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Interview: Sophia Hitchman, Account Executive

David Charlton

November 22 2018,
David Charlton

A key member of Zonal’s account management team discusses how to support independents and help them to maximise their technology investment.

sophia-hitchman

Expert support when it’s needed

At Zonal, we know that hospitality doesn’t work 9 to 5. So while we might schedule a meeting with you in a relatively quiet time between lunch and dinner service to talk about getting the full value of your technology, we know that you might also need urgent assistance at any time of day or night.

That’s why we offer exceptional, award-winning technical support for all of our products and services, consistently delivering in excess of 98% performance against our SLAs. Our UK-based dedicated team are here to provide you with all the support you need, when you need it.

But what does that support entail? And how does the support offered to large chains differ from that required by smaller independents?

To help you better understand the work of our account management team, we interviewed Sophia Hitchman, Account Executive at Zonal.

Introducing Sophia

After earning a university degree in Art and Design, Sophia soon developed a passion for helping customers.

“I’ve always worked with customers, I’m very customer-focused and I’m very much a real people person and like that interaction. I’m very passionate about people”, she says.

Sophia has been working at Zonal since the summer of 2016. After starting in account support offering knowledge and assistance to account managers, Sophia then progressed to providing backline support for all Zonal products.

Her current role in account management now means she looks after a wide range of independent hospitality businesses, each of whom use Zonal’s powerful technology solutions in different ways.

Continuing the learning and support process

A key part of Sophia’s role is to build on the solid foundation of the onboarding training program.

“Once clients have gone through the process of having products configured for their sites and they’ve completed their initial training, they want to go more in-depth into how they can use the products to suit them on-site.”

“We have a massive support team: each of my clients have my mobile number and email so they can contact me at any time. Then there’s the first line of support in Edinburgh, then a second line team in Stafford, and it’s my job to make them aware that’s there’s always someone on hand to help. They’re never alone, our customers always have out of hours support.”

The difference between chains and independents

There’s a common misconception that Zonal’s solutions are only built to deliver benefits to multi-site operators, but in fact this is simply not the case. What we do find is that there are differences in how chains and independents use the same solutions, such as how they configure the tech and what they need from it.

As Sophia explains: “Our bigger clients need more support at a head office level, so our job is more about head office queries and support.”

“However, with independents it’s more about how they use the system and having a personal touch; how the manager wants the tech to work in that specific restaurant. Whereas how chains operate and how the system’s set up will be dictated from head office to be consistent across every site, with independents they have more freedom to use it as they want – for example adding individual booking notes. So we’ll sit with them and show them how to do it and work with them until they’re happy.”

Conversations with varied roles

This different approach also changes who we speak to on a regular basis.

“With an independent I might be talking to the director of the company who’s very involved to the level of how the table system is used on-site, whereas with the larger companies we won’t really go to that level,” explains Sophia.

“In smaller companies, people wear many hats and get involved in many aspects of the business. They’ll come to me and say: ‘this is how I’d like it to work.’ Then I’ll go away and speak to the team and come back to the customer with a few different options and try a things out.”

“It’s nice to have that time to have a one-to-one conversation with a restaurant manager, as it gives you more insight into how the product is used to that level. With some of the bigger clients you may just chat with a person at head office, you’re not speaking directly to people onsite.”

Everyone gets the same high-quality service

Ultimately it doesn’t matter what titles our clients have. Everyone is of equal importance to us, and we’re committed to delivering exceptional customer support to each and every hospitality business.

As Sophia says: “My job is to let them know that just because they have one site or one restaurant, it doesn’t make them any less important. I give them all regular calls, emails, and updates. A lot of them will be very happy to get on with it, but some might want to get their teeth into the details, or enquire about another product.”

A flexible approach goes a long way

“We like to get involved at any point we’re needed; we all go above and beyond. If someone does need a bit more TLC then we’ll get involved, get in touch, and see how we can help.”

“For example, I have a weekly call with one client to go through the questions he has, how he can use the products better to suit him, something that the trainers maybe haven’t gone into huge detail about – some small detail that actually will make a big difference to him.”

“We’re very customer-oriented. It’s about building relationships with our customers. It’s not a case of ‘here are our products, get on with it.’ We want to be able to offer personal one-to-one experiences, and once they use the products they have someone they can turn to. We want them to talk to us.”

It’s a two-way conversation...

At Zonal we understand that our clients know their businesses better than anyone else. So while we have a wealth of knowledge and experience in hospitality, we’re always open to fresh ideas.

“What I really like about the independents is that they always come to us with ideas and feature requests for our products,” says Sophia.

“I always encourage them to be vocal with feedback, especially around product requests as I can put them to our development team. We ask them to tell us what they think, good and bad, as it’s a great way for us to deliver a product that meets their needs.”

...which means constant improvement in the services and support we can offer

Happy customers means a happy account manager – and vice versa! We strongly believe that a technology provider should also be a partner, offering guidance and advice whenever it’s needed. But we’re also a listener, taking onboard valuable feedback and suggestions from the teams that use our products day in, day out. As Sophia concludes, it’s the perfect recipe for success:

“I really love the job and we’ve got some great people that I work with, some very talented people, and I’m very lucky to have great customers as well! Some of my colleagues are old clients of Zonal who have decided to come and work with Zonal, which is great – they’ve seen both sides and know how the products work, plus they can give us some tips to keep improving.”

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