Ethnography places customer satisfaction at the center of a service business and demonstrates a commitment to be the best at meeting shopper needs and expectations. This customer-driven focus becomes the central core of what the service provider does everyday.
For vending and on-site foodservice operators, it puts the emphasis on satisfying customers – because satisfied customers mean repeat business and higher volume per transaction.
At the NAMA Expo in Orlando, Fla. in October 2006, Paul Schlossberg of D/FW Consulting introduced the concept of retail ethnography in his session – "The Customer or The Competition: Which Comes First?"
A key point in the presentation was that "shopping is changing, and what the customer expects is changing, too." Examples were cited of how manufacturers of retail brands in other channels observed customer behavior and changed how they responded based on what their customers wanted and expected.
Schlossberg then made the point that retail ethnography can be applied in vending and on-site foodservice. Among the issues to be addressed are:
- How do you place machines to make it easier for your customers to shop?
- How do you arrange the products in each machine to simplify decision-making?
- What else should vending and on-site foodservice operators do to speed up shopping?
Speed up shopping
What are the benefits of speeding up shopping? Chase Bank realized that their customers wanted faster ATM transactions. Chase responded with improved ATM service by introducing a new program called "Gt $ fstr."
They cut the time for the ATM process from 42 seconds to 24 seconds. After observing their customers using ATMs, the bank changed its hardware and software to speed up the process.
Saving 18 seconds per transaction might not sound like a lot, unless there are five people in line in front of you at the ATM and you're in a hurry because you need to be someplace else. Chase Bank decided that this is important. They're using television advertising to introduce their new and improved ATM service.
Fast feeders also focus on faster shopping
Fast food restaurant chains are also looking to save time for their customers. The fast food segment is one of the biggest competitors for vending and on-site foodservice operators. There are two ways QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants) are working on this issue.
One is at the drive-thru window and the other is handling orders at the counter in their restaurants.
The push for drive-thru productivity is tracked annually by QSR magazine. The study revealed the following:
- Wendy's was rated the best in QSR magazine's 2005 study of drive-thru service for time. That was two minutes and 15.7 seconds.
- Rally's was number one overall in the QSR study. The critical factors were speed, order accuracy, menu board appearance, and speaker clarity.
There has been significant time and money invested by the leading quick service restaurant chains to speed up drive-thru service time. Some important developments at the drive-thru include:
- McDonald's learned that every six seconds saved for their customers at the drive-thru lane increases total sales at the unit by 1 percent.
- Burger King improved its drive-thru productivity, realizing $15,000 in annual sales for each second saved.
- Wendy's added credit card payments at the drive-thru. After that, non-cash transaction time was cut by 10 to 15 seconds.
Almost all of the chains opened a second drive-thru window. One for order-taking and payments and the other for assembling and delivering orders.
Remote call centers assist taking orders
Some chains are testing remote call centers to handle order taking. The dialog is transmitted over a more sophisticated communications line (the conversation is clearer since there is no need to keep repeating what you want, and thus the ordering process is faster).
Have you observed people queuing up in front of your vending machines during busy breaks or lunch periods? Those lines frustrate your customers.
Looking back a few years, the fast food restaurant chains expected a customer would be served in five minutes. This includes entering the store, standing in line, ordering, paying and walking away from the counter with an order in hand.