The Drive Through CX Evolution


2020 was the year of drive-through innovation, and with so much noise, it can be hard to navigate what’s important and what’s fab. So here are some of the key innovations that affect drive-troughs and are core to the evolving ways in which Customers Experience (CX) has evolved for Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and dining more broadly.

To get a bit of context. A lot has changed throughout the world last year. A lot of major changes played out between the beginning of 2020 and today for the Restaurant industry?

Obviously drive-through has really grown in importance across the Restaurant industry. Prior to COVID, roughly 70% of business transactions were coming through the drive-through. You look at Q2, Q3 of 2020 that was really around 90% over transaction volume.

McDonald’s and Starbucks both reported numbers like that. It means a lot more cars going through a much higher proportion. But the good thing is that drive-through was really a benefit for QSRs. It was something that was a differentiator, it was really pre-built for COVID.

There was already this well-established contact list service model that existed in QSR. So they were not starting from the ground up, they were coming at it from a place of optimization, but there was definitely increasing pressure to keep improving the perception of safety, keep approving on efficiency, and encouraging customers to feel like it is the most convenient way to get food from a QSR.

What is interesting is that right now, there are many service models that are really converging in the drive-through. On the one hand, we have the traditional drive-through traffic, which has been pretty consistent.

Now on the second hand, we have a much higher proportion of mobile pickup orders that are coming through, meaning extra cars for the surge in orders. Moreover, the drive-through is also being used as a fulfillment point for delivery.

When you put all of that together you have many more cars coming through and converging in that same physical space. Thus arises the need to look at intersections and optimizations.

Today we are looking at a lot of the advancements in customer-facing technology and they are all centered on getting that little extra monetary squeeze out of a customer. Whether they’re buying an extra item, they’re upselling or cross-selling. It is all about incremental revenue.

Loyalty however plays a huge role in all of this, and in a drive-through context, one does not think about Loyalty right away! But what is really important is that: there is going to need to be some way to Recognize, Facilitate and Reward all those customers who are Loyalty customers transacting via the drive-through and reassuring them that they are earning and burning points way that is expected even at the drive-through.

The imminent absolute mobile adoption is bound to cause the speed of service issues for businesses that do not optimize and scale processes, premises, and people.

What is happening now is that now brands are trying to capitalize on this convenience service model, and so brands that haven’t traditionally played in the space are eyeing the drive-through pie, while all over the world consumer expectations are pretty dramatically changing, they are increasing.

How has the customer experience evolved over the past year?

It is a point of note that across all consumer-facing industries 81% of leaders agree the primary basis of competition is customer experience.

It is because customers themselves have loudly expressed their opinion. 96% of customers will do something to hurt a company’s profit based on just one bad experience. And over 60% will leave a brand entirely for a bad experience.

Words etched on stone: Customer Expectations are Unreasonable BUT They Are What They ARE.

QSR customers aren’t just comparing one QSR to another when evaluating a drive-through experience, they’re comparing it to their grocery pickup experience, or to the awesome Target drive-up experience, or to a delivery service that requires them on a phone and sit at home.

So ensuring drive-through continues to be as great as it’s always been is really paramount.

TWO Cents for A QSR drive through to be GREAT:

      1. Conveniencegive her (your customer) what she wants, how she wants it, don’t make her wait for it. In drive-through specifically it means:

      a).80% of customers will leave or consider leaving if they see or perceive there’s a long line ahead

      b).80% of customers will leave if they perceive a long line. So businesses cannot have speed of service, push their customers away or a perception that there isn’t speed of service.

      1. Value make sure that she is getting:

      a).Good Quality for her money
      b).her food really Tasty and Healthy
      c).Fun; that ladies and gents is a really key value proposition for QSR. The burgers and fries and salad can be fun. It’s also about providing some fun for the family to break up the monotony of the week.

New value propositions!

To really thrive and win in the drive-through turf of today and tomorrow brands eyeing Drive Through or aiming to get Better in the Game must follow:
1. Continuity: with every QSR introducing apps and digital promotions and loyalty programs, customers need reassurance that it’s all working and that she is going to get the deal she expects. That the food order is correct. Over and above this needs to be seamless and fast, needs to all work together in the drive-through which is a lot of coordination.
2. Health & Safety: amidst the COVID the customer has to be confident you’re willing to keep her safe, and her family safe. Some QSRs have been leading the board by redesigning their service and harnessing contactless technology to enhance the safety for their patrons and employees alike.

In comparison with curbside pick up; take out delivery or mobile pre-order does take the lion’s share about 60% of visits at fast food restaurants, but there’s a huge opportunity still in drive-through, it’s not going anywhere and so it will need to be evolved, and it is a big point of emphasis with all the QSR.