I love burgers. I admit it. So today, I once again was in a fast-food ordering my burger. But here is the thing. The nice lady asked me to want I wanted. I paid. And waited. But after that she took the order of someone else. Before that I ordered I wasn’t sure if it was my turn, as there was this other guy waiting. In fact, he wasn’t waiting to make an order but to receive its burger. During this waiting, I started to imagine other scenarios. I also thought about why this experience wasn’t as enjoyable as eating the burger.
When waiting really sucks
Don’t take care of someone else
Waiting is part of all services. But there are times when waiting becomes something annoying. Let’s take an example based on the other burger purchase. I order my burger, pay for it and wait. But as I wait I see the guy who took my order preparing the drink and the fries. He then waits that his colleagues prepare the burger. During this time, he works on other stuff. Puts salt on the fries. Cleans the counter. Finally when the burger is ready, he brings it to me. I’m happy. This experience is much different that the one in the introduction of this article. While I was waiting for the vendor wasn’t taking care of someone else. He was doing stuff related to my order. And then, when he had to wait to, he then helps his colleagues. But as a client, I have the sensation to be the king even if it is a fast food.
The problem with this approach is in the backstage. You are preparing orders only based on the customers on the front line. If you are serious about selling burgers, you might have some data about the sales. That helps you have enough classic meals already in preparation. This approach may make the waiting time sometimes longer. So you might sell fewer burgers at the end of the day. But for the waiting customer the waiting time of this approach seems shorter. Time passes faster because he sees employees taking care of him. So, how could we give the sensation to the customer that he is king and cut the waiting time?
The digital counter
The digital counter is something we already see in some fast foods. You have a machine where you can choose your burger on a simple touch screen. You receive a ticket with a number. Then you see if your burger is in preparation or ready to come into your stomach. That works well if space is also well designed. If the people who took their orders on screen wait near the standard counters it’s a mess. You never know if someone is waiting for an order or making one. So, the two counters should be sufficiently spaced. Then you do not end up with the same problem that I lived in the introduction.
The two-step counter
We could keep the original counter and break it into two spaces. A space where you place your order. And another space where you pick your burger. That would show to customers clearly which group of customer is waiting for what. Less confusion. In a way, this is how Starbucks does business. The smiley people ask want you would like to order. And then you have the burger chief or barista who serves you.
The mobile app
Another solution for hardcore burger eaters could be the online cart. A guy like me, who wants to take an order from his favorite fast food, could make an order while he is heading to the store. So, as soon as I arrive, my burger would be ready, and I could enjoy it without waiting. Sounds nice. There would be of course some issues to take into account. First there is the problem of the payment. Of course, I could save my credit card in the app. But that’s quite annoying. We can do it with in-app purchases. That would be great for the customer. But the company would lose 30% of revenue as Apple or else would take its commission. The other problem would be the timing. The burger shouldn’t be ready too soon, and the be served cold. The tech way? Check the customer location. When he is about 500m from the store you prepare the order. That is a good example of the feature that sounds cool but doesn't need that level of science. The easy way? Just keep it warm until the customer arrives. That’s it.
Showing to the customer that you are working only for him is the first step to a good experience.
This is maybe the one key learning here. Even for fast food companies it is possible to create a great service experience.