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Is going completely paperless the best customer experience?

September 16, 2015

Many of our prospective and current customers tell us that they want to go completely paperless.  On this surface this sounds desirable, but does it really make sense, and is going completely paperless the best customer experience?


I relate this to my experiences when going to a restaurant. I had the perfect mix of a traditional and digital experience last weekend at a place called The Modern Life (“The Mod”) in Pittsboro, NC. I give credit to Shelley for the recommendation. The Mod has great wait staff and food in a modern restaurant that now has my email address.

Mixing Traditional and Digital Experiences

As we all know, you can now dine in some restaurants, <insert chain name here>, and have a completely paperless experience: No menu, no waiter/waitress explaining the special and no receipt at the end.  Maybe that works for some, but not for me. For me, some paper still provides the best experience. For example, I still want a printed menu that I can put in my hands. It allows me to think about options and see potential wine and food pairings (thanks our friends at Kistler O’Brien my want for a fine bottle of Caymus wine now is only throttled by my rational budget I must stay within).  I don’t want to endlessly scroll on a tablet to see my options, or hope to understand the UI that is specific to that restaurant chain.

Once I have paired the wine or beer with the printed menu entree options I want to hear the specials.  If my experience is touching a computer screen to see this, it’s not likely that the experience or passion from the waiter explaining in detail will be the same. How many times have you changed your mind once they explain in great detail the wonderful specials?

The Mod got this right by giving me a printed menu and a traditional service experience, then converting to a digital experience when I placed my order.

Mutually Beneficial Digital Experience

After this fabulous experience, having the waiter or waitress bring a tablet to the table and review the bill while swiping my card in front of me is a perfect ending.  It also makes me feel better about the security of my credit card. Do you ever wonder if someone writes down your card number when they take it to the back?  The Mod handled the end of my dinner perfectly by simplifying the process, and completing the transaction right at the table.

The email receipt that is sent to my inbox was just want I want. This way, I don’t have to keep up with that little paper receipt and remember to balance my account before I lose it. Now it’s emailed to me and I can review my receipt whenever I need to. The Mod now has my email address to keep me posted on events like wine tasting Wednesday. They gave us the perfect dining experience and appropriate amount of paperless engagement.

Understand Your Customers’ Pains

I will admit this desire to have some interaction and not have the experience be completely digital may be due to my age — but it’s not likely. Yes, it’s true I grew up in a time when the only way to read a book was paperback….Kindle was not even a glimmer in Amazon’s eyes yet (neither was Amazon, for that matter).  My kids often ask me how I survive not being able to go to the Internet for answers?

I carry a smartphone have a tablet and consider myself to be tech savvy. As I mentioned, it’s that piece of paper I have to take home can get lost or left in my pants to be washed never to be seen again that is a pain that going digital solves.

What The Mod did right was thinking about the customer dining experience and injecting technology where appropriate. For the restaurant, going digital gives them a way to promote special events like their Craft Beer Society right to my inbox.

The Mod’s Lesson: Moderation

My suggestion to prospective and current customers is be digital when it make sense, but don’t lose site of the customer experience just for a desire to be paperless.

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