Should excellent customer service be sacrificed to accommodate hectic schedules?
The best solutions to systemic problems are often multilateral. Tapingo, the mobile ordering app recently introduced at the CoHo, the CoHo South Cafe and Biobrew, is no exception, as it manages to ameliorate the experience of the user, the typical customer and the front-of-house employee simultaneously. Not only are these parties eager to ease their lunchtime woes, but the user neither has to wait in line to order nor wait for their food. How does Tapingo accomplish so much? It’s only a tap, after all. The answer is best understood through the sentiments of Darin Schluep, the food service director of Associated Students Dining Services.
“The idea is it not only provides quicker service to those people that are utilizing the app but because they’re not in line ordering the line to order is shorter and the people walking in to order are having a quicker experience as well — that’s the hope,” Schluep said. “The great thing about Tapingo is it alleviates the need to wait in line to order as well as the need to wait for your food to be prepared and then wait in line to pay. Our hope was that as people start to use the app more and more […] then you won’t have people coming in seeing the lines and turning away because they don’t think they’ll be able to wait that long. We do our best to turn the lines over really quickly, but no matter what […] not everybody has the time to wait. So we were hoping to alleviate some of those lines, alleviate some of the crowding in our dining room and hopefully capture more business that way.”
Schluep’s words allude to another feature of Tapingo: delivery. Students on campus, whether in the library or in student housing, can have CoHo treats delivered to a non-CoHo address, increasing access to good food and widening the breadth of business for the CoHo.
Schluep is not the only person who understands the positive potential of Tapingo. ASUCD President Joshua Dalavai is also enthusiastic about the app.
“I’d really like to see more student engagement with it, I think that would be the most important thing for me,” Dalavai said. “I think it would make us all happier.”
While the goals surrounding the app are lofty and aspirational, Levi Menovske, the cafe manager of the CoHo South Cafe and diversity coordinator, identified a way in which Tapingo eliminates an opportunity for excellence in service.
“The CoHo South has always prided itself on its customer service aspect,” Menovske said. “We have really long lines and our way of dealing with that is making sure our customers have a great experience with us, that face-to-face interaction with the cashier, and Tapingo kind of removes that aspect of our customer service and I don’t like that about the app. I think our customer service is what makes us so special and we may we have 1,100 customers that come in every day but 400 of those customers come in everyday because of our customer service. This mobile ordering app is moving away from that interaction where we don’t get to build that relationship with our customers […] but it makes sense for those customers who just want to come in and get out.”
Not only does Tapingo eliminate some of the excellent customer service cultivated at the CoHo South Cafe and other locations, but its introduction was difficult for the front-of-house staff teams either as they had to learn new skills and incorporate them into their pre-existing systems. The app’s employees, who work out of San Francisco, were able to remedy potential initial difficulties by going so far as to meet with CoHo supervisors via Skype. The app team’s diligence should ultimately allow Tapingo to ease the strain of lunchtime rushes for employees in the long run as it more evenly distributes customer flow.
Nerves have settled since the app officially launched on Oct. 23, but the question remains: is it worth it to cut down on wait time to optimize our busy schedules at the expense of the interpersonal customer service that set the CoHo and its satellites apart? More simply, does an app like Tapingo practice empathy for the chaos of our busy lives or does it disgrace the very essence of service itself? Schluep enumerated what motivates him to share the app with his community.
“We know that the students today have more and more demands placed on them,” Schluep said. “I mean our students, we have 400 students working here for the Coffee House and for AS Dining Services and so we’ve seen the demands placed upon them as students at UC Davis go up and up and up. So this is a way for us, although it’s a small thing, to help in some ways. We want to make the experience as quick and painless as possible.”
In addition to being the first UC to incorporate Tapingo into its dining services, Schluep hopes to ultimately share Tapingo with the Dining Commons and the Silo alike. This step toward increased mobile access to campus services is a goal of Dalavai’s as well.
“I think Tapingo aligns with a lot of the recent initiatives that ASUCD is currently trying to undertake especially in the era of increased student growth as we’re seeing people are feeling the squeeze,” Dalavai said. “I think Tapingo does a really good job to alleviate some of that stress if students get behind it and use it.”
Whether or not Tapingo can solve the crisis of astronomically high student population and its escalating growth aside, there’s nothing like a student’s experienced voice to shine a light on the utility of the app at lunchtime.
“The hope is to have all food service entities at UC Davis utilizing the app at some point,” Schluep said. “There is the hope the entire campus will be Tapingo-friendly.”
Written by: Stella Sappington — firstname.lastname@example.org