Fast food restaurants and casual dining chains, like McDonald’s, Panera, and Wendy’s, have recently made headlines for installing touchpad screens that accept food orders inside a few of their locations. These restaurants are responding to the 70 percent of customers who want a self-service channel option from their favorite brands.
But in reality, these food chains are finding ways to satisfy their customers in unique and innovative ways. Which begs the question, what should companies consider when implementing self-service?
Customer phobias can affect self-service
In 2014, four scientists at three schools — Rotman School of Management, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and the National University of Singapore — provided intense research on how self-service affects social interactions in restaurants. In short, scientists determined that self-service minimizes “social frictions” that affect food decisions.
Harvard Business Review later determined from this study that customers have phobias about how service reps might perceive them. The study proved that customers feared being judged on their eating habits. So ultimately, the amount of money spent at restaurants is heavily weighted by whether the customer interacted with the representative or self-service portal.
Fast-food samples self-service
Some of McDonald’s stores now offer a “Create Your Taste” kiosk — a fully customizable menu on an easy-to-use touchscreen. Customers are reporting improved order accuracy and shorter food wait times.
McDonald’s is not just changing how organizations offer customer service, they’re changing the face of the entire fast-food market. According to Manufacturing and Service Operations Management research, a seven second reduction in service times can improve your restaurant’s market share between one and three percent.
But because these self-service portals are only available inside the restaurant, they only account for 30 percent of McDonald’s business. In response, market researchers have reported that organizations are finding ways around this problem. Some restaurants are encouraging customers to use their mobile apps to order food. This shortens long wait times while offering customers coupons and other value-based incentives.
Strategize your self-service
Other industries and smaller restaurants are also creating workarounds to the variety of issues that arise out of offering self-service options. Before you join in on the innovation, create a clear-cut self-service strategy with your customers in mind. Here are some questions that put Customer Experience (CX) first:
- How do you bring your brand into the customer-kiosk interaction so customers tie your company to the service you’re providing?
- Design your portal technology to match your branding. Your customers might only interact with your brand via the self-service portal, so it’s important to remind them of how much you value their continued loyalty. Include your logos, colors, and visible branding on the portal so customers align your branding with your service.
- How do you make your customers feel like they’re important during the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase phases of their self-service decision?
- Pre-purchase phase - 70 percent of customers have already made up their mind on what they want before they even go shopping. So it’s important to be thoughtful of their needs before they even approach you. This information can be baked into the service portal’s content and offerings.
- Purchase phase - We can see from Amazon’s continued online sales that customers want to be in control of where, when, how, what, and why they buy what they buy. Transport your company to the other side of this CX paradigm shift. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, views his company as helping customers shop, not telling customers what to buy. He once said, “We want Prime to be such a good value, you'd be irresponsible not to be a member," proving that delivering value is imperative to customer loyalty.
- Post-purchase - Continue to show care for your customers after their purchase, and you’ll be rewarded with loyalty. Nothing is better than a genuine thank you from a company that you’ve been loyal to over the years.
- Will you continue to offer in-person customer interactions after you start offering self-service?
- This is a trick question. The answer should be 100 percent “yes.” No matter what channels you provide service to your customers within, it’s imperative to also make sure that a human customer representative is available to assist. There is no comparison to social interaction. And your customers will appreciate the familiar sound of a human voice on the other end of the phone, especially if they’re calling out of exasperation.
While self-service is changing the face of CX, it’s important to remember to continue building brand value for your customers. Learn more about how to satisfy your customers in our ebook, “Satisfied Customers: An Outcome of The Virtuous Cycle,” or contact our CX experts for a helpful and complimentary VC Diagnostic workshop.