Monday, March 31, 2008

New Feature: Email

We rolled out a new feature over the weekend: email addresses for your restaurant. Now any user you create in your site's admin area will automatically be given an email address at the restaurant domain that forwards to whatever email address you enter for the user.

Example: If your restaurant site is '', and you create a user with the login 'joe' and an email address of '', any email sent to '' will automatically be forwarded to ''.

This is now active for users you already have, you don't have to do anything.

Note: email forwarding only works if your site has it's own domain name ( vs., and you have not already made some other arrangement with us to handle email for your domain.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saying 'cancel', shouldn't get you a sales pitch

In late December I signed up for a business credit card with one of the large credit providers. I got it primarily for the 15 months of no payments and 0% interest it offered. Right after getting it, I bought some stuff - a nice monitor, some office equipment. I also signed up for their online service so I could keep track of my charges. After signing in, I went to check my charges. The total was there, and was what I expected. When I tried to get statement details, I got a helpful error message letting me know that statement information was not available, as the online account had just recently been created. Annoying, but I could wait a few days.

Things got busy, and I did not log back in for a while. Quite a while actually - six weeks go by. By now I've had the card over seven weeks, and have received no statements. I log in to the online account to see when I should be receiving a statement, and notice a missed payment fee has been added to my account. I drill down to look at statements, and am given the same error message they showed me six weeks ago. I called customer service, and they were kind enough to remove the missed payment fee. They explained that they were having issues with some online accounts, and mine would be fixed shortly. They also assured me that my statements have been going out, and must be getting lost in the mail. I suggested that perhaps there was some connection between my inability to access details of my account online and my inability to receive paper statements, and was told that was not possible.

Three weeks go by, during which I should have received another paper statement. I log back in, and still cannot see my statements online. I call customer service, and they assure me they are working on the problem, and ask me to check with the post office to see if my mail is being held. I assure them it is not, since I am getting all of my other mail. After 45 minutes of getting transfered to various departments, I get disconnected. At this point, I scheduled a transfer to pay off the balance, and decide to cancel as soon as that has cleared.

This evening, I call to cancel the account. I have to speak to four different customer service representatives, and have to authenticate myself to each of them with my account number, address, last four digits of ssn, name, business name, and phone number. The first three tell me they will have to transfer me to someone else to handle the cancellation after I have explained to each my reasons for canceling. The last CSR was clearly a customer loss prevention specialist - when I told her I wanted to cancel, she asked the obligatory authentication questions, and then asked why. I started my story, and she cut me off half way through to tell me I was not getting statements because I had no balance, and that the card came with great benefits that I would be giving up if I canceled. I continued to explain to her why I wanted to cancel, and all I had been through to try to resolve the issue, finishing with "I've wasted enough time on this, and I want to cancel now." She asked why I was giving up the great 0% interest for the next year, and wanted to know why I had not called customer service before today to resolve my issues. This went on until I finally said "I want to cancel NOW, and am not interested in any your reasons why I should keep this account". She said she would process the cancel order, then proceeded to list all of the great benefits that would no longer be available to me after cancellation.

At this point, I believe the card is actually canceled.

This is no way to treat customers, which is obvious to anyone reading this. So why isn't it obvious to the credit card company? Why do they have staff that are paid to try to convince dissatisfied customers into staying, not by helping resolve issues, but by pointing out all of the "great benefits"?

I intended to start this article out with a small example of bad customer service, and then mainly discuss our customer service philosophy. What it has become is a long rant, followed by some short and sweet:

At RestaurantZite, if you contact us with an issue, we will work on it until it is resolved, and keep you posted of our progress.

If you decide to cancel your service, we'll ask you why. And when you answer, we'll listen. We'll listen to see if your reason for leaving is an issue we can resolve for you, or an issue we can resolve to make other customers happier. And if you still want to cancel, we'll wish you luck, and thank you for your business.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We Launched!

Well, it has been almost a year and a half in the making. But here we are. RestaurantZite has launched!

It all started while I was eating brunch at Table, here in Asheville, NC. I started thinking about how difficult it is for the average restaurant owner to obtain and update their own website.

The cost, the pain of getting a web-designer and the inconvenience of going through a web-designer to update the website. With all these barriers its not surprising that most restaurants do not have websites at all. The restaurants that do have websites seem to struggle with keeping their websites current.

I started thinking about the features a busy restaurant owner would need in order to be empowered to keep a website up to date. The requirements would be:

  1. The system would have to be very intuitive.
  2. It would have to be as easy as email.
  3. The website should be able to be edited by restaurant staff.
  4. It would have to allow for lots of little changes fast.
  5. It would have to take care of all the formatting details so that the owner isn't bogged down with making things bold here and underlined there and so on.

Well, I worked on these ideas in my spare time. I developed 2 systems that were just awful. They relied on little links here and there to insert headings and text and eventually the interface was just so ugly I had to say, "No way".

Then it occurred to me that drag and drop may be the answer. With drag and drop I could leave the web page intact and the user could send signals to the web page by dropping things on it. I spent some time, fleshed the ideas out and got the basics working. Then I bought an IPhone.

The iPhone really influenced the interface a great deal. The iPhone does not do everything. You can't take videos. However, the iPhone does things that most people want to do, and it does them very well. The principles that drove the design of the iPhone started to drive me. RestaurantZite doesn't have to do everything. It simply has to do what it does intuitively and well. In other words:
Don't compromise on ease of use, compromise on features!

So, here we are at ground zero of a new venture. If you have the time, please check out our interface. Then send us an email to tell us what you think!