A Tale of Two Fast Food Restaurants

Technology not implemented correctly will hurt your business

I spend alot of my time on the road meeting with clients and prospective businesses each week and recently I stopped at a fast food chain to grab a quick lunch.  On this particular day I had about30 minutes to spare before I had to be back on the road for my next appointment. The first place I stopped was a national chain that specializes in chicken.  When I pulled in, the parking lot was completely full and the drive-through lanes were at least 10 cars deep in both lanes.  So I looked across the street since I had a limited amount of time available and there was a burger chain that had a fairly empty parking lot.

As I walk in to the burger chain, I noticed immediately that there was a long line of customers at the counter.  After getting closer to the registers I realize that most of these customers were not waiting to order, but rather, waiting on their food after they had already ordered.  There was only one register actually open and it had 3 people in line.  Thats encouraging!  After waiting almost 5 minutes and the line not moving at all, I see that they have kiosks in the lobby to place your order and I move to those instead.   There is obviously an issue with either the register or the person working it so – the kiosk HAS to be faster.

Technology could amplify existing problemsAs I walk through the ordering process on the kiosk, I am pleasantly surprised to see a fast food restaurant leveraging technology to overcome some of the challenges they face and I can’t believe more people aren’t using them to avoid the non-moving line.  However, I soon see a bump in the road.  As I am several menus deep trying to order my sandwich, the kiosk screen keeps locking up and asking me the same questions and not recording the order.  After 4 attempts to complete the order and not getting it to the payment screen I finally get to a screen that recaps it and prompts for payment, but when I hit the payment button it does nothing.  I wait thinking it must just be lagging behind… but after what seemed like forever it still was not moving from that screen.  The line that I was in for the one register that is open is now backed up about 7 customers deep.  I hear someone yelling from behind the counter that they can’t keep up with this and that someone needs to call in additional help.  After several gripes back and forth between the employees I suddenly realize the person yelling was THE MANAGER.  OK… change of plans again.

Mobile App Could Help Your BusinessRealizing I had made an error in judgment based on the lack of cars in their parking lot, I go back out to my car frustrated that I had now lost almost 15 minutes of the 30 that I had budgeted.  As I am heading back to my car I see a sign on the original fast food restaurant that is promoting their mobile app.  So… I figure – what do I have to lose at this point.  What I find is that not only can I order my food through the app, but pay for everything AND I can let them know when I am at the restaurant and go to a special line just for pickup!  I am sold!!  5 minutes later I walk in to the restaurant and find the pick up line where I am greeted by a smiling team member who greets me by name, hands me my order and asks if they can help me with anything else.  I ended up being able to eat and get back on the road in a total of about 20 minutes from the time I downloaded the app to my phone.

So why are we talking about fast food restaurants when this blog is dedicated to the correct and effective use of technology?  Simple… technology wont fix underlying issues – it will only amplify them!

The difference between these two very similar fast food chain highlights some key concepts quite a few businesses miss when looking at how they can implement technology successfully.

Make sure the technology you implement is going to hit the target of what your clients want or expect!

  Having kiosks in the middle of the lobby might seem like it could help avoid long lines and waiting.  However if the restaurant is already understaffed, and has the wrong staff working there to begin with, having a faster way to wait in line for the order to be ready may miss the mark and only serve to further frustrate your customers.  If the bottleneck is in the actual staffing that fulfills the order, a better approach may be to instead utilize technology to better recruit, train, and retain quality employees that can deliver services faster and better.  Fully analyze where frustrations, bottlenecks, and opportunities for improvement are from the customers’ perspective before deciding on or selecting any technology to implement.

Make sure that whatever technology you do implement actually is consistent, easy to use, and secure! 

While it is hard to know ahead of time what user experience will be, you need to do the best you can to facilitate a full scale test and even a small beta group of tests with live customers to insure all errors, bugs, and issues are found ahead of time.  The best practice for this is to select a small sample of users and test with them for a full cycle.  That cycle may be a day, a week, a month or more, but what you want to be able to do is fully replicate a cycle of customers and if your customer load is heavier at the first of the month, you will most likely need a full month to get a good benchmark and accurate test results. Ease of use needs to be a very high priority in this process, because if it is not pretty self intuitive, your clients may try it but get frustrated and end up not using it again.  Additionally you have to make sure you balance ease of use versus security.  While you want to make it very user friendly you also don’t want to put your client data or payment information at risk.

Finally and arguably most importantly, make sure your staff and team members are fully trained on any technology you implement and are FULLY sold on the idea of the efficiencies, enhancements, or capabilities it will bring to the organization. 

Your employees and staff can make or break any technology initiative you may launch.  They need to fully understand the benefits it will provide for them, the organization, and to your customers and believe it will make operations better.  If they view the technology as a hinderance, or if they doubt it’s capabilities, or worst yet – if the technology doesn’t work consistently they can and will undermine the efforts to utilize the technology and cause the project to be a failure.

With all of this in mind, technology can make a HUGE difference in any organization when designed, deployed, and maintained correctly.  The case in point with the chicken fast food restaurant highlights how it can increase business, increase customer satisfaction, increase customer loyalty, and reduce expenses as well.  But in order for it to do all of those things, you must be methodical in your approach and conduct all of the due diligence necessary.  Having technology in place and having effective technology in place can be two entirely different things!

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