Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to technology and customer service. I love the fact that I can use online chat to solve my cable issues instead of talking to a person on the phone, and every bill I pay is online so I don’t waste paper or anyone’s time. The Domino’s Pizza app – love it! I can order dinner from the bus and the delivery man will be waiting for me at my front door when I get home.
However, there are some instances where I simply have to be in front of a real person. For me, it’s the grocery store. This probably stems from the fact that I grew up in a grocery store; my dad has been a store manager for one of the largest grocery chains since before I was born. First, I always actually GO to the grocery store; shopping in the aisles is a complete experience for me. And that experience ends with me checking out, talking to the cashier and having someone bag my groceries. It’s a personal choice, and this varies customer to customer.
So how do you successfully integrate technology in restaurant experiences? Restaurants are trying everything from ordering kiosks, digital menu boards, iPads, mobile apps, QR codes, online reservations, tabletop e-waiter and check out, and even letting customers pay straight from their phones. The true goal is to enhance the customer experience but at the same time you don’t want it to increase your costs or labor. Technology should never be a distractor to your business in experience or cost.
It really is about finding a balance.
First and foremost, you need to be true to your brand. If you have a brand where service is your differentiation, be certain any technology you choose enhances your brand values. Just like the grocery store I referenced, their brand is about the experience of walking through the aisle among the array of products; it is about allowing you to wonder and experience and therefore the products are still the main focus, not technology.
Second you have to understand your customer. Are they tech savvy or “old-fashioned”? Would they feel comfortable using it? Sometimes you might need for an employee to help guide customers the first few times until they’re used to a new technology. Like the example of the self-checkouts in grocery stores; they are available to use for the time-pressed or who don’t want a personal interaction, but a cashier is still available for those wanting the person to person experience. By having both as options, this provides the store with a good balance.
Think about the alternative methods customers may prefer to use. For example, an ordering kiosk is great, but some people just want to order from a cashier, so I’d say keep it as an option. If you have menu boards, going digital is a great way to keep your restaurant fresh and new because it’s easy to update and they can add movement to your space.
In a restaurant you should never completely eliminate a face to face interaction with the customer. If they pay at a kiosk, make sure they get to see a smiling face when their food is brought out. Technology in restaurants can really help cut down on labor costs, but make sure your customer still has a customer service experience.
I definitely recommend looking into technology opportunities for you restaurant. As long as you choose products right for your type of service and know your customer, you will find the right balance!