How Should Mobile Impact Back Office? Pizza Hut CIO: Doesn’t Want Pizza Makers Troubleshooting iPhones

Written by Evan Schuman
March 28th, 2011

Although Mobile is a great enabler, it could also pose a great burden. And nowhere are those burdens more apparent than in retail back-office operations. Among the issues that Pizza Hut CIO Baron Concors ran into with his chain’s mobile deployment was proper training of store personnel, something that is often overlooked.

“A big thing to think about is how you are going to train your in-store personnel and educate them on the mobile strategy and the mobile app. We found many customers walking into restaurants, asking our personnel how to use the iPhone app. That can get lost in the mix,” Concors said. “How are you going to redirect those consumers to the right level of support when those things come about? There’s no way you are going to train all your personnel how to troubleshoot an iPhone app. In 99.99 percent of cases, there’s no problem with the app itself. It’s because the person doesn’t understand or there’s a problem with their phone or there’s a problem with the network. If there’s a problem with the app, we will see it across the board.”

Asked if Pizza Hut wants to get into the business of troubleshooting iPhones, Concors took the tongue-in-cheek question and answered in kind: “We may spin it off as a side business, but not right now.”

Concors was part of a StorefrontBacktalk panel on the challenges for retailers deploying mobile projects in a strategic way. Those conversations have become a series of podcasts, including one on back-office mobile strategies.

Concors said that the single biggest challenge with a new mobile venture is the same as with a desktop Web rollout: scalability in case the rollout is a big success. “The biggest challenge to overcome is the unknown popularity of the app. For us, it was around scalability. The good news is that we have to scale our online channel for huge events like the Super Bowl, so we have that capability to handle surges in traffic,” Concors said. “And because we use the same online API that we do for mobile, it was not as concerning for us as it may be for others.”

Many of the back-office issues involve associates using mobile devices and how far a chain should go. Concors spoke enthusiastically about a mobile device that isn’t a smartphone.

“I have a vision around tablets as it relates to our store manager being able to use it in a variety of ways. I think about dashboards to help him run his business. Team members who need to take online training, using this device to go out to somewhere else in the restaurant, to take the training away from one of the computers in the back of the house,” Concors said. “I also think about consumers that want to apply for a job, giving them this device to submit an online application. A tablet is in its infancy right now. It’s part of a pilot project. I think it will potentially play a big role. The desktop has a role and the employee smartphone has a role, as well.”

Another panel member, Mike Sajor, CIO at the Ann Taylor apparel chain (he just got promoted to CIO, from his prior CTO role), focused many of his back-office comments on how many devices a chain should support. That answer varies wildly, he said, depending on what specific function employees are doing at any given moment.


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