Technology is good but don't let it dominate service: Lim Swee Say

Mr Lim Swee Say using Coastes’ app, while Mr H.P. Bolliger, a director of the restaurant, looks on.

Technology can be a useful tool in competing for both customers and staff in the service sector, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say said yesterday. But technology should not dominate the customer experience or seek to replace staff. Rather, it should make the jobs of staff easier and more meaningful.

Speaking at a productivity showcase at Sentosa restaurant Coastes - which showed off its digital menu - Mr Lim noted that the use of technology is part of a "redefinition of the service experience".

"The challenge is not so much to get the customer to do more for himself so that we can save on manpower. Otherwise the customer will question: 'Why am I not getting the service I want?'"

"In fact, not only in Singapore but also globally, the service sector is going through two very major transformations. One, towards digital service, where services are placed on a digital platform; and two, co-creation of the service experience, with employers, employees and customers coming together," he said.

As part of Coastes' self-ordering project, a customer can order and pay using the restaurant's digital menu mobile app.

In the past, customers would have to approach a counter to place their orders and pay - an approach that would take an average of 5.2 minutes as calculated by the Singapore Productivity Centre.

In contrast, ordering and paying with the app takes about 1.6 minutes, for an overall time saved of about 69 per cent.

The app costs about $250,000 to implement, about 70 per cent of which was offset by a Spring Singapore grant, said Coastes managing director Heather Seow.

Today, about 10 per cent of orders are taken through the app, rolled out about four months ago. As many customers are tourists, not all would be able to use it, said Ms Seow.

Still, downloads of the app have grown 10 per cent a month.

It also frees up staff to focus on other parts of the customer experience, such as serving, she said.

Since the app was introduced, monthly revenue has jumped by about 20 per cent. This can partly be attributed to the app as, given the ease of ordering, customers are more inclined to make additional orders, she added.

C Side, the collective which Coastes is a part of, intends to introduce digital menus to its four other dining outlets along Siloso Beach in the next few months.

wrennie@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 19, 2014.
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