allow you to create a dialogue between yourself and your customers, meaning you can discuss your new offering with them in more detail.

Here are a few other ways SMS could be used in the current climate:

Send details of your new offering

When first setting up your new food delivery proposition, you will need to communicate details of payment methods, the general process and times and days these services are available. As SMS benefits from an average open rate of 95% and user response time of 90 seconds, you can be sure your messages have been received and read almost immediately. What’s more, by enabling two-way communication, your customers can reply to your message asking any questions they have, thus enabling real-time dialogue.

Send a copy of your new menu

There may be times when you want to communicate a little more information than a single SMS will allow. For instance, the food menu for your take-out service. This is where Messaging Studio can really help, as it allows you to send a PDF attachment with your text message, meaning you can communicate with your customers without compromising on detail.

Send order updates

Whether your business chooses to offer a take-out or delivery service, you can use SMS to send your customers updates on their order and reiterate instructions. For instance – ‘Good news! Your order will arrive in just 5 minutes. Your delivery driver will ring your doorbell and leave your take-out on the step. Enjoy and stay safe!’

In this unprecedented time, whichever channel you choose, it’s important to keep communicating with your customers.

By Amy Robinson, senior brand development manager at telecommunications provider Esendex

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