In general, people tend to not be overly fond of waiting in lines. Maybe some Star Wars fans out there enjoy camping out for tickets days in advance. Those guys may enjoy waiting in line; everyone else, not so much.
That can lead to any number of problems for quick-service restaurants and brands whose business model depends on speed of service or making quick and easy transactions. Customers may feel rushed and pressured to make a decision if there's a line behind them, and then regret their order and have a negative brand experience. Or they may get stuck behind someone taking their sweet time with a heavily customized or complicated order, and just leave the business and take their money with them.
So businesses can approach this in, primarily, one of two ways: They can make the wait *seem* shorter by entertaining or distracting their customers or by helping them figure out their order before they get to the counter. Or they can take steps to reduce or even eliminate the wait.
And customer experience-focused technologies ranging from mobile payment apps to digital signage to self-service kiosks can help with all of the above.
Representatives from an interesting crosssection of brands — Dunkin' Donuts, MoneyGram International and Taco Bell — sat down together to share their experiences in addressing the waiting challenge at Networld Media Group's recent Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Chicago. All three took different approaches to the problem, but all three focused on the same thing at the root of the problem: improving the customer experience.
Roughly 75 percent of all orders taken in-store at Taco Bell restaurants are customized, according to Veronica Luna, associate manager for operations at Taco Bell Corp. But once the brand introduced a mobile app, it found that customers tended to add to their items rather than remove. Taco Bell also saw average check amounts rise when ordered though the mobile app.
And while Taco Bell felt it already had the fastest speed of service around, the brand wanted to cook up some ancillary benefits, such as increased order accuracy, more personalized customer service and better brand engagement.
Customers who order though the mobile app check-in once they get to the store, so store personnel can start the order and get it to them as quickly as possible. They may have to wait a bit for the food (it's made fresh and not sitting there waiting for them to arrive), but there's no waiting in line.
"We're really excited about it … It's a really easy user experience. We've designed it to be very unique, and unique to our brand; we're very true to who we are as a brand," Luna said. "We have a lot of Taco Bell fans and customers that really love our brand, and those are the customers that we really want. Those customers that are going to use our mobile ordering app are the customers that love our brand, and those are the customers that we're targeting."
The operations staff at Dunkin' Donuts parent Dunkin' Brands talks a lot about "order anxiety" — or the nervous, pressurized feeling that the customer gets making an order when there's a line of people behind them — and how to fix it, said Jason Stuehmer, the digital signage solutions manager at Dunkin' Brands. Dunkin' takes a two-pronged approach, using digital menu boards to standardize the menu and the customer experience from location to location and offering a mobile app that speeds the order transaction.
The digital menu boards help with up-selling and cross-promotions, but they stand out in helping customers make their decisions more quickly.
"The benefit of it being consistent and walking in and knowing exactly how to navigate our menu, being a frequent customer you know going one store to the next store … around the country you're going to have that same similar experience," he said. "We want you in, we want you on your way, and we want you to be running on Dunkin'."
MoneyGram International, the second largest money-transfer company in the world, went the self-service kiosk route to better customer service, according to Yassir Zouiten, senior product manager, global kiosk, for MoneyGram International. In the past, the company had installed red phones to handle overflow and reduce queuing at tellers or agents. But then the phones had queues. So the company decided to pilot self-service kiosks.
In the initial 15-store pilot, the company was hoping for around an 80 percent adoption rate, but also didn't want customers to feel forced, so it also posted an 800 number they could call if they preferred, Zouiten said. Adoption was over 90 percent.
But MoneyGram wasn't finished there; it continues to improve and upgrade the system, he said, but paying attention to where people have problems. If customers tend to abandon a transaction at a certain screen, for example, perhaps that screen can be improved or moved to the beginning of the transaction so not as much time is spent at the kiosk prior to abandonment. "We're constantly looking at data," he said.
And other than an improved customer experience, data may be the key benefit brands can derive from CX technologies. Because data allows targeting, and targeting allows for a more personalized experience and brand relationship with customers. Since the order and payment can all be carried out in the Dunkin' app, Dunkin' then knows what, when and how its customers buy. So they can target to change that behavior and sell more of something the customer doesn't normally buy or target to reward the behavior to continue their healthy relationship. Taco Bell can do the same, or it can add gamification to enhance the experience for its video gamer fanbase. And MoneyGram's kiosks can learn from previous transactions to make future ones easier and faster. Customer's happer; brand's happier. Everyone wins.