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Customer Retention

Food Truck Differentiation Tactics

So here’s a little dose of reality for the food truck owners out there: in most cases you are not meeting the expectations of your customers.

This may seem a little off putting to some of you because in many situations you actually exceed the needs of your customers. However, there are times when something in your mobile food business falls short of customer expectations and unfortunately it’s often the little things that add up to make a big difference in whether a customer comes back to your food truck.

In this article I will discuss some strategies to make the little things add up (instead of subtract) in your favor to strengthen your food truck’s customer retention rates.

Differentiation Helps Build Customer Retention

Many of the food trucks across the country have good customer retention but good should never be acceptable. The most popular trucks have great retention rates, but why? The simple answer is, they have found a way to differentiate the quality of their products and services from the rest of the trucks in their area.

Yes, most trucks have different menu items than most of the trucks in their region, but when a prospective customer begins their quest to fill that void in their stomach…having a specific cuisine on your menu may not be different enough for someone to track your truck down to step up to your service window.

Differentiation that leads to better customer retention is based on the little things. While 80 percent of food truck owners believe they provide a superior experience, statistics show that typically 10-15 percent of their customers agree. Here are a few tactics for setting your food truck apart in a way that your customers will keep coming back.

Food Truck Differentiation Tactics

The Throw-In: Throwing in something small and inexpensive will really ramp up the customer experience. This could be as simple as a small package or container of your top selling sauce or rub for customers to take home with them.

Sampling: This is a classic carnival tactic, but you can take it to the next level, gift a free sample of a new menu item to try, and throw out a tweeted picture of customers fantastic expression after trying it. Personalization and generosity go a long way in customer acquisition and retention.

First/last impressions: Enhance a customer’s experience with first and last impressions. They’re the most lasting impressions they have of your mobile food business, so don’t overlook them.

Follow Up: A personal email, tweet or Facebook mention go a long way. But it’s easy for follow-ups to slip through the cracks when something goes wrong, and that’s the most vital time to make an overture. The next time someone complains about a food product or the service they receive at your truck, reach out privately and personally to discuss the situation and work out a way you can make it up to them…such as a comp’d side dish on their next visit.

Food Truck differentiation tactics that set you apart should be always include having a signature menu item and providing fantastic service. The tactics provided in this article can help you separate your food truck from the rest of the pack. These differences will increase your customer retention and keep your food truck’s service window full, every time you open it.

There are two basic ways for food trucks to increase sales: get new business or increase repeat business. We probably don’t need to get into the fact that it’s far easier and more cost effective to show existing customers how to consume and enjoy more of what you sell than it is to find new customers for your food truck business. You’d rather sell 100 things to 10 people than 100 things to 100 people, right?

Food Truck Long Lines

So, as you plan your future mobile food sales strategy, start thinking about how you can get your current customers coming back for more because if you aren’t working to capture customers for life, you are letting money walk away from your truck. Don’t sell just once. Bring customers back again and again.

Most food truck owners agree with this concept; however fewer understand how to follow through with it. Some truck owners will offer a buy 10, get one free punch-card incentive, for example. This is fine and good, but this strategy usually puts all the pressure on customers. They have to work to be rewarded. They can’t sit back, eat and enjoy free stuff. They have to keep their card on hand and track their purchases.

Here are several other suggestions for helping customer retention:

  • Make customers smile. Look at the neighborhood bar as an example. They have something going for them. There, you don’t have a drink ticket or a punch card. You saunter up to the bar and order your favorite adult beverage. After the bartender starts to know you or after you’ve ordered a few drinks, the bartender buys you one. You hear him say, “This one is on me.”
  • Give customers’ brains a break. What about the airlines? Why don’t they put the miles on for you? Customers have miles scattered everywhere and can never seem to remember their frequent flyer member numbers. The airlines may have to change their system, but how difficult would it be to use a simple system we can remember, like our last name and phone number? The point is, serve customers. Don’t ask them to serve you. How do you create a system to help customers earn rewards instead of their having to keep track to get their rewards?
  • Treat your best customers like stars. Start thinking about your customers as if they were celebrities. The interesting thing about being rich is you stop paying for things. In the fashion world, celebrities are given the most expensive gowns in which to walk the red carpet. Maybe you aren’t selling to celebrities, but you can treat your best customers like stars because they are the trendsetters walking up to your food truck service window and then telling others about you.
  • Make your customers VIPs. How are you incentivizing your best customers? Start treating them like royalty. You want them eating everything you make, because when they do, they are going to go out and talk about it and probably even come back to buy more. Not only will you increase customer satisfaction, you also will get your best customers to try something new. They figure, if it’s good enough for their friend, it’s good enough for them.

So give the customers who already love you more reasons to love you. Give them a new reason to tell others about your food truck and keep those referrals coming. A little extra customer attention combined with a lot of service intention ultimately means many more sales for your mobile food business.

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