January 2011

500 Million Reasons to Launch Online Ordering

A growing number of quick serves are using the power and influence of social media to revolutionize online ordering.
Facebook ordering platforms take quick-serve food to the online masses.

Facebook now boasts 500 million active users. The average Facebook user clicks the Like button nine times, writes 25 comments, and becomes a fan of two pages each month, according to Mashable’s Facebook Factlook. The average user also has 130 friends on the site—giving their Likes a wide reach of influence among friends.

Realizing the influence Facebook users have on their networks, a growing number of quick-service restaurants are taking their fan pages to new heights by incorporating online ordering directly through the Facebook interface.

“When a customer thinks about ordering food from a restaurant, they need to be able to use whatever platform they might have available at the time,” says Joe Gagnon, CEO of Exit41, an online ordering software provider for the restaurant industry. “That could be online, with a mobile application, via Facebook, walking up to an ordering kiosk, or by calling in. And all of these options should flow through one application.”

Software from online-ordering companies like Exit41 can usually be integrated with a restaurant’s existing point-of-sale system so orders show up as if the order was taken locally.

Geoff Alexander, executive vice president of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and managing partner of Wow Bao, an Asian eatery based in Chicago, partners with Exit41 for the restaurant’s online- and mobile-ordering platform. “For us to have online ordering directly from our Facebook page is forward thinking, and I think that’s where the Internet is moving to.”

Alexander says Wow Bao had to find creative ways to use a limited marketing budget, and social media provided an alternative to traditional and costly marketing methods. The team at Exit41 presented Alexander with the idea of focusing the restaurant’s marketing efforts and budget on a Facebook page with online-ordering capabilities and a mobile application that allows customers to place orders via their iPhones.

To keep customers engaged and placing online orders, Alexander says he posts frequently to the Facebook and Twitter accounts. “Every Wednesday on Facebook we post a secret word, and if customers say the secret word [when ordering], we give them something for free. We’ve been doing that for a year or so.”

Another key way quick serves can take advantage of Facebook is by allowing customers to link their personal Facebook accounts directly with online ordering software—making it even easier to place orders and share online activities with their friends. NetWaiter is one online-marketing and ordering provider for restaurants that offers websites that quick serves can customize with their own branding and menu. A NetWaiter site can link to an existing site or to an e-mail address, fax machine, or POS system.

“When a customer places an order through a restaurant that uses NetWaiter, and they use their Facebook account to log in, NetWaiter will take the restaurant’s logo and post it to the customer’s Facebook feed that says, ‘John Doe just placed an order at Joe’s Tacos,’” says Jared Shimoff, senior director at NetWaiter. “That post links back to the NetWaiter site for Joe’s Tacos. So it’s a neat way for customers to tell their friends, ‘Hey, I just ordered here.’”

Shimoff says that, depending on the restaurant, up to 50 percent of customers will permit NetWaiter to post the activity to their Facebook wall for their friends to see.

“The average number of friends a Facebook user has is about 130; so if only 10 people placed an order using their Facebook account, that’s 1,300 people who would get notified about the restaurant,” he says. “It’s a great marketing tool.”

“The average number of friends a user has is about 130. If only 10 people placed an order using their Facebook account, that’s 1,300 people who get notified about the restaurant.”

While social media often presents a challenge to businesses trying to evaluate the return on investment, online-ordering applications can offer more concrete results.

“People keep asking me how we measure ROI on social media,” Alexander says. “I base it on three things: Are we having fun? Yes. Are sales up? Yes. And are we being talked about? Yes. Since the Facebook launch with online ordering, our sales have grown about 10 percent in five weeks.”

With all of the buzz and urgency surrounding social media and mobile apps, jumping head first into an online-ordering application on social media might seem like a logical next step for any quick serve. But Alexander says operators must take it slow.

“There are so many different [tools] out there for social media. I would say pick one and do it well,” Alexander says. “It’s a commitment. We didn’t just flip a switch and go with everything. Each component came one after the other as we grew and evolved. It’s better to go slow and get it right than to put up something you’re constantly changing. When you make changes, you have to turn it off, and that’s causing you to lose customers.”

Of course, there are several tools in the social media world that can serve as a launch pad. Alexander chose to start with Twitter and Facebook pages and grew Wow Bao’s following in that space. Then he slowly added applications like the Facebook and iPhone ordering functionalities.

Like traditional websites, social media and mobile-ordering platforms require marketing to boost awareness, traffic, and ultimately sales. NetWaiter provides operators a manual with tips for best practices, how to promote online ordering to their customers, and how to make it easy from an operational standpoint.

Shimoff says that to market online and mobile ordering to customers, operators need to create awareness for their customers. “Every time someone calls, take their order, of course, but let them know they can place their order online and tell them to check out your site,” he says.

At Wow Bao, Alexander uses in-store signage and table tents to promote the restaurant’s social media pages. He also markets the mobile-ordering platforms to his existing Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail contacts.

Online ordering through social media, he says, will continue to grow as more consumers learn about it.

“It’s not going away, that’s for sure,” Shimoff says. “It’s a logical step for customer convenience and the marketing for the restaurant.”

Here is an interesting current event that I would like to comment on, recently I saw that a local BPO here in the DFW area

I love my job

was accused of ‘forcing” their contact center employees to go onto a chat room designed for call center employees and talk about how much they like their jobs and they love the company and its culture.  I find this interesting because I believe that these types of complaints may occur more frequently as employees are asked to engage in social media strategies.  Let me explain.


As I have mentioned before social media is a new tool to the organization and as such, we have to learn how to use it.  As the first, primary and sometimes only customer touch point for most organizations, the call center is the obvious choice for taking charge of and carrying out an enterprise’s social media strategy.  But in order for that to happen a few things need to be in place first;

1. Company Policies

2. Training

3. Integration into the call center through tools

Company Policies:

Your employees are already social networking with other employees, friends and customers and if left unchecked, could impact your company’s reputation (both in a good or bad way).  So if your company is not ahead of this yet from a policy perspective, I suggest you get ahead of it quickly by releasing the corporate policies on social media to your employee groups.


As we all know, in a call center, training never stops.  Train on the corporate policies created above as well as other important topics related to social media use such as Media Literacy, Privacy, Copyright, “Terms of Use” etc.  BUT most importantly, train your call center employees specifically on how to be good corporate ambassadors.  A good corporate ambassador is nothing other than an enthusiastic, engaged staff member functioning as an evangelist.

Getting back to where I started this post, I suggest that this is where the DFW Company mentioned above was when these accusations surfaced.  I hope that this company was simply encouraging employees to begin their training as corporate ambassadors.

For all companies, now, more than ever, contact center employees must be trained to deliver stellar service and positive customer experiences if the company wants to compete.  Why? Because if they don’t their customer’s will be online telling the world that they didn’t. Look at this quote from Chuck Ganapathi from salesforce.com.

“The rules of customer service are being rewritten,” says Chuck Ganapathi, vice president of marketing for on-demand CRM application provider salesforce.com. “Web 2.0 consumers, who have become accustomed to the instant access and gratification of the Internet, now expect the same level of speed and ease in their customer service interactions. They trust their social networks, and they look to their peers online for information and advice. An unhappy customer has the power to destroy a company’s brand with a single click.”

I would be remiss if I did not mention that frequently the Social Ambassador role is broken into two elements: One, the Social Media Manager role that is more outward bound in its focus, but still involves the community.  And two, the Community Manager role which is more inward bound, starting with the community, perhaps through more of a service or support focus.

Integration into the call center through tools

1. Conduct social media monitoring and analysis. Social media-wise organizations have invested in one (or more) of the many tools that scan the Web’s most influential consumer sites and social networks and “listen” to what customers – as well as would-be customers – are saying about the organization’s brand in general, its specifics products, and its level of customer service. Forward thinking organizations also use these powerful monitoring tools to stay abreast of what’s being said in the blogosphere and social media communities about their competition.

2. Offer an interactive, company-hosted social network for customers. The most progressive and customer-centric organizations do more than just scan the Web for customer-generated feedback on their products and services; they host their own “Social” communities that invites such feedback and enable customers to review and rate products and services, comment on the company in general and/or on the support received online, and interact with and share perspectives with one another. Such site would enable the company to provide key information – and to respond to customer comments or criticism via blogs and wikis of its own.

Because these customer portals are created and overseen internally by the company, managers in key areas within the organization (the contact center, Marketing, Product & Development) easily gain visibility into what customers think, prefer and demand, says salesforce.com’s Ganapathi. “By creating these compelling online experiences and being part of the conversation with the community, companies can build greater customer loyalty.”

3. Integrate into CRM. Information gathered from social media sites should be incorporated into the contact center’s customer history

4. Take it offline. Not all customer issues and concerns should be handled publicly. Develop guidelines to help agents determine when they should extend an invitation for customers to interact one-on-one via email, chat or phone.

Some vendors are experimenting with applications and tools that are intended to help customers contact the call center directly via social media sites. For instance, Avaya has a Facephone prototype (an overview video here) , which enables customers to contact a call center via a Facebook page and be connected to an agent. The agent can query the Facebook page of the caller prior to taking the call to gain some insight into what the caller’s issue may be……how cool is that?

In quite a few of my blogs I state that the term social media will become obsolete.  Well, in this post, I wanted to take some time and show how social media is being used in a contact center setting but not  being looked at as “social media” but rather a call center tool, or in this case a communications channel to lower incoming call volume.

I am working with a client on call center improvements and one of the areas I am looking at is “the Helpdesk”.  As many of you know, when large-scale (regional/enterprise) outages occur, the call center is barraged with callers all reporting the same thing.  Many call centers will look to “front end” the ACD with a recording in an effort to offload the completed calls and this is quite effective, but not very proactive from the customer’s perspective.

In this case, one of the tools we used to “get proactive” was to Twitter our Helpdesk updates to the subscribed employee base, thereby proactively alerting the employee that the Helpdesk knew about the problem and was working on it and thusly, reducing incoming call volume.

What are your thoughts?  Would a company be brave enough to take this strategy from the “internal customers” serviced through the Helpdesk to the external customers served bu your call center?

What social media integration tricks have you implemented lately?