Quick Service Restaurant metrics put the average time for an order fulfillment in a Drive-Thru restaurant operation at 180.83 seconds. That is a bit more than three minutes to take the order, receive pay for the order and deliver the goods. These are also three opportunities to touch that mobile guest with Customer Service magic. Can it be done?
Before we focus upon our staff, let’s take a moment to consider our guest. As they approach the order kiosk, typically in a moving line, chaos can prevail in their vehicle, particularly, as there may be several occupants who want a variation of food and beverage. While taking pre-orders and advising Junior to “cool it”, the driver is careful not to nudge the vehicle ahead in impatience. At the Order Board, sometimes overwhelmed with the choices and options, they gamely place, correct, add and retract, reorder and confirm what the carload desires. Fortunately, the final order is also reflected on the board – the dream lives on! Whew, transaction one is over.
Now, moving into phase two, the vehicle slowly moves to the payment window, typically. The guest has been informed of the price and dives about to extract (scrounge) the correct amount of money, while also keeping the starved clamor of the passengers at bay and Junior in his safety belt. Money changes hands. Stomachs grumble! So far, so good.
Inching along, lastly comes the hand-off, order received and distributed neatly throughout the vehicle, providing of course that there are sufficient receptacles and holders for all the food and beverage. The driver just wants to escape, hoping that the order is complete and accurate. Sounds of rubber hitting the road and silence in the vehicle - chow down, even with Junior searching for that extra catsup!
So, we are really dealing with a three minute, three stop transaction engagement window, where the guest may or may not be much more interested in anything other than speed and accuracy and Junior quiet. Can we slip some memorable Customer Service in there, as well?
According to QSR Magazine, “Strong customer service, however, remains elusive. In this year’s Study, only 33 percent of visits to benchmark brands resulted in a “very friendly” customer-service experience, with 40.3 percent coming in as “pleasant.” But industry insiders say it’s hard to understate the value of giving customers something special by way of customer service—a warm welcome, a friendly smile, or a kind word”.
It is so true – hire for attitude and train accordingly. Enhanced Customer Service does make a difference, no matter how limited the opportunity for a connection. Feel that smile and warmth through the voice and the sincere attention and courtesy through the face-to-face encounter.
As Adam Noyes of Checkers/Rally’s Restaurants noted, “It’s not a transaction. This is an experience. They want to drive away feeling good about their three minutes ... Having that connection with your guests is what I think really makes the difference in being able to steal share from your competitors.”
Rob Savage, COO at Taco Bell, added that building great customer service in the drive thru does indeed begin during the hiring process. “We had a franchisee a few years ago at a conference tell us that you need to hire cheerleaders and teach them to make tacos. We pay particular attention to selecting people who like to engage with people. That might sound like a no brainer, but in a world of these personal devices and game players, you don’t always find people that like to interact with others. We bring them in with that raw skill, and then we teach them our ways of doing it through our learning zone,” he said.
Ultimately, it is about loyalty and return business. You want to keep the speed and accuracy of the drive-thru at a high level and aim to elevate the emphasis on Customer Service. Thom Crosby, CEO of Pal’s Sudden Service, a Kingsport, Tennessee–based regional burger chain, had some inspiring thoughts on service. “All businesses are built around human beings,” Crosby says. “And the sales transaction is based around hospitality and providing good food. I think it’s vital in building repeat businesses and building relationships with your customers.”
Perhaps, we need some comely beauties on roller skates to take your order in line on their I Pads or maybe a Drive-Thru Lane Concierge, like the Greeter at Walmart. Maybe not - maybe just a natural with the right attitude.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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