self-service lessons from fast food

Can I Take Your Order? What We Can Learn from Fast Food Digital Self-Service

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of a customer’s interaction with a company will be without human contact. And this isn’t just online. As well as McDonalds, the latest restaurant business to jump on the self-service bandwagon is Wendy’s, with the announcement of 1,000 kiosks arriving by the end of the year to a store near you.

CIO David Trimm says one strong reason behind this investment is simply to “enhance the customer experience.” But how does this work, exactly?

Putting the Customer First

Sometimes, the best customer service can mean getting out of your customer’s way and letting them control their own experience. We’re all familiar with the frustration of ordering your favorite fast food exactly how you like it, only to find out once you take the first bite that they didn’t listen to your pickle aversion (or worse, take seriously your food allergy).

Professors from Cornell and Mississippi State found that self-service options increase the accuracy of transactions. More automation means less chance for error, and more confidence from the customer that they are going to get what they want.

Self-service also gives more opportunities for inclusion and accessibility. A good example for Wendy’s might be a deaf person being able to order their burger and Frosty confidently and efficiently in a noisy, busy store for the first time. Online, self-service helps not just those who might struggle in-store, but also opens up around-the-clock hours and can give visitors the opportunity to access information from anywhere, in multiple languages, with increased relevance to visitor’s specific needs and easy access to the answers they currently seek.

Giving the Customer What They Want

Customers can benefit from being given the knowledge they crave as well as the french fries. Kiosk technology has the potential to give nutritional information, calorie intake, and even some background on the preparation and sourcing of the ingredients. When customers have questions, they want answers they can trust and rely on. Studies have shown that we trust technology more than humans, perhaps because in our day-to-day life we turn to computers and smart phones to give us accurate and efficient answers.

The same is true in any customer-facing business. Customers love the ease of online shopping, and enjoy using the same technology to get answers as they do to make purchases. Rather than pick up the phone, in a survey of 3,000 consumers, 91% would use a single online knowledge base if it were tailored to their needs and easily available.

It’s easy to see that giving your customers a way to take control of their experience, alongside all the knowledge they could ask for, is far from limited to the fast food industry.

Happy Staff, Happy Customers

But it’s not just the customers who are putting the happy into ‘happy meal’ in this scenario. Staff working alongside this new technology have a lot to smile about. Shorter lines and fewer queries mean that they are less busy during peak times. This gives them the opportunity to engage with the customer in a friendlier way than a simple “would you like fries with that?” In many cases, staff are also reallocated or promoted to jobs with more responsibility. Seeing a surge in customers and sales, companies have been shown to hire more staff in the long run, to keep up with the surge in business.

The same is true across the self-service industry. Companies that successfully implement digital self-service are helping their staff by facilitating their work and giving their jobs more depth, and arming them with the right tools and background knowledge. Low-level queries could be handled by support bots, the same way your website might take orders while you sleep overnight, ready for you to fulfil come 9am. The bot can be the line cook, getting all the ingredients ready for the agent to then take over with finesse, better prepared. Like a burger and fries, it’s the perfect partnership. While you could have one without the other, why would you?

Keeping Track of Your Bottom Line

It’s hard to ignore that if customers and staff are both satisfied, your overall experience is looking pretty good. But what’s happening behind the scenes? Self-service can also help you improve your entire business model with the help of data. Just like on your company website, the information you collect on each interaction by kiosk can drive actionable analytics to increase profits and make smart changes.

While it might seem like you’re not going to get much information from how many burgers were ordered on any particular day of the week, think deeper. Which meals did customers abandon after seeing the price tag? What customization options created a bottleneck? Can you increase sales by having ‘add on’ side dishes or drinks at checkout? The possibilities could be endless.

Digital self-service can use Voice of the Customer analytics to give you a tangible overview of what questions are being asked and when. As this updates in real time, you can spot trends and modify content, or empower staff accordingly.

Self-service moving into the fast food arena is just one more example of how the technology is becoming integral in creating happy and motivated staff and satisfied customers. So if you’re not making the most of self-service for your company, you’d better start playing “ketchup.”

Limor Melech
Limor is Sales & Business Development Director at Nanorep. A Relationship Builder with passion and experience, she strives to help companies refine their practices and reach their ultimate customer experience goals.