Steve Simoni of Bbot: 5 Things a Business Should Do to Create a Wow Customer Experience
An Interview With Orlando Zayas
Great customer service means always picking up the phone. I think this is the most important thing to do for restaurants, so we always try to make that happen. Whenever a customer calls me I try to answer.
You’re only part of a team, setting up your staff for success is vital. I try to give the Bbot team whatever they need to get the job done.
As part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Simoni, CEO and Co-Founder of Bbot.
Prior to Bbot, Steve worked in technical sales support and product management for SaaS companies, including Marketo and EverString. As a serial entrepreneur, Steve previously founded a B2B technology company for the sales profession, an experience where he learned crucial lessons about product-market fit. The three Bbot founders met while officers in the Navy, working for the Naval Reactors Program in Washington, D.C. Steve worked on instrumentation and control for submarines and aircraft carriers, including a new circuit breaker design for the Virginia Class Submarine. Steve attended Penn State University for a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and a master’s in Nuclear Engineering.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Greg, Luke and I met as officers in the US Navy. We were all engineers for submarines and aircrafts, and after we left we kept in touch. We were at a New York City restaurant called Hakkasan when we had what we thought was an incredible idea: what if there was a server robot who could deliver your drinks? From that, Bbot was born. And while the concept has evolved since then, and now we’re going strong with our contactless order-and-pay hospitality technology, you can still see our robot server creation at Tokyo Kitty, a local bar in Cincinnati.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Well, we made an entire overhead robotics system as part of the QR code ordering system. I am not exactly saying that making the robotics part was a mistake, but everyone is buying the software now. I think the ‘takeaway’ is to make something people want to buy, not just the first idea you come up with.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Our first major investors, In Good Company, a restaurant group in NYC really helped us out. We didn’t have a lot of investment money in the early days, which made it hard to grow and scale. The team at In Good Company really believed in us and helped make us a success today.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
In short, great customer service and experience are the reasons why customers come back for more. It’s the cornerstone of building loyalty and a recognizable brand. When customers are given the opportunity to control their own dining experience, it improves experiences for both the server and customer, ultimately creating stronger engagement and loyalty.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I think companies want to make it a priority, but they don’t have many great options to work with, because this stuff is very hard to build well. Finding the right fit for your company and operations is a challenge many face.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Speaking from experience, our competition definitely keeps us on our toes and makes us work harder to offer the best service possible. So I imagine that is true for our customers and their competition. Everyone is pushing each other.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Tommy, the owner of the Brooklyn Barge in Greenpoint, is a great example. When we launched QR code order and pay at the table in 2018, it totally transformed his business. I still remember the first night when he sat with me after they closed the bar and he said, “that was really amazing Steve, I bet you are really excited about how well that worked.”
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
It led us to double down on the software and less on the robotics aspect. Ultimately, it is why we are here today.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Great customer service means always picking up the phone. I think this is the most important thing to do for restaurants, so we always try to make that happen. Whenever a customer calls me I try to answer.
- Delivering customers delightful features that they didn’t even ask for yet. This one is fun for me.
- Going above and beyond after the contract is signed, during onboarding, to ensure the customer doesn’t have to do too much work themselves.
- You’re only part of a team, setting up your staff for success is vital. I try to give the Bbot team whatever they need to get the job done.
- Finding support in your own life, like family, close friends, or partners, is how you get through the scary moments. Taking care of yourself allows you to be the leader you need to be for others.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
If you create an experience so good that they don’t want to have to go back to how their normal was without you, you’re all set. And part of that comes from making the customer feel not only heard, but taken care of. That means being available to talk when they need to, and not only giving them the tools they need to succeed, but actively teaching them how to use those tools as well.
My particular expertise is in retail, so I’d like to ask a question about that. Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Technology has always been a competitive space, and going head-to-head demands being not only innovative, but also flexible and a good listener. If you can’t be cheaper, be more advanced, be faster, be whatever you can claim in the space.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d push for programs that make education possible. I was able to get my degree thanks to my time with the military, and I think educating through as many avenues as possible would be huge.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@stevensimoni on Twitter and on LinkedIn where I post my thoughts regularly on the industry and where it’s going.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!