Mobile Loyalty Programs + The Silent Guest

How mobile loyalty programs give a voice to the “silent guest”.

Whether or not they’re aware of it, restaurants are missing out on identifying and retaining an incredibly valuable customer segment.

Enter: The Silent Guest

They eat, they pay, and they leave.

You have no idea who they are; they didn’t leave contact info. They didn’t leave feedback in the notecard included with their bill. You have effectively ZERO information about them.

Did they love their meal? Did they hate it? Are they coming back?

These Silent Guests enter your restaurant every day, reliably eating and paying and generating a staggering portion of revenue. Yet, their silence means that you have no access to valuable data about these people, and more importantly, no way to actively retain their business.

(Above: Very artistic depiction of The Silent Guest based off of many descriptions)

They might be a brand new customer, visiting for the first time, looking for a new place to frequent. Maybe they grab lunch a few times a month, never stopping to sign up for your e-mail list on their way out. Either way, you have no way of knowing if their experience met their expectations and no way to address any concerns they had about their meal. There’s nothing you can do after they’ve left to reach out and inspire a return visit.

This lapse in data costs restaurants BILLIONS of dollars per year in lost revenue.

That’s why Dewey’s Pizza Managing Partner David Igel was so concerned about The Silent Guest:

“I’ve always been concerned about The Silent Guest – they come in a few times, they don’t complain, they don’t give you compliments, but anytime something is wrong, they just move on. Competition is always present; one small mistake… can damn you and you can lose the customer. Most businesses have no idea who they are or where they’ve gone, and they have no idea how to get a hold of them.”

What’s preventing businesses from soliciting this high-value information from guests and fixing this problem today? Luckily, the answer is pretty straightforward (and easy to fix):

Don’t make leaving feedback difficult

Guests want to give feedback and be heard (the success of Yelp is a testament to that fact!), but only when it’s convenient for them. Despite the desire to be heard, rare is the customer who jumps through hoops to leave feedback about their visit.

There’s a strong case to be made about the value of guest comments, besides just increasing customer frequency (seriously- just leaving feedback increases a customers’ likelihood to return by 7%!). It can help businesses identify issues across their locations — for example, a Dewey’s customer left feedback that the air conditioning was blowing too wildly in one particular spot, something they might not have identified otherwise.

The reason Dewey’s guests leave feedback at rates that are triple the industry average is because they prompt customers to leave their remarks via smartphone after every transaction via their mobile loyalty program. This means that customers are only leaving feedback when it’s relevant to them (right after a purchase, preferably when they’re stuffed full of delicious pizza), and they’re doing it in a way that’s convenient (right on their smartphones).

(Snapshot of Dewey’s feedback dashboard, where they track feedback from customers, and tie it to specific transactions & customer history)

When you ask customers to jump through hoops in order to leave feedback and identify issues, you create a selection bias where only the most vocal customers will respond. Many restaurants have some type of “write to us!” function on their website, but this falls short in many ways. Besides being a hassle for customers, this type of feedback offers incomplete data for restaurants — there’s no way to connect it to an individuals’ experience or their purchase history.

That brings us back to the original problem: you’re missing out on the opportunity to interact with and retain a huge chunk of business. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the silent customers go unacknowledged.

Know when they’ve disappeared

Highly engaged managers and owners of one-location businesses might be able to notice when a regular customer hasn’t visited in a while, but as businesses expand to multiple locations across different geographies, it becomes impossible to visually establish patterns of visitation for every customer. In this data-blind environment, a lapse in frequency can turn into a permanently lost customer.

To combat this, Dewey’s Pizza uses a tool called Winback, where they’re able to identify “at risk” customers and bring them back to Dewey’s with targeted offers. Guests who are enrolled in their mobile loyalty program receive personalized offers automatically whenever they’re deemed to be “at-risk” based on a negative change in visit frequency. Customers who might’ve stopped coming to Dewey’s are reactivated  — these guests would have otherwise been unreachable had it not been for their participation in the loyalty program.

The missing piece: responding to feedback

By gathering customer feedback via mobile, Dewey’s is able to respond to each and every one of their guests. Not only does this allow them to fight the occasional fire, but also it gives them the opportunity to respond to positive feedback one-on-one, thanking customers for their business and even sending automatic rewards directly to their smartphones.

By making it easy to leave feedback, collecting customer data, and responding to their guests in a highly personalized fashion, Dewey’s has gotten incredible value out of their mobile loyalty program. In this way, they’re able to build stronger relationships with their customers, and finally, unsilence The Silent Guest.

Want to see the full webinar with Dave Igel and learn more about how he has supercharged marketing at Dewey’s Pizza? It’s available here.


Business owners, rejoice! We published “6 Critical Stats for Customer Loyalty,” a  study designed to help merchants better understand customer behavior and make more money with marketing.