By: Dan McDonald, User Research Lead
In today’s day and age, modernization is the name of the game. Businesses are always looking to what’s next, trying to stay ahead of the competition and on top of constantly emerging technological solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic’s in-person restrictions amplified and
accelerated these changes, incorporating technology into places in quick-serve restaurants, retail storefronts, and other places where it had never existed – and in many cases, keeping it there. While it’s always smart to keep up with the times, this rapid modernization prompted by the pandemic has sometimes left the customer experience at the wayside.
At The ExperienceBuilt Group, we believe it’s not only possible, but necessary, to find the perfect balance of utilizing today’s technologies to optimize processes without losing the human touch that earns customers’ loyalty and keeps them coming back.
There is often a lot of pressure to offer the newest technologies; if you don’t keep up, it can feel like you’re getting left behind. But don’t get caught up in the excitement of potential modernization or efficient solutions and forget about what truly matters most: your customers. There is no business without customers. While touchless delivery and express pickup options are
flooding the market, many people still value human interactions when going out to eat or running errands – in fact, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether they’ll do business with a company. Truly meaningful customer experiences can’t be made if your customers don’t have any human touch points during their experience with your company. So, when you start implementing modern efficiencies, keep in mind ways you can seamlessly integrate employee interactions throughout.
Restaurants that are enabling table-side delivery or payment with tablets at each booth can still send human servers to bring out plates and check in on how everything’s going. Including a service button on these tablets can also ensure customers don’t feel neglected if they’re having trouble and need assistance. Likewise, QSRs offering mobile ordering can send employees to deliver orders to customers waiting in their car instead of sending diners inside to pick up their orders from a designated order pickup area. Little touchpoints like this add up, ensuring that customers make human connections throughout their experience, even if some processes are modernized.
Before making any major changes to your processes, get to know the current state of your business’ customer service practices and what your customers think of it. It’s essential to understand your business’s customer service reputation before editing processes – if you don’t know where you are, you can’t figure out where you’re going.
If you’re already known for having great CX, be very careful about adjusting systems or processes that might negatively affect it. Connect with customers before making decisions that will impact their customer journey. There’s no better way to understand what experience gaps you need to fill than hearing directly from audiences about how they perceive your business, what they like, and what changes they want to see. There are likely some updates they’d love to be implemented, and others that would stop them from frequenting your business at all.
Here are the keys we found to modernizing while maintaining customer experiences:
Be More Than a Restaurant
While customers are interested in streamlined experiences, an overly modernized approach can leave them disconnected from your brand. Although it can be tempting to go all-in on efficient processes, these can also often reduce employees’ time and energy spent on customer service. Customers may have faster, more efficient experiences ordering from a kiosk rather than a worker, but their experiences can feel impersonal and transactional. The extra time and effort it takes to make sure regulars are seeing their favorite employees or can ask for substitutions in their meals mean that your brand is so much more than a QSR to its customers – it’s a place where they feel taken care of and can enjoy human connection.
Don’t Drop CX
On the other side, some businesses aren’t proud of their current customer experience and may decide to go all in on impersonal technological updates to optimize efficiencies, as they consider
CX optimization to have been given up on long ago. But just because your customer service needs some work doesn’t mean you should give up on it altogether. Instead of leaning further into integrating more tech, figure out how to integrate more people. Start making little changes, one at a time, to make more meaningful connections between your customers and the touch points they experience during their time with you. It can be tempting to get ahead of the game in regard to tech upgrades, but “advancing” faster than everyone else isn’t necessarily a good thing. There will always be the next new technology, but investing in customer relationships creates lifelong loyalty that’s more valuable than anything you can buy.
Walk the Line Between Efficiency and Experience
Outside of technology modernization, there are other ways companies try to stay with the times, like store or restaurant layout redesigns. Finding the right balance in these updates can be tricky, as many of the changes that may be made for efficiency’s sake might also take away from the customer experience. Using our QSR example again, new layouts that spread the employees out in the back room to help streamline order fulfillment mean that most employees aren’t on the floor anymore, giving the restaurant an empty, minimal feeling. This can be a disrupting and disappointing change for customers who look forward to visiting with their favorite employees. Don’t rely entirely on functionality when designing layout updates. You have to consider the service journey, and find the fine line between efficiency and experience.