Using mobile to retain staff, improve customer service

March 21, 2014

By Jonathan Erwin,
Red e App, CEO

Restaurants employ millions of Americans, but they have one of the highest staff turnover rates of any industry.

There are many factors that contribute to the high turnover in the industry, some of them beyond the control of the employer. However, there is one element that employers have the power to change: the level of employee engagement. In the limited-service sector, there's typically a disconnect between frontline workers and the corporate office with all communication flowing through the chain of command.

Frontline employees, who interact directly with customers and are thus the most important link in the chain, typically don't have access to email on the job, so the only exposure they get to corporate communication is what they hear from their managers and regional directors. HR and Operations executives who are looking to build a positive workplace culture and communicate with employees about vital issues generally have to rely on store or restaurant meetings and break-room posters.

Not only is it difficult to achieve consistent messaging across multiple locations when relying on these types of distribution platforms, it's virtually impossible to measure employee participation and gauge the level of information retention. The good news is that mobile communication devices that restaurant industry employees already use can now give companies a way to connect with their frontline employees and generate the metrics restaurants need to evaluate their programs.

Since the demographic in the service sector skews younger, most employees are already accustomed to using mobile phones and tablets to keep in touch with family and friends. Many educational institutions have adopted mobile apps to stay connected with students, and when they use the right approach, it can be extraordinarily effective.

Creating a mobile intranet for employees

Today, it's possible for food sector employers to create a mobile intranet to provide employees with a direct link to company documents and messaging. It's a great way to address quality issues by communicating standards, operating procedures and quality benchmarks directly to employees. Employers can use a mobile intranet platform to deploy multimedia elements (images of how food should look on a plate, training videos and more), tools that are especially effective with visual and interaction-oriented Millennials.

A mobile intranet empowers managers and corporate staff with new messaging capabilities. Typically, food service managers collect employees' mobile numbers to reach staff via voice or text message, but there's little or no control for usage or ability to customize messaging by level or group. Using standard text platforms for work can also invite unauthorized texting on non-work-related matters beyond the team, a practice most managers discourage.

With the right mobile intranet solution, companies can directly connect with workers, creating unique IDs (instead of using mobile numbers) and interacting on a mobile platform to communicate about important matters such as benefits enrollment and corporate, regional and store initiatives. List features can enable creation of groups based on employee status, e.g., full-time or part-time, as well as by state or region.

Using a mobile intranet with unique employee numbers enables employers to generate metrics so that HR and managers can track open and read rates, following up only with employees who have not yet seen a mandatory communication. It also gives employees a voice with reply features, empowering the company to capture input directly from the field and providing peer-to-peer messaging capabilities to facilitate communication about shift swapping and more.

To a restaurant's customers, frontline employees are the face of the brand. That's why it's so important for corporate to be able to communicate directly with employees. Enterprise social network platforms that require an email login aren't designed for this purpose and erect barriers for the typical frontline employee at a restaurant. Fortunately, new mobile apps are filling the gap with intranet-style capabilities that enable top-down and peer-to-peer communication without email, putting direct company communication right in the employee's pocket and enabling better customer service.

Jonathan Erwin is the CEO of, Red e App, a mobile enterprise platform that enables BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) mobility and communication to front line workers, non-desk employees, members and partners in secure enterprise environments.

Topics: Online / Mobile / Social, Operations Management, Staffing & Training

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