Calling All Customers

Long Range Systems (LRS)

LRS Australia is a division of its Dallas-based parent company with 24 other offices worldwide. Anthony and Andrew Lewy and their team own and operate the distribution for Australia and New Zealand and enjoy a high degree of autonomy, not least because they run the highest selling office outside the United States. Mr Lewy explains the driver behind this success, “the hospitality industry here is very developed and mature.” People on both sides of the Tasman are used to going out to eat and this popularity, combined with the high cost of labour and a shortage of servers in many urban areas, makes a pager system a natural necessity for most venues.

LRS has developed many innovations on what might otherwise appear to be a straightforward product. Mr Lewy explains, “A nice feature about a pager is that you can brand it and customise it to suit the venue. It’s a piece of advertising that you can hand to the customer,” a plus point in consumer contact that is sometimes overlooked. He continues, “our systems save establishments money, and we have a reputation for having the most sturdy and robust products on the market.”

What sets LRS apart is that everything is made to the company’s own specifications and manufactured specifically to meet the company’s quality standards, rather than drawing from generic products. This means they are not only fit for purpose but also carefully selected for their reliability over an extended product life even in the hands of a potentially indifferent public. The pagers can also be customised with an establishment’s logo and branding, and LRS can help customers with screening and printing services.

While one might think the ubiquity of cell phones could make pagers obsolete, pagers are likely to be in demand long into the foreseeable future because they fill in the gap left by cell phones and smart phones; pagers don’t need to be charged, turned on, or compatible with a wide variety of platforms and service providers. As Mr Lewy explains, the pager unit is loud and attention-grabbing in a way most phones are not. Just in case, though, LRS does have a system that enables the user to page a mobile phone instead of a paging device. Reassuringly, and perhaps surprisingly, Mr Lewy adds that ‘shrinkage’ is not a problem these days. Most people are so used to being handed a pager that they are easily integrated into the workplace. Their singularity of purpose also means that hardly anyone ever walks off with one in their pocket.

LRS has a series of new developments in the works, among them a waterproof and anti-bacterial ‘guest pager.’ The system is aimed at resorts, where as Mr Lewy explains, “you might hand out a pager near a pool. This system can be dropped into the pool without any damage. We also market this system into pharmacies and medical centres, where the attraction is that they are washable.” In terms of their anti-bacterial properties, the plastics of the pagers are infused with silver that inhibits the spread of microbial activity. Although hospitality remains the largest single segment of LRS’ business, “over the last few years we have been doing a lot more in health which now makes up a substantial part of our customer base.”

Indeed, patient paging is catching on fast. This system could spell the end for waiting room tables full of out-of-date print magazines, as visitors to a health centre will no longer need to sit in a waiting room patiently biding time before their turn with a doctor. The new system can help health centres save precious space, and by extension, money; if those designing the health centre consider the matter early enough, a paging system can mean a much smaller or even non-existent waiting room, enabling the space to be used for more cost-effective purposes, at the same time as providing patients with an improved customer service experience.

The same goes for hospital outpatient centres. Mr Lewy explains, “You can even retro-fit around the space available.” A program called Netpage can even ‘queue’ patients and enable doctors to see what the current wait list is and whether anyone needs to be prioritised, summoning the patient at the click of a mouse or sending a message as required via the pager’s screen telling the patient where they need to go. Range can also be extended with the use of extra transmitters and repeaters to suit almost any application and topography.

Academic institutions are taking advantage of pagers as well to reduce long lines in libraries and for registration, financial aid or student counselling. Campus-wide pagers can also be used to eliminate class interruptions and track down faculty to deliver messages, or to page staff from any computer on the institution’s network to deliver complete text.

Another new LRS speciality is the Table Tracker for restaurants. The traditional pager designed for this setting has the customer getting up to order and collecting the meal when it is ready, but with the Table Tracker, the customer is given the pager when ordering, puts it on the table when he or she sits down, and the tracker gives the kitchen and the server the information on the location so the meal can be delivered promptly and piping hot. The Sydney Opera House recently instituted use of such pagers, to great customer reviews. The LRS patented system helps runners deliver food orders faster. The device wirelessly senses the exact table number each order should be delivered to so runners no longer have to search the restaurant while the customer’s food gets cold.

Table Tracker is about the size of a CD and less than half an inch thick. “It doesn’t take up any valuable table space because it uses RFID tags installed under the table. In fact, the sensors aren’t visible to guests,” explains Mr Lewy. When the Table Tracker is handed to the customer, it sends a signal to the touch screen display that shows the order number. The only way to remove an order number from the touch screen is by returning the Table Tracker to the kitchen. Such valuable technology is guaranteed to not walk out with the guests, given if the device is not returned, the manager will be notified within minutes. Full equipment inventory reports are also made available online.

LRS’s pagers can also provide valuable reporting functions to help small businesses increase efficiency and improve service. One simple but useful function is the recording of response times, enabling a restaurant manager to ascertain the relative efficiency of his various staff members. Everything is remarkably flexible and the paging can also be reversed so the customer can call the staff. In the poker machine paging system, for example, LRS offers a unit with three buttons that would typically be marked ‘service’, ‘payout’ and ‘refill’, but it could equally easily include ‘check,’ alerting a member of staff wearing another unit that you want to pay the bill.

Whether it’s in health centres, universities, restaurants, or hotels, LRS has carved out a strong niche for its product in the face of stiff competition from rapidly changing technology. The secret to its success rests in finding ways to make the customer or client experience more efficient, enjoyable, and convenient.

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December 16, 2018, 3:55 PM AEDT