Too Busy for Good Customer Service?

Fast food restaurants’ overemphasis on efficiency might prove costly in terms of customer satisfaction.

I used to just write it off as an expected side effect of a busy drive thru, but this past Sunday, when the same fast food restaurant forgot an item in my order, I began to wonder if, instead, it was a symptom of a deeper problem. We placed our typical order, and the drive thru employee read it back while we glimpsed over the digital screen print out. Everything was on par, even the total price.

I paid at the first window and then drove forward to the food pick up window where I was given the bags of food. I asked the manager, who was tending the drive thru, for the normal bbq sauce for the chicken nuggets which she promptly gave me. However, as we drove away from the window, my wife, who knows this particular drive thru’s reputation all too well, checked the bags and discovered that, as was predictable, they’d failed to give us my middle son’s chicken nuggets.

The sad thing is that it didn’t surprise me, because it was typical for this particular restaurant.

While my wife left our vehicle and walked back to the busy drive thru, my brain began to whir into action. I wasn’t the least bit surprised about the omission. I was annoyed, but I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t caught off guard because this same thing had happened untold times at this same restaurant. My family would even joke about this restaurant always forgetting an item (or, occasionally, multiple items).

is your customer service broken?As my brain continued to whir, I realized that I shouldn’t write this typical event off as merely a side effect of a busy drive thru. Instead, this omission of food and the overall reputation that this restaurant had with “accidentally” omitting food was, indeed, a symptom of an overemphasis on efficiency where efficiency was defined as “keeping the customers moving.”  This restaurant had become obsessed with keeping their drive thru line manageable by rapidly filling orders but at tremendous cost. If my family had items too frequently omitted, I can extrapolate and assume that other customers have had similar experiences.

The result, with my family, was that we had, overall, made our visits to this restaurant (which is one of my kids’ favorites) slim and had taken most of our fast food business elsewhere. While we still liked their food, their ineffective customer service, while carried out in an “efficient” manner, had made us into dissatisfied customers. Their continual omission of items that we’d ordered and paid for left me subconsciously feeling that they didn’t really care about pleasing their customers. They were merely in sustainability mode, trying to keep up with a hectic drive thru line, but without a genuine care for their individual customers and without a genuine effort to generate customer satisfaction.

Item omission in a fast food drive thru will happen with any restaurant; however, continual omission will always be a symptom of a much deeper problem. Is your company’s “drive thru” in sustainability mode, overemphasizing efficiency, or are you balancing efficiency with being effective? An efficient and effective drive thru will retain customers because those customers are satisfied. A drive thru which is merely efficient will retain customers only until a competitor which targets customer satisfaction arrives onto your scene. Yes, the effective part of your drive thru routine may slow down the overall pace of the drive thru somewhat, but the increase in customer satisfaction will overshadow the additional seconds of wait time.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+

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