On-Demand Doesn’t Always Mean Customer-Centric

Ordering delivery is part of the ethos of every Chicagoan. We all have our go-to Chinese restaurant, the best place in the neighborhood for tacos, and the only pizza place, in our minds, that serves “real” Chicago pizza. For years, the standard in my house was looking through a drawer of menus, finding what we were in the mood for, picking up the phone to call our restaurant of choice, and having our order delivered. Things are a little different these days.

We now have the luxury of services like Grubhub, Postmates, Seamless, or Uber Eats that have all revolutionized on-demand food delivery. We no longer need to call the restaurant, but rather just open their respective app, pick our items from the list of available restaurants, and within an hour, our food arrives, just as it always did. There are slight differences with these new services though, that may not be as apparent as one might think. For starters, these new on-demand delivery services utilize drivers that they employ, rather than drivers hired by the restaurants. This is a huge advantage for restaurants since it eliminates the liability and expense of hiring their own delivery drivers. On paper, this sounds like the perfect solution. It works for restaurants, it works for customers, and everyone is happy…most of the time.

What do we sacrifice when we use these services?

How can these companies strike a balance between providing an excellent customer experience and delivering an innovative service that unfortunately eliminates many of the opportunities for making the experience right in case anything happens to go wrong?

Let’s find out…

My wife and I have been using these services for years. Predominantly Grubhub, since they’ve been around the longest and Postmates, since they allow you to have food delivered from places you normally wouldn’t expect, like fast food establishments. Grubhub is as close to the old way of doing things as possible. They even originally started out as an online ordering portal for the restaurants they served. Now, they’re going a step further and tackling the actual delivery aspect of the equation as I explained above.

Recently, we placed an order with our favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant and noticed that they forgot the toppings and tortillas that that typically accompany their delicious shrimp fajitas, well after the delivery driver had left. Naturally, I called the restaurant to see if they could send someone back with the missing items and I was met with an array of strange responses. First, I was told that they didn’t have any delivery drivers, that there was no one else who could bring these items to us, and finally that this was Grubhub’s problem and they would deal with it.

Obviously, none of these responses made any sense until the manager explained to me that they do not employ anyone as a delivery driver and that Grubhub handles it all for them. I was told that Grubhub would call me to rectify the situation and they did, almost instantly, by offering me a credit for the fajitas and a free delivery coupon. “That’s it?” I said, “What about the rest of my dinner?” To that question, I was met with another explanation that their system does not allow them to ad hoc request a driver to deliver something that was left out of an order, the customer physically needs to reorder the item all over again and wait for a driver to deliver it, as if it was being ordered for the first time. Now it seems clear why I was fully credited for the fajitas and why I was also given a free delivery coupon.

So I sat back, flustered, and immediately told my wife that this is why I love doing the work I do. Experiences like this are happening every day, even with new and emerging offerings, like on-demand delivery, that are meant to simplify and improve our lives, but somehow still end up having the ability to complicate them. To be fair, Grubhub provided great customer service and I interacted with a well-meaning support staff, but a huge gap in the design of their service still exists, nonetheless.

What happened to our fajita dinner? It was fine, don’t worry. We had some tortillas and shredded cheese in the fridge and made it work. Now the crux is if we want to enjoy this restaurant’s food again, food that my wife and I both love, we are rolling the dice hoping that everything is in the bag, unless we want to go drive and pick it up ourselves to eliminate the delivery. There are definitely larger issues in life, but how can we, as consumers, have confidence in the services that are offered to us if we don’t have faith that they’ll work?

If you’d like to experience the practices that help to solve gaps like the one above, drop us a line and let us know if we can help.

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