Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as legal or data protection advice. Please always consult a knowledgeable professional advisor.
Businesses across the UK are opening their doors once more after months of the latest lockdown. 2020 saw non-essential businesses forced to close for all of spring and part of autumn, with the third and hopefully final lockdown period set in motion at the end of December.
At the start of the third lockdown, the government announced a multi-step roadmap to ease back to normality, with selected activities permitted at the various stages.
For the hospitality sector, this has been a long and difficult year and even as businesses look to reopen, the landscape will be entirely different. Social distancing requirements remain in place and there are still heavy restrictions on customer movement, the number of people allowed in any one space and strict hygiene requirements to follow. Hospitality businesses are now seeking ways to maximise revenue while adhering to the ‘new normal’.
The UK timeline for reopening
The ‘lockdown roadmap’ highlights key dates for businesses across the UK, with restrictions being gradually lifted as time progresses and the vaccine continues to be rolled out.
Hospitality venues can expect spikes in bookings in the weeks immediately following each new stage of the roadmap, as people celebrate their newfound freedoms and look forward to dining and drinking out together once more. The right reservation management approach can help you to embrace the rush.
What’s an online booking system?
An online booking system can help you navigate this new normal streamline processes for employees and for customers. This type of reservation management allows customers to make their reservations online and pay for their goods and services using their own personal devices.
What are the benefits of an online booking system?
There are multiple benefits to business owners implementing an online booking system. Not only does the system manage every aspect of bookings, cancellations, payments and admin but this online approach can also help businesses adhere to social distancing rules. With customers using their own devices, you can minimise physical contact between employees and customers by removing the need for the passing back and forth of physical items such as menus.
Online booking systems reduce the amount of time staff are required to spend on administrative duties, such as listening to voicemails and returning phone calls, creating table plans and requesting deposits. This frees up employee time for other duties, which is more important than ever. Stricter regulations mean more time must be dedicated to cleaning and ensuring the strictest standards of hygiene are followed.
Customers benefit from being able to browse the available time slots at their own convenience online and will receive instant confirmation once they have made their choice. In an increasingly digital world, businesses that do not offer online booking often find they are missing out on custom as calling ahead is not as convenient.
This digital reservation management can also provide businesses with immediate insights into customer data and behaviour and this data can be used for better customer service. Online booking systems act as a one-stop-shop for all customer information, facilitating the creation of customer profiles. These in turn allow your staff to provide a uniquely tailored service to each customer, accounting for special occasions, menu preferences or food allergies and other factors based on their sales profile.
Online booking also facilitates a range of secure payment services, allowing customers to pay online through a variety of payment methods, including cards and eWallets. The Square Appointments POS system is simple to use and has no hidden fees.
Customers are also sent automated reminders of each booking they make, which reduces the chances of lost revenue through no-shows and saves staff time spent contacting non-arrivals.
Enhancing the customer experience through reservation management
Online booking system benefits for customers
The customer experience can be enhanced through the implementation of an online booking system. ResDiary Lite syncs with your Square POS, making it easy to order and pay online. Automated reminders can be sent about bookings and confirmation of any booking or cancellation is sent directly to the customer’s email address.
A digital booking system also creates opportunities for creating customer loyalty and new windows for people to spend money on the brand. Items such as eGift cards and physical gift cards can be ordered and paid for through the system, allowing customers to make those purchases outside of operating hours and from the comfort of their own homes. Businesses can also establish loyalty programmes easily through the system, offering rewards for frequent bookings, bonus points for multiple bookings or even exclusive online offers only for members.
Keep customers safer and happy
In a post-COVID world, ensuring customers choose to return requires more than just offering great customer service. Each customer needs to feel safer while visiting which means maintaining high standards of hygiene and displaying information about the measures being taken within the business to keep them protected.
Using digital software helps you to tailor the experience to each individual customer by capturing personalised data, such as birthdays, contact preferences and even favourite dishes. At a time where personal contact must be kept to a minimum, being able to enhance the customer experience in this way allows businesses to deliver the same level of customer service but from a distance.
An online booking system offers more than just a place for bookings and cancellations to be recorded. Digital reservation management opens up opportunities for businesses to leverage unique tools that can help them deliver a service that goes above and beyond, resulting in a happy customer base that will return again and again.