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A Restaurant’s Struggles In Digital Transformation

Paul Selby | Aug 29, 2017 83 views No Comments

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When my family and I go out for dinner, we frequently visit a national chain restaurant. Their menu has something that appeals to everyone, even the pickiest of eaters. Complimenting their varied menu is a large selection of drinks and desserts. And it doesn’t hurt that this particular restaurant offers a “frequent visitor” loyalty program.

Like many companies, this company began a digital transformation journey a few years ago. In that process, they completely revamped their website adding new customer-friendly options like to-go ordering and delivery. They also created a feature-packed mobile app to support everything offered online, plus a few mobile-specific options: find nearby restaurants; set a reservation; and mobile pay. But that fantastic growth in service offerings has come with a cost.

Disconnect Between Website and App

I recently checked the app for my progress towards a reward, and it indicated I didn’t have any available. This didn’t make sense, as the restaurant periodically sends marketing emails that include current point status–and I was on the cusp of a reward just prior to the last visit. I located the email and followed the reward status link; sure enough, I had a $10 discount available.

So which was I to believe? This inconsistency in information between the website and app also left me curious as to what was going on in the backend. Were the two getting information from different sources and/or were each maintaining the rewards program details independently (and were obviously out-of-sync)?

Regardless of the cause, it would appear they lacked a common service platform – a single source of truth. I would hope that through the course of their continued digital transformation they would arrive on one platform capable of providing all the services offered on the website as well as their mobile app.

Dead Links

Since I was on the website trying to make sense of my current rewards balance, I took a look around. There was a knowledge base, offering details about the rewards program (but no warning about the mismatched information I was seeing), nutrition information for menu items, and more. There was definitely a push going on to provide their customers with as much information and self-service capabilities as possible.

As I continued to browse, however, I discovered some empty knowledge articles–titles only with no content–and encountered some 404 “page not found” errors. The incomplete data and missing pages along with the unmatching rewards information showed their lack of ability to provide a strong, cohesive digital experience.

Limited Contact Options

Not finding any answers to my rewards program quandary, I decided to check the contact options. I found an email submission form, but there was no chat or telephone number for general customer service (though the option to find and call a restaurant in any state was readily available). With no other choices, I sent the email. Over a week has passed since I sent that email, and I still haven’t received a response. What black hole did it fall into?

Despite the onset of the digital area and new contact methods, I firmly believe companies should still provide a phone number to customer service. It might be a channel that’s declining in use – and for me, it’s typically a last resort – but it still holds a lot of value, especially when issues are complex.

Managing and Mastering The Experience

The call for digital transformation is affecting every industry. Just a few years ago, who would have thought you would be interacting with a national restaurant chain on the Internet–and using a custom app on your mobile phone, no less? In the race to deliver new offerings and improved service, companies must watch out for missing those little things that might affect a customer’s perception of product and brand.

When you make a small change to your digital experience, spot check it. Does the email arrive where and when you think it should (and does it receive a timely response)? What impression does an empty knowledge base leave on your customer? Beyond the one-off changes, develop end-to-end test cases and perform audits! If you’re a restaurant attempting to compete in a digital world, accept the fact that your customer service now extends beyond your in-restaurant staff and continually verify systems, processes, and digital staff delivers on your brand’s promise of quality customer service. If you don’t, those great appetizers might not be enough to stay competitive.

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