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Boiling Crab restaurant chain uses QLess

Cajun seafood restaurant chain Boiling Crab is using a mobile service from abInventio that seeks to eliminate waiting lines.

Called QLess, the technology is designed to reduce turn-aways and no-shows, and increase the opt-in rate for mobile marketing. Once the number is given, QLess uses a customer's mobile phone as a pager with text alerts. Here's what abInventio founder CEO Alex Backer had to say about QLess and how it's helping The Boiling Crab and other clients. Excerpts:

What are you doing for Boiling Crab?
The Boiling Crab is a very successful Cajun seafood restaurant chain with four locations in the Los Angeles area, two in the Dallas area and a new restaurant being built in the San Jose (CA) area.

While the Boiling Crab has a reputation for very good food at very fair prices, their top customer complaint was the long lines.

The Boiling Crab had a bad rep for the lines their customers faced each and every evening at their more popular locations.

The primary reason for their interest in QLess was to provide a better experience for their customers while in the wait line.

While they have only been using QLess at the Brookhurst location for a few short weeks, customers have already begun to post positive comments on Web sites such as Yelp.

What does QLess offer that other solutions don't?
Most businesses with a wait use one of these methods to manage their wait: lines, paper lists, take-a-number, coaster pagers, overhead monitors or reservations.

QLess presents the following major advantages over each of these:

* Reduced turn-aways. QLess reduces or eliminates the line around the hostess, reducing turn-aways -- prospective customers who walk away before they even talk to the hostess. This has been measured to increase revenues by more than 10 percent with respect to using coaster pagers.

* Reduced no-shows. QLess reduces no-shows by an additional 23 percent to 30 percent, by keeping patrons engaged and informed during the wait, by allowing them to roam freely while they wait, and letting them know when you are ready for them, for a total increase in the bottom line of 34 percent to 45 percent in every case study conducted.

* High opt-in rate mobile marketing. QLess allows marketers to send news, coupons and promotions to consumers who opt in. Ninety percent of customers at a typical location will provide their phone number in order to benefit from QLess.

* Mobile CRM and analytics. QLess is a CRM system that keeps track of every customer interaction, with a unique analytics suite that provides powerful actionable insights about employee performance, customer demographics, customer return rates, wait and fulfillment times, and much more.

Even Fortune 500 companies that track most of their customers' interaction are looking at QLess to fix their blind spot around walk-in customers.

* Personalization. QLess allows businesses to personalize their every interaction with each customer, keeping track of previous visits, preferences such as window table and even language. QLess even remembers whether a customer prefers to receive voice or text/SMS notifications.

* Eliminates pager theft. Coaster pagers are often stolen. QLess uses your customers' cell phones.

* No hardware or software costs. QLess is a Web-based service that requires no special-purpose hardware or software installation.

* Serves customers wherever they may be. Customers can even check on wait times and join a line themselves in a matter of seconds using their phones before they even reach an establishment. They can also call QLess at any time to get an on-demand status update.

* Flexibility. QLess supports customer interaction via touchtone voice menus, text messaging, touch screen kiosks, monitors showing prospective customers how many people are in each line and what each person's expected wait time is, Web widgets and/or human hostesses.

QLess uses each customer's own cell phone. By allowing people to roam freely while they wait, QLess also reduces contagion in places such as doctor waiting rooms.

How does QLess work for Boiling Crab and for the end user?
The Boiling Crab registers their guests into a virtual line at the hostess station and will soon launch the option for a customer to enter into a virtual line using their cell phone, meaning they can be literally anywhere when they enter what is typically a long line.

This has improved the customer experience, reduced hostess workload and significantly reduced negative customer comments by providing an interactive wait line management solution.

Allowing their customers to wait in a virtual line lets them control their own time, thus reducing the anxiety of standing in a long wait line.

What sort of results have these restaurants seen?
QLess has reduced no-shows and turn-aways in every restaurant we serve by 34 percent to 45 percent, providing an ROI of up to 18 times.

Furthermore, 100 percent of guests surveyed rated their wait using QLess better than a restaurant without QLess.

We have also seen a marked increase in patron return rates at The Boiling Crab since they launched QLess.

Can this solution be used for other sectors?
Yes, in fact we already have customers in healthcare, transportation, retail and government verticals.

For example, a Department of Motor Vehicles uses QLess to eliminate lines and serve its customers better. Doctors use QLess to reduce no-shows. Tax advisors use it during tax season. Truckers use QLess to be summoned for loading and unloading.

QLess can be used anywhere where people wait, from casinos and theme parks to pharmacies and retail checkout and customer service points.

Just imagine how much additional merchandise people would buy at retail locations if they could roam freely looking for forgotten items while they wait to check-out or to see a customer service rep.

How many times have you walked away without something you wanted to buy because the line was too long?

How do you monetize this as a company? What is your business model?
We charge a modest set-up and monthly fee plus a per customer usage fee to cover QLess' cost of sending all the text messages and making all the phone calls.

These fees are typically paid by our customers, not their customers.

Marketers can also pay a modest per message fee to reach opt-in customers.

Which other clients do you have across industry sectors?
We are not at liberty to disclose all of them, but a few examples that highlight diverse uses are ExploreCo in transportation, City of Nashua Motor Vehicle Registration in government and Mercy Healthcare.

So this is mobile CRM? Is this the future of mobile CRM?
Indeed. Not only access CRM from your mobile phone, but reach each of your customers on their mobile phone, and understand their every interaction with your business.

In the future, marketing will not be one-to-many, but rather precisely targeted and personalized one-to-one.

A mobile CRM system keeps track of each customer's every interaction and allows you to target and personalize your message to each, whilst delivering in real-time to a medium that has the highest open rates and fastest delivery time of any medium.

The age of marketing differently to each consumer, as was shown in Tom Cruise's "Minority Report" movie, is here.

With QLess, a casino can let patrons on the floor know in real-time that tickets for a show have become available, a pharmaceutical company can reach sick patients when they are in the doctor's office, and a beverage maker can reach its customers as they are about to sit down and order a drink.

What challenge are you helping marketers address with QLess, and especially these restaurant chains?
The challenges QLess helps marketers with is providing customers an incentive to provide their cell phone numbers, analytics that allow marketers to understand their audience and target effectively, and a platform that allows you to reach customers in real-time wherever they may be, including on their own premises.

QLess Mobile Marketing also has the special allure that it reaches customers when they are waiting, thus most prone to have time and an interest in an announcement.

One of our customers was able to pick the best location for its next restaurant based on the geographical distribution of the customers at its existing locations.

They are also able to measure precisely how each promotion affects customer numbers and how each hire or change in service affects return rates, cross-market to customers while they are still on the premises, lure them back on slow days with specials, coupons or promotions, or alert them to news or special events.