In the age of online reviews and social media, many F&B owners are left wondering how they can stand out from the crowd and build a loyal customer base. Customer advocacy is the answer.

Whether you’re running a coffee shop or a microbrewery, loyal customers will form the backbone of your business. In fact, they can actually promote your business!

customer advocacy for cafes and restaurants

Loyal customers are your best customer advocates. Via Unsplash

Build customer advocacy with three simple ways to get customers talking about you

Personal connection is at the heart of authentic customer advocacy. We mean this in three ways:

  1. It means making your employees feel valued so they can pass on the message.
  2. It means focusing on customer reviews as your primary measure of success.
  3. It means using the voice of your satisfied customers instead of marketing language.


Step 1: Focus on Customer Experience Through Employee Satisfaction

Having a great product is just the start. There is one part of this that often goes ignored: the fact that your employees are on the front lines.

customer advocacy starts with satisfied employees

The first face your customers see should be smiling. Via Unsplash

Happy employees are more likely to engage with customers – and engaged customers are more likely to become return customers.

It’s true that angry, annoyed customers are more likely to talk about your business – but wouldn’t you rather have positive customer advocacy? (And if it ever gets bad — here’s what an F&B Owner has to say about customer recovery after a mistake).

Take the time to invest in employee satisfaction. Examine your management style, ask employees what they need, and make strides to a positive work environment.

Read more from Candybar’s employee management mini-series here:

Step 2: Encourage – and Reward – Customer Reviews

Your customers are the base of your business, and you should take advantage of that! Getting customer reviews is not a passive activity. Put a sign up, message people on social media, or leave reminders on tables. Customers are looking for that personal touch, so be sure to offer it.  As long as it has a personal touch, it should do the trick.

One way to encourage reviews is to reward customers for their time. It could be an extra stamp on their loyalty punchcard or $1 off their purchase. As long as you don’t make it contingent on positive reviews, offering a small reward is a great way to get reviews rolling in.

customer advocacy - get your customers talking about you in reviews

Give customers a nudge or reward to review your business. Via Unsplash

Reviews are important — ReviewTrackers’ 2018 Survey notes that 63.6% of consumers say they are likely to check online reviews before visiting a business. Another finding was that customers are unlikely to trust businesses with lower than 4-star ratings.

Having more reviews helps buffer against one angry customer spoiling your score – and if you’re doing it right, you’ll have plenty of happy reviews, which you can use for your own marketing as well…

Note: Getting praise and positive from customers can also help motivate your employees. Let them know their patrons appreciate and love them with CandyBar’s private feedback feature.

Step 3: Get Social With Your Customer’s Voice

You can make customer reviews a central part of your marketing efforts. Did you know that 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation? Use that! Instead of trying to convince people how great your restaurant is, let your customers tell the story of their experience. (Besides, word of mouth is crucial in growing your business.)

Featuring quotes on Facebook or other social media is a great place to start. Posting photos of customers in throes of delight over your latest special will do far more than a post with your weekly menu. Your loyal customers are much more likely to share that content, making them your advocates. You can use photo editing apps to add different features like such as fonts, borders and beauty tools.

customer advocacy - go social with feedback

You can also share customers’ photos and reviews. Via Unsplash

At the same time, you can use customer reviews to get a sense of what you’re doing well – and what you should be focusing on in your marketing efforts.

If a number of customers rave about your smoothies, make that a highlight! If customer service is mentioned a lot, double down on it and get yourself known for excellent service.

Customer Advocacy could be your best marketing channel

Research has shown that word-of-mouth marketing is the most trusted form of marketing. It makes sense – you’ll trust the word of a fellow customer more than an advertisement from a big company.

We’ve explored three ways to help you set up for customer advocacy, without breaking the bank, and delivering a better customer experience for your patrons.

 You have many tools at your disposal. Loyalty programs, for example, are a great way to get more repeat customers and get customers talking about your business.

Turning customers into repeats and regulars is crucial for small businesses. Loyal regulars are less price-conscious and will spend up to 10 times more than new ones, and it’s cheaper to persuade customers to return than to acquire new ones.

We built Candybar to make it easy for small business owners to keep customers coming back and spending more. Try the award-winning Candybar digital punch-card solution today and get set up in minutes.

Brooklin Nash

Posted by Brooklin Nash

Brooklin Nash writes on the latest technology trends and small business tools. When he's not working, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (his guilty pleasure) or cooking eggplant parmesan (his favorite food).