Last summer in its Q3 financial report, Starbucks reported that 30 percent of its transactions were made through mobile payments. That would naturally lead most folks to believe the beverage giant has an equally gargantuan success story on its hands. But the fact is, all those mobile payments may not necessarily equal unqualified success since — as Forbes reported three months before those aforementioned financials — Starbucks also was experiencing reduced growth at that time as a result of long lines made worse by mobile ordering.
This example demonstrates that mobile strategy is still undergoing growing pains. Where traditional QSRs had only two channels to deal with — in-restaurant and drive-thru ordering — mobile apps are now adding new layers to the mix,ranging from order-and-pay-from-the-app to home delivery options. Likewise, the FOD or food-on-demand option, is also a player in this mix, bringing third-party operators into the equation to retrieve orders from restaurants and deliver them to customers.
So while it’s certainly true that mobile does bring QSR brands a true, multi-channel network with which chains can reach out and engage consumers, that also means that this emerging multi-channel consumer experience must be carefully monitored and managed to build a winning strategy.
To build this type of experience, user interfaces must be expertly designed because an entirely new infrastructure must be built out to funnel consumer traffic into pickup-only areas quickly. But before activation of this infrastructure, brand leadership must consider its impact on traditional walk-in customers so those valuable guests don’t have to endure long wait-times or navigate new restaurant crowds just to get a meal. This also applies to the drive-thru experience where FOD services must be able to get in and retrieve orders and get back out again without impeding regular store traffic.
To fully gauge the best approaches to creating a pattern for this new traffic flow, QSR leaders must understand the motives driving different types of customers, as well as their expectations from the brand in question. For instance, a recent SeeLevel FOD survey found one in three people use a food delivery app because they prefer to avoid direct interaction with restaurant employees.
That said, many, if not most, walk-in customers do visit a QSR brand with the expectation of directly connecting with that brand’s experience. That’s why the needs of both of these QSR customer groups must be considered, from convenience- and automation-seekers on one end of the spectrum, to those in search of human interaction and personal attention on the other. The best solutions balance the needs of all audiences, without alienating anyone.
Achieving that kind of balance means dealing with realities like the fact that most actual walk-in customer standing in front of a brand’s employee will probably be served before the FOD customer unless there are processes and training that say otherwise.
The bottom line is that the options are almost unlimited and QSRs must develop an effective strategy for their own new consumer experiences. Quite simply, managing and measuring that experience is the only path to customer loyalty and growth in a multi-channel economy.
A QSR can manage the expectations and the perceptions of their customers by tracking every component of their experience when placing a mobile order, from user interface to interactions with a delivery driver. In this regard, mystery shoppers can be extremely valuable since they can sit at home like customers, navigate through apps and place orders, as well as interacting with drivers and sampling the food for overall quality.
In fact, mystery shoppers can also assume the roles of walk-in or drive-thru customers. This allows a chain to ensure these less mobile app-reliant encounters aren’t negatively impacted by a brand’s mobile program.
During this period of possible disruption and change when new multi-channel environments are coming online, it’s also important to let customers know these changes are occurring and how they align with your brand’s overall customer promise. So, take time to clearly define that promise and ensure you can deliver on it successfully to get customers as excited as team members about a new multi-channel environment and the options it provides.
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