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We still can’t get home delivery right?

I wrote on this page in 2015 that explosive growth in a certain type of business was absolutely inevitable, and that those with eyes with which to see and minds with which to anticipate should rub their hands and get set to take advantage.

That business was home delivery – of cooked food, but also of groceries, medicines and other essentials.

It remains a no-brainer. As cities get busier; as traffic problems get worse; as more family members join the workforce; people are going to be increasingly unable to cook their own food every day; and increasingly unable to go out to eat it. So roll up your sleeves and reap…

The takeoff did indeed happen. Just count the number of food delivery bikes you will see going up and down your road at mealtimes. What failed to happen, however, is our businessfolk’s ability to create great user experiences in home delivery.

Or are these not your experiences as a customer? You fancy a bit of food brought to your home one evening. What happens next?

You might look up the cuisine or restaurant you are in the mood of trying, and find out that they have no website. None at all. Or you might find a lame looking site, with a prominent sign saying ‘home delivery’ – but no menu. You are then forced to call the phone numbers indicated on the site. The first two will be out of order, the third perpetually engaged. The fourth one goes through, however.

You now find yourself talking to someone in the middle of a noisy restaurant. She can’t really hear you, even when you shout. She has to read out everything on the menu for you to know what to order. She can’t help you choose, because she knows next to nothing about the food. You struggle on with the order, and then finally give her your address details. After much shouting punctuated with “you said it’s where?” you believe your order is made, and hang up.

The promised 45 minutes delivery time elapses, of course, with no food arriving. You call. You get someone else this time, who seems to have no idea you placed an order. He promises to check and call you back. He doesn’t. You call again. A third person now promises to call the rider to see what happened. You are finally told that the rider “had a problem” but is “on the way.”

The food arrives, having taken twice the promised time. Your family is hungry. The food is cold. Some key items are missing. Your evening is ruined by the incompetence of other people. You consider resuming cooking again.

This is absurd, yet commonplace. Even those who specialise in “fast” (ahem) food and home delivery can’t seem to crack it. They can’t offer online or mobile-app ordering; and when they offer it, they can’t quite pull it off.

If you are at all serious about delivery services, here’s what needs to happen. First, you create proper digital systems. Online ordering is key. If your web game is weak, partner up with a delivery app. Next, ensure you employ dedicated resources to handle order-taking and order-management. Your waiters and cashiers can’t do this while shouting above the din of your restaurant. Place a well-trained person in a quiet place with headphones to take calls and monitor digital orders. Ensure that this person is well-spoken, willing and empathetic. Make sure said person is trained to follow through on customer orders – not evade them. Create a proper check-off process that must be completed before an order is biked.

On-time delivery of well-packaged food is key. Invest in distinctive packaging and heat-retaining containers. If you can’t run your own bikes, use a delivery partner, but with strict service-level agreements. Be tough on this.

All of that was just basic stuff. If you’re still reading, why not go the extra mile and deliver some “wows” to your customers? A map that you can text them (or that is in your app) that shows the rider’s journey once he has set off. A database that stores customers’ addresses and regular orders, so that you can greet them with knowledge of their locations and preferences. A little freebie packed into every order above a certain amount. Alerts when your menu has new items. There are so many more things you could do, but I’m sure you can think of those yourself.

Or you could just say business is bad because of the election and there’s no money in the economy.

(Sunday Nation, 27 May 2018)

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