Brands often over-think the process in trying to “surprise & delight” their customers. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it should be simple, focused on the things that matter most to a customer as well as easy to execute and customize. Here are a few ways to accomplish that:

1) Surprise Rewards. There are specific moments when a QSR brand knows it has their customers’ attention: the moment they enter your restaurant, place their order, pay for their order and consume their meal. Each of those instances provides an opportunity to surprise and delight with a bonus offer, free extras or added rewards. The key is to use your knowledge of what the customer values most to personalize the reward.

2) Use reward mechanics that reflect your brand. If meal customization or healthy ingredients are your differentiators, help your customers appreciate the value of that to them by making your loyalty program highly customizable.  For example, be sure to include nutritional value and calorie count, and reward your guests for making healthier choices!  When you do this, it reinforces the message of what you stand for and makes the customer feel good about frequenting your restaurant.

3) Make them feel special. If it’s a member’s birthday, don’t just send them an email, enable your store associates to have this information so they can wish them “Happy Birthday.”  If someone is in the top tier of your customer base, prompt your staff to thank them “for being one of your best customers.” These simple acknowledgments let the customer know you care.

4) Acknowledge a problem before they complain.  Apologizing for a problem before the customer complains can turn a potential negative experience into a positive one.  For example, if something happened to create a longer customer wait than should be acceptable, offer the customer a reward for their next visit before they have a chance to complain.  This is a great way to say you’re sorry and drive frequency.

5) Empower the on-the-fly. Often, only the people serving your customers in the moment can know what might surprise or delight, so create room in your loyalty programs for ad hoc perks that will feel more personal and spontaneous to the customer.

6) Provide instant gratification. Simple mobile surveys, entertaining interactive games, and engaging social campaigns that deliver instant rewards will add to the overall positive experience of eating in your restaurant. The key to these approaches, however, is making sure they put the customer first. They have to add as much or more value to the consumer as they do to the brand, whether it be information, entertainment or monetary value.

7) Augment the basics. Mobile ordering and payment is the new standard, so consider ways to make menu browsing easier and in-the-moment promotional offers and rewards more relevant through an easy-to-use and flexible mobile experience. Too many brands have launched mobile ordering apps that don’t use native phone interfaces resulting in a poor experience.  Simply offering mobile ordering is not sufficient, brands need to make it an awesome user experience.