A great problem to have
I was drawn to an article last week that talked about a large fast-food restaurant chain and the “customer problem” they have been unable to solve. If you’re looking for the TLDR version of the story, they have so many customers that they are unable to serve them in a timely manner. Most would agree that we would all like to have that problem.
Where I live, we do not have one of those restaurants, but I’m told one will be coming in the next year. I can only hope it isn’t too close to my home, based on some of the concerns brought up in the article. While we all have witnessed this type of “customer overrun” in the past, the problem is usually infrequent, however.
I think of Black Friday sales as the most relatable for most of us, people lined up around the corner, sometimes camping in a tent for several nights just to get the big discount on “the” product for the holidays. Similarly, new technology releases have these long lines. Even in entertainment one might sit in the queue online to get those coveted concert tickets.
Long lines every day
Most of us, if faced with long lines every day at a grocery store, would opt to find an alternative venue for our shopping experience. From the simplest transaction to the most complex, most of us do not enjoy waiting in line. We recognize the line as part of the process, but if all things are equal, we would opt for a company with a shorter wait time.
I often think about the “dials” that will turn me away from a business to which I have loyalty. I might even drive out of my way for some businesses because what they offer is that unique. For example, I will not find a ski area locally, so I must travel (quite a distance) for that, and will probably have to put up with long lines anyhow.
Even amidst a labor crunch, with my operations background, I see long lines as something that is controllable – unless you just simply have too many customers. Now, concerning this company, they do have a product that is unique in the marketplace, but is that the reason behind the long lines? What is building this loyalty? Even when the CEO admits that up to 30% of their customers might be driving off. Operationally, the easy answer is “build a new store”, though even with that large expense the problem with the customer experiences will still remain – now at two locations.
The CX difference-maker
There is no denying that this is a unique problem, one that most of us will not have to face to this degree. However, it is their solution to this problem that stands apart as well. They recognize in their customer experience strategy that the entire journey is part of the experience. If one part breaks down, then the other parts must more than makeup for it.
First, their customer experience management platform does pause data collection during the “busy times”. In fact, they try to get more feedback. It is a key differentiator between measuring for a score or looking to improve the experience. I’ve had clients that request data collection be suspended on the busiest shopping day of the year. On the contrary, that might be the best time to find future loyal customers that may only be there for a deal or because the product is sold out elsewhere.
And second, they keep the customer feedback loop open and still engage with dissatisfied customers. While little can be done to improve the situation, this chain is known to remain one of the friendliest restaurant changes in the country despite all the adversity. It might be easy for an employee to talk back and state “nothing can be done”, instead they will apologize even though they would not be able to do anything to correct it – except maybe to offer a free sandwich on the next visit.
Crafting customer-centric features
To summarize, they don’t just roll out the “latest and greatest” technology solution for the problem. Early in the pandemic, many companies looked to leverage technology just to help push sales – investing in an app, new drive-thru technology, or backend systems to automate it. There were successes like the one I wrote about several weeks back. There were also missteps, like restaurants that rolled out features the customer didn’t want or were confusing to them.
Not all the needs were fulfilled and sometimes customers ended up going back to waiting in a line at the location (which they were trying to avoid, to begin with). It is a reason we built in the innovation and co-creation element of our exclusive NPS+, so we can collaborate with them during the survey experience, not just push something out because it sounded good during the presentation.
In a world the clones and copies successes, we’ll still continue to find one difference-maker to be in the service experience we create for the customer.