When it comes to their food, customers are very particular. For fast-casual or quick-service restaurants (QSRs), managing customer expectations is a task of ultimate importance. If customers’ expectations are much higher than the restaurant can deliver on, or if the restaurant dramatically misses the mark, the difference can be boom or bust for the business.

Today, more than 1 in 4 Americans orders delivery at least once a week – yes, mostly pizza. And when QSRs offer delivery services, which most do, then managing their customers’ expectations becomes even more critical because more variables are added into the experience.

And with delivery services, it can be very difficult for the restaurant to even know how well they’re meeting the customer’s expectations. Bruce Downie, COO of Planet Wings, says “It’s easy to see if customers are happy and your staff is doing well inside a restaurant. In delivery, drivers are taking food to customers, and you have no idea about the interaction.”

Thankfully, there are a few easy-to-identify areas where QSR customer service can fall short, and once restaurants understand them, they can be improved. These customer experience pitfalls fall into one of these three categories:

  • Highly Personalized Orders
  • Fast & Furious Expectations
  • Creating A Consistent Experience

Highly Personalized Orders:

People are unique – and so are our eating habits. Some of us just have strong preferences, while others have allergies or dietary restrictions. This means that when someone orders a pizza with extra olives or no olives, it’s deliberate.

The Customer Care Specialist needs to ensure that orders are entered into the system perfectly, and that the customer’s comments and notes are sent over to the restaurant or into the kitchen to minimize the possibility of an incorrect delivery.

And “personalized” does boil down to the root word – person.

If you’re greeting a returning customer on the phone, kick off a great experience by using their name, and perhaps asking if they’d like to reorder anything from their last delivery. Use their name when sending a confirmation email or text after they place their order. And, of course, thank them by name when the food is dropped off.

Fast & Furious Expectations:

As soon as the customer hangs up the phone or hits the Order button in their delivery app, the pressure is on. If the restaurant says the order will be delivered in 30 minutes, and the food hasn’t arrived 31 minutes later, the customer is going to be calling to ask where their food is.

And all those calls can add up over time.

This means that it’s critical for restaurants to set accurate delivery times and to staff up on call support for busy periods, like evenings, weekends, and certain holidays where deliveries see a huge spike, like the Super Bowl.

Creating A Consistent Experience:

Ordering Experience

When it comes to customer care, “consistency” can mean a lot of things. When the customer places their order, the experience needs to be consistent with what they get in the restaurant.

The Customer Care Specialist on the other end of the line needs to be friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful – consistent with how a customer would be treated in the four walls of the restaurant.

This also means Customer Care Specialists need to have a deep understanding of the menu, the ingredients, the specials, and the policies so that they can consult the customer properly, make recommendations, set expectations, and create the best possible experience.

Order Accuracy

Getting the order 100% right is critical, but the customer’s delivery address is just as important. If the location or unit number is just a little off, the whole delivery experience may be in jeopardy.

This also means there needs to be two way communication between the Customer Care Specialist and the delivery person, so that any potential confusion can be cleared up fast, without needing the customer’s involvement.

Then, once the food arrives, the Customer Care Specialist needs to be prepared for order accuracy issues. The customer may have ordered a cheese pizza, but a pepperoni pizza was delivered instead. The Customer Care Specialist should have the training, communication skills, and scripts ready to address that issue, and all of the potential issues with order accuracy.

Delivery Support

Even when the personalization, order, speed, and delivery location are perfect, sometimes customers will still end up unhappy. The french fries may be a little less crisp than the customer expected, or the burger a little smaller than anticipated. We’ve even had customers call saying there are fewer slices of pepperoni on their pizza than in the TV commercial.

These are, of course, customer issues that can be mitigated and managed over the long run. In the future, the french fry delivery packaging can be improved, the burgers can be bigger, and the pepperoni slices can be more plentiful.

But that doesn’t help this customer, and the complaint that they have right now. And unless your Customer Care Specialists are empowered, you’ll probably lose that customer to a competitor.

One way to deliver amazing experiences, even in the worst case scenario, is to empower Customer Care Specialists with the ability to offer coupons, free items, or refunds.

If a Customer Care Specialist is able to offer a coupon for the customer’s the next order, offer to have the corrected order delivered at no additional charge, or even refund the customer’s account on the spot for the incorrect item, they will be able to rescue a negative experience and keep customers coming back for seconds.

Delivering Customer Loyalty

At the end of the day, the customer doesn’t see all of the moving parts that get their pizza on the table – the corporate website, the franchisee, the Customer Care Specialist, the delivery person, the logo on the bag – the customer just has one experience with the brand.

And that experience is either amazing and cohesive, or subpar and disjointed.

All of this comes back around to creating loyalty through an on-brand customer service experience. The customer care team serves as the front-lines, fighting to make sure the customer’s satisfaction is met and overall experience is as close to perfect as possible.

As Thom Crosby, CEO of Pal’s Sudden Service, told QSR Magazine, “It’s customer service that will help people relate to the brand.” By setting the right customer expectations, training the customer support team, and providing friendly, helpful, and on-brand service, restaurants can truly deliver for their customers.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Vcare Blog today and get customer care best practices, industry news, and helpful customer service tools right to your inbox.