What has been the impact of COVID-19 on Langley Compass Group?
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on the business, not just financially, but also in terms of how we operate.
“We have, like all businesses, had to introduce new health and safety measures and restrict the number of visitors we have on site, as well as adhere to social distancing and PPE guidelines when installing systems for our clients.
“One of the toughest implications of the pandemic has been keeping on top of financials and cash flow, whilst staying up to date with government information and legalities. We have had to keep our eye on the ball when it comes to which government support the business is eligible for, to help cover some of our overheads when trade levels have been low.
“We have found that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate when servicing our customers and have had to tailor our approach customer-to-customer to ensure we support their individual needs efficiently.”
Have you had to adapt any aspect of the technologies to accommodate the current climate and the new needs of businesses?
“We have adapted our offerings to help hospitality businesses adhere to government guidelines and have introduced smarter technologies to help businesses serve their customers safely and efficiently.
“For many hospitality businesses, adapting to restrictions has been crucial to try to keep pace and generate income, and we have helped many customers in the sector develop effective e-commerce solutions such as takeaway menus, loyalty schemes and marketing platforms. These types of technologies have been fundamental for many to stay afloat during national and local restrictions on trading.”
Talk us through the different technologies you offer hospitality businesses in particular, and the benefits this will have for post lockdown-trade.
“We offer a variety of different technologies for hospitality businesses to meet their needs.
“As we have witnessed less of a desire for older technologies, such as traditional static terminals, and a higher demand for handheld ordering solutions like mobile point of sale (POS) and app ordering, this is something we have focused heavily on over the past 12 months. We have also implemented QR ordering solutions into a variety of venues, allowing customers to order from their own devices, and limiting contact between visitors and servers.
“Technologies that limit contact with others will be beneficial for post-lockdown trade as they will ensure customers feel safe when visiting a business’ premises and can also help them maintain staffing levels. It is likely that many hospitality businesses will see a surge in bookings and may struggle to maintain a staffing level that adheres to social distancing, but also caters for the number of customers visiting. Implementing technologies like QR ordering and mobile apps for customer check-ins can reduce the number of staff needed on site at any one time.
“Another popular technology solution that will benefit businesses post-lockdown is AI that can be used to understand customer spend trends and preferences, allowing for more targeted marketing. This has been extremely important for businesses to retain customers and offer exclusive offers to encourage them back through their doors once they are able to re-open.”
What is different or unique about the systems you offer?
“We can provide bespoke systems, from implementation to specific hardware, to suit the needs of a business. For example, one customer might want to be more hands on with their system, whereas another may require a complete enterprise solution to self-drive the business, with an emphasis on marketing and stock control. We can cater and tailor our systems accordingly to fit the needs and budget of each individual business.
“In today’s world, being able to integrate other software or access data is a major benefit and being agnostic to integrations allows us to take a more flexible approach to our customers’ needs. Our recent acquisition of IT company, Compass Computers, means we can provide both hardware solutions and software development, and have more control to deliver what the customer wants, whilst adhering to their deadlines.”
With technology playing an important role going forward, will the technology be user friendly to those that do not perhaps use technology often?
“The majority of hospitality business owners I have spoken to have found that, throughout the pandemic, their customers and staff have been far more open to using new technologies as part of their hospitality experience.
“I think many people, especially those who may have been reluctant to engage with technologies before, have taken to it much quicker than expected. This seems to be down to the convenience and extra level of safety it provides for both customers and employees.
“We always ensure the technology we supply to businesses is user-friendly, and we can develop software to simplify functions even further if necessary. If businesses are struggling with their technology, whether it be through staff or customer usage, our team is always available to assist in resolving these issues.”
What if any are the challenges to integrating the technology into hospitality businesses?
“The first challenge we have is getting all our customers ready for reopening on 12th April for outdoor service, then 17th May for indoor. This, logistically, is a challenge, but many of our customers were in touch with us as soon as the new roadmap was announced, so we have had the opportunity to discuss their needs far in advance of them reopening.
“The challenges when integrating technology also depends on the existing hardware and software a business has in place, and whether they need updating to help or comply with government regulations.”
With the increased use of contactless payment and the rise of the amount that can be paid, is there more of a demand for this to be integrated into the sector?
“The increased use of contactless payment methods has definitely led to a growth in demand for technologies that integrate this option into their hospitality experience.
“With card and device payments (such as Apple Pay) now becoming the majority of customers’ preferred payment method, many businesses in the sector have chosen to implement new technologies that offer their guests more ways to order and pay, whether it be through server’s handheld mobile PoS, or mobile apps that the guest can download and use from their own device.”
Technology is forever updating and changing, is it important in your opinion for business owners to recognise the current climate, and how certain technological updates should be considered in time for reopening? If so, why?
“Now is the time for business owners to look at the technology they currently have in place to see if there are better, more efficient and COVID-secure ways of doing things. For example, if a business is just using an EPoS till, they may benefit from installing another form of PoS, such as mobile, to enable servers to take and process orders quickly and more efficiently.
“My advice to businesses is to plan ahead as much as possible and not leave implementing new technology to the last minute, as this can cause problems when re-opening.”
Contactless payments have become popular even before the pandemic; do you feel this is the way forward?
“Definitely. The movement towards becoming a cashless society has accelerated dramatically, with many hospitality businesses choosing to become completely cashless to help prevent the spread of the virus through the physical exchange of money.
“I think contactless payment methods will continue to grow in popularity, and we may get to a stage where the majority of hospitality businesses will choose not to accept cash payments, due to the ease and simplicity of contactless means.”
Talk us through how overheads and staffing can be managed.
“Overheads can be managed efficiently by implementing an integrated EPoS system as it enables businesses to manage stock control, and provides a clear overview of best-selling items, which prevents over-purchasing and stock wastage.
“Implementing PoS can benefit businesses from a staffing perspective too, as it can be used to manage payroll, provide detailed reporting about cash flow, and optimise scheduling.
“Having a mixture of servers and app ordering can also help businesses reduce the amount of staff needed, aiding social distancing and allowing businesses to run on a skeleton body of staff if necessary, until trade and cash flow return to a ‘normal’ level.”
What are the future plans for the business? Is there currently anything you are working on for the hospitality sector?
“As previously mentioned, our acquisition of Compass Computers has opened doors for us in the way of bringing software integrations in house. As a result, we are working on bringing hospitality, digital marketing, customer loyalty, payment methods, QR code ordering, website management and hosting services all into one customer 360, meaning our customers can rely on us for the majority of their technology needs.
“One of our main focal points is developing our AI technology which can provide businesses with an in-depth understanding of specific customers’ regular orders and how often they visit. This enables them to ensure they have their customers’ favourite items available to avoid disappointment and, if a customer hasn’t visited the venue in a while, the business can send tailored deals to them to entice them back.”
Richard Cox is managing director of Langley Business Systems.