As technology and society continues to change and evolve, its interesting to watch the ways the two commingle. There are so many different factors that come in to play at the intersection of the two that the natural evolution of each can be both predictable and erratic at the same time. However, every now and then you witness a blend that’s so nearly seamless it stops you for a second. I want to share my most recent experience with you.
Panera Bread is one of my favorite lunchtime eateries. With a variety of foods that suit my tastes and an environment that’s pretty conducive to working on the go, it’s a great place for me to stop in occasionally. Last week I was there, awaiting a colleague, and noticed how much their technology is advancing their ability to provide amazing customer service. Clearly they are a front runner in technology adoption. Here’s how it happened.
I walked in to the Panera expecting a reasonable line. It was lunch time, after all. Instead, I found two lines; the one to talk to a cashier and order your food, and the one for the automated kiosks. This was a new feature since the last time I visited a Panera (noting that it had been quite some time). I decided I preferred the human interaction and waited for the cashier. Once I placed my order, I was given the coaster/pager combination that you typically get in a restaurant when you’re waiting to be seated. I hoped that they hadn’t changed their policy on delivering food to the table.
I sat down at a table, sat the coaster and my drink down, and began to do something on my phone. It only took a quick second, then I set my phone – still unlocked and awake – on the table. My phone began to make the NFC connection noise. Slightly alarmed, I checked my phone for notifications that something was trying to connect, but found nothing. I did a quick bit of research to find out what was going on and discovered that their tables were NFC enabled to interact with their pager to let them know where to bring the food. When you set it down, the NFC sent off a signal with your table number to go with your order.
That’s when I noticed a web address below the table number. If you visited that address, their online service let you order food right from your table via your internet connected device. In my opinion, a genius third way to improve the customer experience process. Their technology was so seamlessly integrated in to their way of doing business that nobody would be negatively impacted by it. It caused no forced changes for any patron, but allows conveniences for those of us more technologically inclined. That’s how you add technology as a quality ingredient.
What do you think? Have you had any experience with the seamless technology at Panera or anywhere else? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and make sure you share this with a friend. Have an awesome weekend, and we’ll see you Monday!