For the past year or so, the big news in the pizza segment has been the staggering growth of online ordering. Some of the bigger chains are now pushing more than 30 percent of their business through digital channels.
But that's no reason to neglect telecommunications systems or minimize their ability to help with the bottom line.
Long gone are the days when a phone was just a channel connecting operators with customers. Now, phone systems can help businesses market, upsell, staff properly and enhance the customer experience.
PizzaMarketplace.com discussed new telecommunications technology with Shawn Chute, chief operating officer of phone solution provider SUTUS. He shared five tips on how pizza operators can use their phone systems to maximize efficiency and increase profits:
1. To increase profits, put the correct message in front of the correct person at the correct time. For example, the midnight crowd is different than the lunch crowd, so a calling customer should be greeted with whichever specials are featured during those times.
Also, if you need to move inventory before it becomes bad, you should change up the greeting message to push that product. This usually results in "top of mind" sales, Chute said.
Messages can be customized by location or time of day. If a franchisee has two units, and one is in a college town that moves a lot of wings on a Friday night, a message can be created to promote wings on Fridays at that location. If the other unit does better with pepperoni pizzas, a separate message can be set up accordingly.
Chute said ticket prices can increase 4 to 8 percent if you put the right message in front of the customer.
2. Pay attention to call reports to improve on your weaknesses. SUTUS is one company that provides such reports, which measure how long it takes staff to answer a call, how many concurrent calls there are at any given time, what lines are being used at certain times of the day, how many hang ups there are, etc.
"You want to have 90 percent of customers answered on the first ring. If your report says it's taking three or four rings, then you can change your business and train your staff to improve that," Chute said.
Phone system snapshots can be taken every hour, so operators can have a pulse on what items move and when. Reports can also outline how long customer service reps are on the phone with a customer, a critical metric in the pizza industry, according to Chute.
"If a customer has to wait zero to 12 seconds, you won't get many hang ups. After 15 to 24 seconds, you'll get some, and over 25 seconds, you'll see more and more hang ups," he said. "That's lost business and that's the way people live today. With an instant gratification culture, they don't want to have to wait 25 seconds to get their order in."
Additionally, if you're getting a lot of hang ups or the duration of calls seems too long, managers and operators have the ability to record the calls for posterior training opportunities, or sit in on calls and coach in real time without the customer hearing the conversation.
3. Pay attention to concurrent calls. If an operation has five phone lines, for example, and the fourth line is only used for 20 minutes a day, it doesn't need line five. This could save a business $50-plus each month. It's also important to gauge the concurrent call reports to see if you need to add more lines because they're often maxed out. If this is the case, Chute says, "You will lose business because people will hang up."
This particular metric should also unveil whether a business is overstaffed or understaffed at any given time throughout the day.
4. Consider adding a customer call back component. When the pizza leaves the building, a phone system can call the customer and tell them their food is on its way. "Statistics show that little extra bit of personal interaction with a customer increases tips for drivers. Customers like that extra attention," Chute said.
5. Finally, another best practice is to consider adding a transferable component. For example, SUTUS offers the ability for one store to transfer a call to another store that may be closer to a customer's location. This way, if a customer calls into the wrong store, a service rep won't have to provide a different phone number and trust they'll call again.
"In the pizza business, a majority of the customer interaction is still done over the phone and there needs to be a massive focus there," Chute said. "Why wouldn't you have a system that can pull the right data to show you where you can save money and be more efficient? This is an easy way to increase profits and improve customer interaction."
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Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.