By Daniel Rodgers, Founder and President, QikServe
[This article is based on Daniel’s talk at The Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference and Awards 2019 on ‘The Phygital Revolution: the importance of a relevant digital strategy and engaged employees for successful consumer engagement.’]
Picture the scene.
My home was 30 meters from a bus stop. So, in 1 minute I could leave, be on my bus and dropped right outside the office.
One morning, I went through this normal routine only to find that the bus stop had been hit by a vehicle overnight (no one was hurt in case you are wondering). This meant that it was moved about 5 metres further down the road away from my house. No big deal, until one morning I was standing in the freezing rain and my bus simply breezed past me to the next stop about much further down the road. I then saw a notice saying my bus stop was now permanently out of service.
The next morning, I woke and thought about the walk to the new bus stop, which was only maybe 50m further away. Then I promptly donned my cycling kit. Pulled my bike from the garage and cycled to work.
‘What’s your point Dan?’ I hear you say.
Well, it got me reflecting on the impact of technology on hospitality guests and in particular their adoption of this technology.
Moving my stop only a very short distance was enough for me to change a habit and I’ve actually changed it for something more beneficial from health and wellbeing perspective. I’m fitter, I’ve even extended my commute, so it doubles as a mini training session and I love the time to think and clear my head before hitting the office.
As we help our hospitality customers transform their businesses with technology, we’ve seen them trying to navigate some of the challenges around consumer adoption. For me, the experience with the bus is a powerful metaphor for what we could see within operators’ leadership teams.
Ordering and paying on a kiosk or paying your check with your own mobile device is faster, more convenient and less stressful. So, I ask myself, why doesn’t everybody do it? It is the same as my habit of busing into work. It was my normal.
Restaurant goers are habitual. They’re used to ordering in a particular way and paying in a particular way. And the way we’ve been ordering and paying at restaurants hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. With constantly developing technology, explosive mobile adoption, increasingly competitive hospitality landscape and changing customer expectations, operators started adding different channels such as web, mobile and kiosk to their service offering. To begin with, these channels were deployed almost independently of each other, with hardly any integration. As things continue to evolve, operators are now attempting to achieve a state of seamless movement between multiple channels both on and off premise. Although they now have a variety of digital and physical channels at their disposal, they’ll eventually gravitate towards the ones that offer the most value for the business. For example, choosing channels that are more effective at driving revenue, that provide the greatest cost savings and encourage greater levels of loyalty amongst their guests.
Operators’ choice of channel is one thing but the success of customers adopting that technology hinges on two main factors: getting staff buy-in and being proactive about changing their consumers’ behaviour.
Although seemingly counter intuitive, introducing guest friction into ‘the normal’ must be one of the most powerful tools available to an exec team that is going through a digital transformation, trying to change consumer behaviour. What my bus stop experience showed me was it doesn’t take much to facilitate quite a big behavioural change. Moving the stop just a short distance was enough to change my habit!
There is a path humans take to accepting change illustrated by The Change Curve.
When it comes to technology adoption, this change curve will differ depending on things like the generation of your customers. For example, feelings of denial, shock, anger and letting go will be much less in generations that were born into a digital world and grew up with these technologies as their norm. However, they might be more pronounced in much older generations who are not as familiar with using a mobile to message and browse the internet let alone order and pay for their meals.
Moving the majority of your consumers to digital is always going to take some convincing as well as a multi-pronged approach. There needs to be organizational change, staff engagement, impactful marketing and communications, staff and consumer incentives as well as proactively discouraging the use of old channels to break consumer behavioural habits.
Take McDonald’s for example, they made a number of their restaurants digital self-service only. No counter staff. Truly digital-first. And this approach has been spectacularly effective.
So, if you’re involved in a digital transformation, how can you introduce just enough friction to your customers’ ‘normal’ in order to change their habits for the better?