Restaurants serve up cutting-edge technology

  • The Boloco chain of casual dining establishments uses the power of real-time social interaction to improve responsiveness

  • The result of connected, in-the-moment customer interactions is a new level of customer engagement and satisfaction.

There are burrito restaurants and then there is Boloco. The fast-growing chain of casual dining restaurants in the Northeast has made a name for itself as a maker of upscale burritos like the Tikka Masala and the Goloco. But, novel burritos are just part of Boloco’s differentiating brand value – its restaurants are a haven of technology.

The device-centric experience

Boloco has made credit cards a thing of the past by giving customers new ways to pay, while offering loyalty rewards for doing so. Boloco customers can:

  • Use Boloco’s mobile app to pay with their smartphones – anytime, anywhere.
  • Order from their tablets while en route, to find their food ready upon arrival.
  • Join Boloco’s loyalty program and automatically earn points toward future meals.

But, what is truly cutting edge is how Boloco wields this impressive array of technology to improve customer service. With 22 restaurants (and counting,) all restaurants are WiFi-equipped so patrons can email, text, or tweet their dining experiences as they occur–something customers do quite often.

Real-time social response

Patrick Renna, Boloco’s CEO, relates one example of how this real-time interaction improves responsiveness to customer needs:

We just had an incident last week in which a woman was in one of our restaurants in Boston, and she tweeted that the music was too loud,” Renna said. “The tweet tagged our Twitter handle and it reached me. I immediately texted the site’s manager and sent along the profile picture of the woman on the tweet. In less than five minutes, he identified the customer and was at her table with free dessert. The music was turned down. She was flabbergasted. Her next tweet described her wonderful experience.”

Two months earlier, another guest at a Boloco restaurant in Washington logged onto the company’s internal social media site on his laptop to complain about a new burrito the restaurant had offered that day. This information pulsed within seconds from the website to the restaurant’s manager.

“The manager went right up to the diner and said she would pick up the cost of the burrito,” Renna said. “They both laughed at how cool it was that she would do that. Then, she added loyalty points to the guest’s account.”

Now that’s customer service.

The customer feedback loop

The beauty of leveraging social media in point-of-sale-type businesses like WiFi-equipped restaurants and retail stores is that the company receives immediate customer feedback, which permits it to quickly act on this information so it does not adversely affect the person’s brand loyalty. Without social media, customer experiences generally are not captured. Few people take the time to send an email or write their complaints in a letter.

There is another benefit to connecting consumers with business decision-makers, even someone as high up as the CEO-customer engagement. “I like to think we are in a continuous dialogue with our guests,” said Renna. “Together, we can collaborate on improving all we do.”

Is there mobile technology that you could use in your business to improve your customer’s experience? What about giving them fast, reliable, and instant Wi-Fi access? AT&T Ready Zone is literally a plug-and-play solution shipped pre-configured to work right out of the box.

If you’ve recently dined or shopped and used new technology, we’d love to hear about it.

Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated business journalist and best selling author. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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