Lessons Learned – Customer Experience in the Software Industry

After 20 years in business, Restaurant Magic Software has learned some valuable lessons about customer service. Through many evolutions they have established a central mission that encapsulates the core of their success in the industry: it’s a human centric philosophy that caters to clients on a personal level, tending to their emotional responses as much as their technical needs.

I recently sat down with Founder and COO of Restaurant Magic Software, Steve Roberts, to talk about some of his experiences creating the company, building a brand, and putting the customer first. As we settled down our discussion, Steve spoke about the driving factors behind Restaurant Magic Software and important lessons learned along the way. What stuck out the most to me was how much the people of his story have impacted the company and shaped its development.

A Chance Encounter Lights the Spark

The company began like any other, with an idea, but it wasn’t a make or break idea. It was an idea that won because of the ingenuity, flexibility, and empathy of its creator. Roberts was working at the time as a custom software engineer when he came upon the idea for what would become Data Central. While running his own small custom software shop, Roberts connected with a startup restaurant called Outback Steakhouse that was looking for a custom solution.

The result of that meeting was RDS, Restaurant Data Systems, a solution that Outback still uses to manage inventory and organize the chart of accounts for input into accounting. This product was the inspirational beginning of Data Central, but it is functionally very different.  When Outback Steakhouse acquired Carrabba’s, the new restaurant needed more flexible software to accommodate new items, a new chart of accounts, and a new POS system.

From Custom Solution to Licensed Software

Data Central was born from Roberts’s desire to build a system that was flexible and robust enough to handle any challenge thrown at it. He developed a system that could handle Carrabba’s new needs, and many more. The new software would work with any restaurant and enable widespread use. Suddenly the product became so much more than custom software, now it was a developed solution. Roberts began licensing the software and discovered the whole new world of customer support.

Facing the New Challenge of Customer Support

The sales and customer service aspects proved to be a real learning point for Roberts and helped develop the mission and vision of the company that would become Restaurant Magic. Roberts quickly discovered that the new company structure put him into a different role with the customer. Where before he would work very closely with the customer to develop the software specific to their needs and then provide them with the finished product, now he was selling a finished product. He had to learn how to connect and empathize with customers from a different perspective.

Roberts discussed a major “Aha” moment early in the company’s trajectory when he was having trouble managing a client’s support issue. This user had called several times that day and was continuing to page Steve well into family dinner. Steve recalls feeling “frustrated that this individual didn’t seem to be following my instructions. I knew if he would listen to me it would work.” But this client wasn’t listening. Instead he was upset by the issue and the encounter.

Software Isn’t a One-Man Band

“From my background as a musician I knew that your skill in playing the instrument was what was appreciated. If there was an emotional connection, it was to the music and not to me. Customer service is very different. I thought if I fix the problem they’ll appreciate the skill set. It wasn’t until that moment that I got on their side and thought about how frustrating it could be for them at 2:00 in the morning when they have family waiting at home. Even if it is because of something they are doing wrong, it doesn’t matter…It was a powerful early lesson to learn. We’ve evolved a lot since that day, but the lesson was never lost. I think if you ask anybody in the company I will always remind them that there are two things that you need take care of with a customer, and that it’s our job to take care of them. Whether it’s our fault or not doesn’t matter, we need to take care of the customer’s emotions, and the customer’s problem. To do that, you can’t let your emotions be part of it.”

Building a Supportive Team

That was the moment when Restaurant Magic’s core values shifted to encompass the empathy and personalized service that sets them apart in the technology field. Steve knows from firsthand experience how much technicians can rely on the product and overlook the service aspect. It comes with the territory for a lot of analytical minds, but it is a mistake to overlook those aspects of the business relationship. That was the beginnings of an understanding that a software product with remote users still required a high level of attention and care, but with a whole new method of delivering that care. As the company has grown, Steve has infused that lesson across its fabric. The company has prioritized building an operations and support team that could connect and empathize with the clients.  The company has built a team around strength, community and personability. Their favorite pool of candidates comes directly from the restaurants themselves. It’s the GMs, RMs, DMs and POS techs that bring the heart to this team. gives them a strong understanding of the food service industry and allows them to be so much more than just software providers.

“A product is not just the bits and bites that get compiled, it’s the people that get compiled into the company that bring the strength: the strength of the message, the strength of the emotional care, the strength of skill set training, etc. And if we deal with just the bits and bites we miss the human on the other side.”

Restaurant Magic Software has been providing advanced software solutions to the restaurant and hospitality industry for over 20 years. The robust Data Central Management Suite, the flagship product, is a powerful and flexible application that takes advantage of the latest technology trends to offer premier processing and analytics. To learn more about Restaurant Magic Software and its products, call us at 1(800) 933-4711 or visit the website at www.restaurantmagic.com.