The Post-COVID Future of Quick Service and Fast Casual Restaurants

As we start to think about life in a post-COVID world, one of the main questions is what part of our revamped lifestyles are here to stay? Financial crises, natural disasters, and societal developments always lead to innovation and transformation, and COVID-19 is no different. Among the trends that will be long-lasting is the shift away from touch-based interactions toward touchless ones. We believe that the future is touchless everything.

In the quick-serve restaurant (QSR) industry, touchless everything means the whole experience from ordering, menus, payment, drive-thru and pickup. As dining in has been limited, the demand for drive-thru and pickup has increased exponentially. Increased demand, though, has its downsides. Long lines mean poor customer experience and lost sales opportunities as drivers may be deterred from waiting.

In fact, according to one study, the use of digital menu boards, which shaves off 12.3 seconds of throughput, can result in nearly $28,000 in savings per location, equating to hundreds of millions of dollars for large QSRs. The reverse is true in an industry that saw wait times increase by nearly 30 seconds across the board. This means that digital innovation is key to removing friction from the ordering, payment, and pickup interactions so brands can serve more customers, faster and safer.

In addition to digital menus, the use of mobile technologies paired with biometrics provide other opportunities for improved customer experiences. For example, with facial recognition, a guest may simply drive-up to the digital menu and be automatically identified to gain access to personalized special offers, recall a previous order, redeem loyalty rewards and make a payment. This saves time and gives the customer the type of experience that drives incremental sales and creates strong brand loyalty.

Creating Wow Experiences with Facial Recognition

The NEC I:Delight platform is specially designed to create these wow experiences. Adding the I:Delight platform to new or existing apps is simple. Users can easily register by taking a quick selfie for their online profile to create a Digital ID. Once registered, they can simply log-in to the mobile app with their face, or in store at a kiosk, to place an order and approve payment using their secure Digital ID. If a guest is picking up their order in-person, a simple glance at a tablet can alert staff that they have arrived to ensure they receive their order quickly and safely.

Drive-Thru Ordering and Payment

The NEC I:Delight platform can also be incorporated at the drive-thru for enhanced, personalized service and operational efficiency. When a customer pulls-up to the drive-thru, the platform recognizes their Digital ID and alerts staff to the customer’s arrival. Stored preferences and targeted promotions appear on the digital menu screen, and staff can greet the customer by name. If a payment method is saved in the customer’s loyalty account, face verification or a saved PIN is all that is needed to complete the transaction.

According to a recent study commissioned by the Kellogg School of Management, Columbia Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School, every 7 seconds saved in drive-thru wait times equates to about 1 percent increase in sales. This makes both the customer experience and business value benefit of the NEC I:Delight platform hard to overstate:

  • Increases throughput of customers with a more personalized experience.
  • Easily monitors customer purchasing behaviors to better anticipate customer needs and offer targeted promotions.
  • Brings up pre-order or previous order for faster transactions times, minimizing the time for order customizations.
  • Offers seamless, contactless payments for a faster and safer experience.

NEC is a trusted leader in facial recognition, ranked number one in biometric innovation by NIST for five consecutive years. With over 1,000 deployments in 70 countries around the world and $2.6 billion invested annually in research and development, NEC is the preferred partner for fast-casual restaurants looking for facial recognition-enabled solutions for an enhanced customer experience.

Below is a three-page preview of our eBook. Click here to lean more about our touchless solutions or complete the form below to download the entire eBook.

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Partner Success Story: How Folkerson Communications was able to solve customer’s challenges with UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES

Introducing UNIVERGE BLUE® Early Adopters Series – NEC Corporation of America (NEC) honors Channel Partners who were early adopters of UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES and are improving customer care, employee engagement, and business operations. Hear the stories of why our early adopters chose the UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program and why partners recommend UNIVERGE BLUE for their customers.

The Background

From the time founder Greg Folkerson began his career as technical writer in 1976, Folkerson Communications was built around providing exemplary service in all facets of communications to customers in the Central Texas and Austin area. Greg’s commitment to customer service and employee training has positioned Folkerson as an industry leader.

The company offers 5 key services — Phone/VoIP, Carrier Services, Network Solutions, Structured Cabling and 24/7 Customer Service — and handles everything from purchasing and deployment to networking and troubleshooting.

Folkerson Communications became an authorized NEC Channel partner almost 25 years ago, and for several decades that meant providing clients with NEC’s on-premises communication servers and IT technology. Around 2015, Folkerson responded to a growing demand for VoIP and non-traditional communications technology.

I recently met with Greg Folkerson to discuss the partnership with NEC and his experience being an early adopter of the New Generation UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES.

The Challenge

As cloud and hosted solutions grew in popularity, Folkerson knew that it needed a rock-solid cloud solution that would provide the reliable and dependable services that his clients had come to associate with Folkerson. Before UNIVERGE BLUE, Folkerson tried other cloud vendors, but finding a highly reliable solution that met Folkerson’s stringent standards, and one that allowed them to own their customer relationships, proved to be nearly impossible. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Customer Ownership Partner Model was unique in allowing Folkerson to maintain full ownership of billing, bundling, adding services, and supporting a customer’s environment — preserving the customer confidence upon which Folkerson has built its reputation.

Greg Folkerson explains some of the challenges he faced with other cloud providers, “The industry is changing. There are now non-interconnect companies selling voice services, and many of these vendors do not understand that for most of Folkerson Communications existence we were a traditional interconnect company – we have technicians, we roll trucks, we train customers – and we built a reputation around providing this type of hands-on customer service. While selling cloud services has immensely simplified the programming and implementation, the need for human-like customer service has not gone away, and that is what our customers expect from us. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program has been great for us because it allows us to own our customer relationships, and NEC is always there to provide significant sales, marketing, and service support. NEC always answers our questions and is always there when we need them.”

Greg continues, “Our customers trust us and the relationship we have built with them over the years. It was imperative that we offer a reliable and dependable solution that meets our customers’ needs and one that reinforces our reputation of providing exceptional customer support.”

The Solution

Now Folkerson Communications sells UNIVERGE BLUE® CONNECT – NEC’s Unified Communications As A Service (UCaaS) solution and UNIVERGE BLUE® ENGAGE – NEC’s Contact Center As A Service (CCaaS) solution. Unlike other providers, UNIVERGE BLUE has allowed Folkerson to maintain their customer relationships and expand their service offerings into existing and new areas of their customers’ businesses.

While customers certainly enjoy ENGAGE’s full-featured contact center (CCaaS) capabilities and CONNECT’s (UCaaS) features, which includes a full-featured phone system, video/web conferencing, team chat, file sharing & backup — Greg says the flexibility and simplicity that UNIVERGE BLUE provides is key. “Many of our customers found it challenging to manage the complexities associated with maintaining a phone system in multiple locations – with UNIVERGE BLUE, we were able to solve these challenges by offering our customers a centralized, fully managed, and scalable phone system hosted in the cloud.”

Greg continues, “UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT has reduced complexity for our customers, minimized telecom costs, improved communication and collaboration, and even enabled remote work environments, which would have been difficult to do with a hardware-based solution.”

On Folkerson’s end, the UNIVERGE BLUE Administrative Portal has allowed Folkerson to easily monitor and troubleshoot customers’ voice services and contact center features. Greg was able to retrain his existing staff to handle UNIVERGE BLUE UCaaS and CCaaS implementations.

“Because of the competitive solutions UNIVERGE BLUE offers, the great sales, marketing and service support NEC provides coupled with the ability to set our own margins, we are able to focus more on selling and building relationships with our customers and less on other ancillary activities often associated with hardware that cut into our profits. The margins with BLUE are very attractive, and it didn’t take long to adjust to a monthly recurring revenue model.” Folkerson explains.

The Result

Folkerson Communications is now an exclusive NEC dealer, “Becoming an exclusive NEC dealer was a no-brainer decision based on the success we have seen with NEC’s hardware solutions and now with the business growth we are seeing with UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES.”

Folkerson Communications is embracing a new role – a complete cloud technology provider who offers end-to-end cloud solutions, committed to being a trusted advisor, adding value across every customers’ lifecycle. Greg notes, “The UNIVERGE BLUE Cloud partnership has allowed us to keep pace with the external marketplace and everchanging demands of our customers. We are starting to see significant growth in our cloud-business and do not see it slowing down any time soon.”

NEC and Folkerson will continue to partner together to provide solutions to customers’ unique needs. The future of Folkerson’s business includes a combination of both cloud-based and on-premises solutions, creating a hybrid IT and UC portfolio that balances the scalability and flexibility associated with cloud and the security associated with hardware. NEC will continue to be an integral part of what Folkerson does in the IT and Communications space.

NEC is committed to providing Channel Partners the opportunity to expand their offerings with customers and profit from delivering cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions. If you are a technology provider who is interested in partnering with a market leader who helps build on capabilities to drive sustainable and profitable growth, reach out to an NEC representative today or visit www.univergeblue.com/partners.

For any questions about the program or to meet with a UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program Representative, submit your information and we will get back to you shortly.

How Can a Visitor and Employee Management System Redefine Safety and Productivity as Your People Return to the Workplace?

In today’s security and highly health-conscious environment, businesses must offer a safe and comfortable experience for employees returning to work and visitors who will soon be entering on-site offices. In some areas, organizations are legally required to implement workplace policies to limit transmission of viruses to maintain healthy business operations and work environments.

While many businesses remain remote, those who decide to reopen do so with the health and safety of their staff and customers as their highest priority. Enabling contactless processes in your lobby can go a long way toward reducing the spread of infectious diseases and making your visitors and employees feel more comfortable as they enter your office building and check in.

NEC’s Robust Visitor and Employee Management System

NEC Front Desk Assistant (FDA) employee and visitor management system is an easy to use solution that manages the flow of on-site visitors and employees, from check-in to check-out, helping to create a safe and health-conscious environment for employees and visitors in your building.

Read on to learn how FDA is taking on a new role in safety and productivity at the workplace.

Thermal Scanning for Elevated Body Temperature

Many businesses are screening the temperature of employees and visitors to help detect and identify those that have fevers and may be sick – a high-contact and labor-intensive task. With Front Desk Assistant’s thermal tablet, this can now be automated, private and touch free.

FDA’s optional thermal tablets include a built-in thermal imaging camera to identify individuals with elevated temperatures. When the Front Desk Assistant application is loaded onto a thermal tablet, the application integrates with the tablet’s thermal imaging capabilities resulting in touch-free screening and temperature monitoring.

Pre-Registration

Allowing visitors to pre-register their visit helps prevent congestion of people in lobby areas, reduces unnecessary human interaction, and speeds up the overall check-in/out process for visitors and employees.

FDA offers pre-registration QR access codes for visitors, employees and other individuals who plan to enter your building. Visitor codes are valid for a single visit while employee and others can be set to never expire for touch-free single or repeat visits. Bulk invite preregistration can be sent to up to 500 people for large meetings and events.

Contactless Check-in and Check-Out

FDA utilizes NEC’s leading biometric facial recognition technology or QR codes along with thermal screening to provide safe, touchless and fast identification of employees, visitors, guests, patients and/or students entering an organization or event.

Those employees or visitors who have preregistered simply display their code or face to the tablet’s camera upon arriving at your building. Once the person is checked in, a notification is automatically sent to the person that they have come to meet with. Facial recognition and QR codes eliminate manual processes during check-in and out for a truly contactless check-in method.

Capacity Limits

Keeping track of how many individuals are in your facility is just as important as knowing who is in your facility. The Front Desk Assistant (FDA) allows you to input a maximum occupancy rate and keeps count of check-in activity. When the occupancy rate reaches the maximum number, alerts are immediately sent via Email and/or SMS. Additionally, at maximum occupancy no additional check-ins are permissible.

Activity Logs

Creating a more health-conscious environment in your organization includes defining the number of allowed individuals into the facility, capturing individuals’ temperatures, presenting company compliance agreements, tracking and monitoring access to a facility and keeping records of visitor’s and employees time spent on the premises. However, tracking all of these processes manually can be very time consuming and negatively affect your receptionist’s productivity.

NEC’s Front Desk Assistant records all visitor and employee entries and can easily be downloaded in a detailed report in Excel. This information is easily retrievable for occupancy compliance confirmation, employee management, and verification of visitor status. Easy to read dashboards delivers information instantly and accurately, helping to improve workplace productivity and safety.

Front Desk Assistant is the ideal solution for organizations with employees returning to the workplace that are committed to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the health and welfare of employees and visitors. With NEC’s Front Desk Assistant, you can offer peace of mind for your employees and visitors at your workplace.

If you would like more information about NEC’s Front Desk Assistant and how it can help your organization, reach out to your NEC representative today or visit NEC’s Front Desk Assistant website.

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MDCOM Discusses the UNIVERGE BLUE Partnership and Explains How Selling Cloud Services Benefits Business

Introducing UNIVERGE BLUE® Early Adopters Series – Where NEC Corporation of America (NEC) honors Channel Partners who were early adopters of UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES and are improving customer care, employee engagement, and business operations. Hear the stories of why our early adopters chose UNIVERGE BLUE for their customers.

MDCOM was first incorporated in 1979 and currently employs staff with over two centuries experience in business communications and technologies.

I recently met with Eric Lutz, President and CEO of MDCOM to discuss the partnership with NEC and his experience being an early adopter of the New Generation of UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES, which is NEC’s portfolio of cloud services.

MDCOM has a long and rich history of offering NEC’s on-premises communications platforms and systems including NEC’s UNIVERGE® SV9000 and the SL2100 Communications Systems. As a long-standing NEC Channel Partner, the decision to be an early adopter of the New Generation of UNIVERGE BLUE was an easy one. Eric explained, “Based on the level of attention we have received over the years and the success our business has seen from selling NEC’s hardware solutions, expanding our relationship with NEC was an easy decision – so we adopted UNIVERGE BLUE as soon as it was released – we came on right out of the gate”.

The Challenge

MDCOM had previously offered hosted telephony to their customers but realized that there were some significant disadvantages to the vendor they chose. Eric described, “The problem that we ran into is that there was way too much heavy lifting based off our infrastructure. We also noticed that we were gaining customers very easily, but we would lose those customers just as easily”. MDCOM wanted to own more of the customer relationship and maintain a strong and close bond with customers, like the way they do with their hardware customers. They wanted to do so without being overwhelmed with backend IT management and implementations.

The Solution: NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE COUD SERVICES Partner Program

  1. The Ability to Choose a Revenue Model
    Eric appreciated the three options of partner models that NEC allowed him to choose from, but ultimately decided to go with the Revenue Share partner model which allows Channel Partners to stay involved with the customer and even set the sell prices for each customer. “As you know it doesn’t matter if you are selling hardware, software, or services, the technology industry is competitive, so you really have to be aware of your market and your price points. We’re able to adjust our price points based on the market demands with the Revenue Share Model. I think that is number 1 in terms of advantages,” Eric explained. By being able to adjust the margin on the monthly revenue, UNIVERGE BLUE has provided MDCOM’s sellers with more attractive margins and better commissions.
  2. Easily Integrated into all Business Environments
    Trying to integrate hardware into customer environments has become increasingly more complex and challenging. According to Eric, “When you talk about IP Communications and networking multiple systems, there is a great deal of complexity which forces you to continually upgrade your technician skills- but as much as you do- you are always turning the corner to a new issue”.

    After explaining some of the challenges MDCOM faced with being a hardware provider, Eric went on to highlight ease-of-use and simplified management that UNIVERGE BLUE has to offer. Eric expressed, “[UNIVERGE BLUE] CLOUD has been a breath of fresh air from the technical and implementation perspective. We now have insight down to the button level of a customer’s end points. We can control the users, passwords, automated attendants, time zones, and call recording. We log in from anywhere and we have insight into every single customer and user device, and we can make changes or add services for a customer at any time.”

  3. A Better Bond with Customers
    Eric compared the relationship that he now has with his UNIVERGE BLUE customers to the relationship that he has with his hardware customers. When you provide hardware to a customer, you are with them for a very long time due to the long lifespan of on-premises systems, NEC’s in particular. With UNIVERGE BLUE, MDCOM was able to maintain a strong bond with their customers, like the bond they have as a hardware provider. Being able to provide the first line of support and continue to manage the relationship with the customer has created a “stickier” long-term relationship with customers, according to Eric.
  4. Feature Capabilities and Easy Implementation
    Another aspect of UNIVERGE BLUE that has benefitted MDCOM and their customers is the ease of implementation when it comes to feature enhancements. With on-premises hardware, if a customer wanted to add a feature or update endpoints, the process could be highly labor intensive and expensive. With cloud services, Eric can simply go into the UNIVERGE BLUE management portal to add any specific feature to every endpoint in a customer location as well as scale up or down as needed. “That type of feature invigoration has really been a huge plus. The deployment could not have been simpler,” Eric said.

    MDCOM launched UNIVERGE BLUE in April 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic lock downs. During this time, MDCOM did not have their normal complement of field technicians out on the road, but according to Eric, they were still able to deploy systems. “Phones were getting drop shipped to customer locations and it was very easy for them to plug in the instruments; we did everything in the back office. Being able to install over a dozen systems without having a technician cross a customer’s doorway was a huge benefit to us,” Eric explained.

  5. Quick and Painless Quoting
    With the BLUE quoting tool, the ability to provide a customer with a very professional looking proposal with accurate pricing is seamless according to Eric. Adding one-time services and/or monthly services is as easy as a click of a button. Once you create and confirm the quote, the tool will automatically send your customer proposal via e-doc, the customer signs the doc, which then allows the sales rep to immediately create and provision the account. “It’s just been one of the most seamless deployments that we’ve been able to be a part of,” according to Eric.

The Result

MDCOM has found that selling UNIVERGE BLUE is very easy. It’s robust feature and solution capabilities make NEC a one-stop-shop for fully integrated cloud services. “Customers appreciate having everything integrated into one single application. UNIVERGE BLUE has solved much of the application fatigue that customers are facing as they switch back from countless different applications daily”. In addition to this, “People know that NEC offers the most reliable and secure communications and IT solutions, they trust the name brand, and they trust that they will be taken care of with NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES. When I walk into a customer account that has used NEC in the past, they are excited to have a conversation about NEC”. Overall, NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES has allowed MDCOM to improve their revenue stream, expand their solution offering into customer accounts, and control their customer relationships.

“The UNIVERGE BLUE launch has been the best rollout that I have been a part of as an NEC partner for well over 10 years now. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE has been our easiest adoption of any new program, product, or solution by far.”
– Eric Lutz, President of MDCOM.

What Will the Future Bring for NEC UNIVERGE BLUE and MDCOM?

MDCOM will continue to sell UNVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES while owning their customer relationship in addition to offering NEC’s on-premises portfolio as they adjust to a Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) model with cloud. MDCOM is excited to see what other features and solutions are released within the UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD Portfolio down the road.

For more information on how you can become a UNIVERGE BLUE Channel Partner and begin realizing the unlimited benefits and high-margins that come with being a cloud provider, visit https://www.univergeblue.com/partners today. For any questions about the program or to meet with a UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program Representative, submit your information to us and we will get back to you shortly.

UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD – A Hosted, Private Unified Communications Cloud Solution for Any Size Business

Over recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of cloud-based services offered to businesses of all sizes within all industries. The flexibility of being able to access your business software from any location, and the scalability and cost-effectiveness of cloud services are the reasons for the high cloud adoption rates. For certain industries including government enterprises, traditional/non-traditional banks, hospitality, research centers and other mid-large sized organizations a standardized public cloud offering might not be ideal to satisfy unique business needs and requirements. A private cloud is ideal for those organizations with business-critical operations and seeking enhanced control and security over their IT Communications environment.

What is a Private Cloud?

A private cloud, also referred to as an internal or corporate cloud, is an on-demand solution accessed via the internet built exclusively for one business or organization. An organization who selects a private cloud model can choose to have their infrastructure hosted by a third-party service provider. In a private cloud, services and infrastructure are always maintained on a private network and all hardware/software is dedicated to one organization.

NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD

With NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD, organizations receive the benefits of both an on-premises and cloud-based communications solution without having to choose. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD Business / Hospitality offering is a complete turnkey, private communications solution hosted in secure and resilient cloud data centers. Organizations receive their own single, dedicated instance with ensured geographic redundancy making it easier to customize resources to meet specific IT requirements.

UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD allows fast provisioning of new applications and features and provides users with an unparalleled level of agility. Voice, Unified Messaging, and Unified Communications are fully integrated and includes a wide variety of customizable mobility apps and advanced contact center features to meet all business communications needs. By deploying a private cloud solution, organizations eliminate the burdens that come with developing, maintaining, powering, and securing their own IT infrastructure by reducing on-site equipment and allowing NEC to handle maintenance.

Benefits of NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD Unified Communications Include:

  • Enhanced mobile presence and UC features
  • Instant Messaging between colleagues or group chats
  • Ability to set contact rules and view presence and status change
  • Complete call control with IP, TDM, and SIP options
  • Seamless call transferring between devices and single-number reach
  • Supports Microsoft® Exchange and Office 365® (fully integrated calendars)
  • Enterprise-grade voicemail and unified messaging platform
  • Record of communications history updated with call information
  • One number, one voicemail, one complete call history

With the reputation for reliability and security that the UNIVERGE SV9500 offers, paired with NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES, UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD is ideal for medium to large-sized enterprises wanting the ease and cost-effectiveness of a cloud solution while maintaining the security and privacy they get with an on-premises system.

The Best of Both Worlds

While the choices of unified communication solutions in the marketplace are vast, the available options for a dynamic and comprehensive delivery model are limited. It is essential to choose a solution that offers you the flexibility to customize around your workforce needs and provides your business with the agility it requires to adapt to ever-changing customer demands. With NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD solution, enterprises can implement their unified communications system the way that best fits their business and industry needs while always keeping teams and customers connected and allowing employees to focus on their core business instead of hardware maintenance.

Whether you choose a hosted on-premises-based system, fully hosted in the cloud, or hybrid system, UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD is an opportunity to switch from a capital expense (CAPEX) model to an operating expense (OPEX) one, eliminating the need for a large upfront investment. Pay only for the capacity you need with a single monthly bill for system hardware, phones, and phone services plus SIP Trunking with UNIVERGE BLUE SV9500 PRIVATE CLOUD.

If you are interested in a private cloud solution for your organization, reach out to your NEC representative today or visit NEC’s website! For more information on NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE Public Cloud offering, visit www.univergeblue.com.

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