Customer for Life: The Holy Grail of Hospitality

Hospitality people know how vital regular customers are to staying in business. Regulars may not always run up the biggest restaurant bill or book the most expensive rooms, but over time, those familiar faces and repeat business lead to steady earnings long-term. And those regular customers are the ones most likely to actively promote your business or refer you to their friends.

But it’s astounding how often businesses ignore the fundamentals. When a disproportionate amount of time or attention is paid to new customers or large groups, regulars may become dissatisfied with the decline in service or feel they are being taken for granted. Earning customers for life is not a one-time accomplishment. It’s an evolving relationship that requires nurturing and constant evaluation.

Cultivating long-term customer loyalty should drive your entire business strategy. From the company’s mission statement down to individual performance goals, “earn customers for life” should be adopted as a mantra for your entire organization.

Want to know exactly how important a regular customer is to your business? Run the numbers. Calculate the lifetime value of a customer’s loyalty by taking an average bill and multiply it by the number of times they visit in a year.You’ve got a lifetime value metric in place, and now you can gauge the net effect that losing this regular customer might have on your bottom line.

Ask for their feedback, solicit their opinions, and most importantly, respond to their criticisms. They can help you improve your business practices. And do everything you can to ensure that when asked, they’ll speak highly of your business and recommend you to others.

Stever Robbins is right on the money in his piece about lifetime value. The takeaway: Keep that special jar of hot peppers in stock, if only for the guy who eats at your restaurant 5 days a week.

Christopher Wofford is Digital Media Producer and host of WebSeries at eCornell.
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