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Plug and Play??

by Martin Boyd

Catering is a serious business

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If you were asked which companies have been able to do well through the pandemic it wouldn't be long before Amazon would come to mind. But consider that with all their success they were also voted Best UK Company for Customer Service in 2020.

Not everyone can have the success of Amazon...but what about the customer service? What is the secret there? The ability to understand customers and to personalise services alongside a reliable customer service team was deemed to be their winning formula. And that is not something which comes easy!

It seems like another era now but it’s not really all that long ago that the PM Boris Johnston was referring to the most complicated negotiation in the history of complicated negotiations as ‘Oven Ready’. Now, leaving aside any views of the Brexit deal, this was simply a sound bite for those desperate to move on from months and years of going round in circles with the occasional trip up a dead end.

‘Oven ready’?! No, it couldn’t be. It could never be as easy as that...and it wasn’t. And it isn’t. But it was what people wanted to hear. Sure, it was a clear statement on a commitment to a particular goal ...but ‘oven ready’ suggests ease, free from any discomfort, nothing left to do, straightforward.

I heard a similar phrase recently. ‘Plug and Play’. If it had been in the context of a Nintendo Switch, or a FireStick in the back of theTV, then my eyes may not have rolled quite so much. But roll they certainly did, along with an appropriate amount of sighing and shaking of the head. Why? Because the context was how a certain piece of software can manage catering orders for a sizable B&I head office. The ‘just get it out of the box and plug and play’ sales chat just isn’t in the real world. Since it was to do with catering the ‘Oven ready’ metaphor might have been more relevant but it’s part of the same mindset, i.e. that you can have something complex with virtually no relationship, set-up or hand holding. Well, I’m just not buying it, and IT directors and catering managers shouldn’t either.

Let’s be clear, this has nothing to do with how user friendly and confidence building your customer facing platform is. Nor how intuitive the back end is for the catering team - real efficiency, and the ability to make complicated, time-rich admin activities a thing of the past is what any catering software will have in its DNA. Add to that integrations with other key players in the catering operation and this is what may well be key in bringing the joy and creativity and profits back into your business.

But it’s NOT ‘plug and play’. At Spoonfed we are committed to deep relationships where we understand the needs of our clients.

We will always seek to find out ‘Is Spoonfed right for you?’ And that is just the beginning of the journey. Our implementation team will be hand holding throughout the set up to make sure the caterer and their customers are going to get the bespoke solution they deserve. As I mentioned above, we are not approached by businesses for whom everything is just going so well, that all it needs are a few gimmicks. No, our experience is of directors who are looking to reach out into other markets but who know that is not going to happen easily. And of course we are approached by managers at the coal face who see time wasted, mistakes being made and general inefficiencies meaning they are not getting the opportunity to thrive.

Getting back to our friends at Amazon for a moment: Jo Causon, CEO at The Institute of Customer Service, said: “Excellent customer service matters; brands that are clear about their purpose and consistently deliver on this, experience better financial results, improved productivity and forge trusted relationships.”

We have seen those companies who are looking to do well, in whatever the future may look like, take a moment to step back, and have a proper conversation with us. There needs to be an understanding that we are not just handing over a product and wishing them well. Forging ‘trusted relationships’ is going to be key in revitalising catering operations.

For most corporate caterers this past 12 months has been a horror story. However, we know for some that it has been a ‘space’ for them to take stock, ask hard questions and plan for what is almost certainly a changed landscape post Covid. YOUR innovative catering solution won’t just come out of the box ready to go...and nor should it.

Spoonfed will give you an implementation where on-boarding will be thought through, whose training will be thorough and relevant and where customer service will be paramount.

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