Today’s question is a bit of a chicken or egg conundrum. Perhaps a better question to ask is if you are leveraging your online presence properly in order to establish yourself as the best online restaurant in your area. After all, what you offer your customer base in terms of an online experience and five-star customer service from start to finish with every customer transaction or interaction is how you build popularity. If you are making customer service and high-quality, high-efficiency online ordering a priority, your profitability should be well in hand, too.
The purpose of this initial question is to inspire reflection on your business model and operational procedures. In other words, are you doing what you need to do online and in-person to really set yourself apart as the leader of online and brick-and-mortar food service providers in your area? Anyone is capable of the best, but not everyone is always doing their utmost best to get there. Let’s examine a few of the key infrastructure, behavior and protocol concepts that need to be in place in order for you to earn that title of Best Online Restaraunt.
Back to Basics: Website and App Customer Service
How much power have you given to your customers in terms of how and what they can order from your mobile website or mobile app? Is your site even optimized for mobile web, or do customers have to manipulate inappropriately-sized images, screens and menus on their smartphone to access your menu and place an order?
If you haven’t created a custom app that customers can download to their mobile devices to make online ordering or reservations a matter of a few taps, you aren’t really offering them much in the way of a premium online experience. Your app and site design are your primary ambassadors to the general public and your hardcore fans in terms of what quality interaction they will have every time they order food from you online. Design failures have a direct relationship to overall failures in customer satisfaction and providing the superior customer service necessary to be the best.
In order to be the very best online restaurant, you need a mobile-friendly, premium-quality site design, and you need to offer your regular customers a smartphone or mobile device app that lets them make regular online orders faster and easier. Customer expectations of mobile-friendly design and mobile apps are fast becoming the norm in the foodservice industry, and restaurant chains from McDonald’s to Cheesecake Factory have a mobile web friendly site and an app to go with it.
If you want to be the best, you need to be focusing on these fundamental offerings for your customers. Without being able to attract and retain customers faster than your competition, your profitability suffers, and without profitability it can be difficult to remain a restaurant, much less be honored as the best online.
Online to Point-of-Sale Quality
The greatest potential for a costly mistake in terms of building customer trust and providing superior service lies in the transition process from online order to your existing point of sale system. Online ordering systems can easily be integrated with existing POS systems, yet so many restaurants that offer online ordering pass on POS integration and have a staff member enter online orders into the POS system manually. Speaking from personal experience and backing the following statement up with the significant body of evidence from studies conducted by industry researchers — this is an absolutely terrible idea.
No matter how reliable or trustworthy your staff member is, human error is always going to be a factor when it comes to printing an order off the internet and punching it into a POS system. The greater the potential for a mistake for an online order, the greater the risk to your overall customer satisfaction as a restaurant.
This is even more crucial in the information age in which we currently live. In the past a dissatisfied customer generally only told acquaintances, family and friends about a poor customer service experience. In the information age of internet reviews, one dissatisfied customer can spread the word about their experience to hundreds (if not thousands) of potential customers. These mistakes add up to lost potential business and wasted food, both of which hurt your long-term profitability.
If you are looking to be the best, you need strong POS integration between your online ordering system and how orders are entered and cashed out. The more automated the system, the better off you are.
Ultimately, if you want the popularity and profits to be the best online restaurant, you need to start optimizing your business to support that reputation. If the service isn’t there, the money doesn’t roll in, and the profits won’t be there, either. If you put your customers first and focus on creating the best possible online experience for them, success and profitability will not be far behind.