Profile picture for user oliver.cook
Oliver Cook Apr 27th, 2020

Food and grocery deliveries are here to stay, but CX must improve


food and grocery delivery; online food delivery; online grocery delivery

Both food and grocery delivery have matured a lot in the past five years, but the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused volumes to spike and is likely to create a permanent behavioral change in customers. I expect that we can include the regular use of both food and grocery deliveries as one part of the “new normal” society in a post-coronavirus world.

The emergence of online platforms such as Foodora, Uber Eats, and Deliveroo and their ability to handle most of the logistical challenges of food delivery has changed the marketplace dramatically. Even high-end restaurants that previously would never have considered a delivery option are now participating in the market.

However, online grocery has been lagging behind food delivery. This is a high-volume and low margin area of retail, resulting in many grocery retailers still being reluctant to embrace online sales as they are adding the cost of logistics, often without the ability to charge customers increased fulfilment and delivery cost.

China has adapted to both food and grocery deliveries during the pandemic faster than any other market. It’s typical for Chinese consumers to receive a report with their food delivery detailing the temperature of both the person who prepared their food and the person who delivered it. Naturally the transaction is cashless, so the delivery rider doesn’t even need to approach the customer. China may have led the way, but the platforms in Europe are already catching up.

Many grocery retailers are now forced to embrace delivery, despite their reluctance, as social-distancing measures have reduced the number of customers visiting stores. If delivery really is the new normal for both food and groceries then companies in these verticals need to be aware of the importance of customer care.

Delivering a great customer experience (CX) with each order is not just important, it will decide what platforms will win and which will lose. Online platforms are unique when it comes to customer stickiness, most customers always return to the same platform, although they always are in a position to shift as easily as opening another app on their phone. It’s imperative that you avoid giving the customer any reason to use a different platform for placing their next order.

Delivery volumes tend to shift substantially, depending on the time of day. Usually grocery volumes are highest early in the morning and later in the evening, while food delivery is centered around lunch and dinner times. While customers potentially are somewhat forgiving at present, the ‘normal’ situation will return where customers demand prompt response to their urgent requests. Nobody will be prepared to wait more than a minutes for help to locate the lost driver, while they are hungry and afraid their dinner is getting cold.

There are two main strategies you can use to cope with this flexibility in demand:

  1. Flexible workforce: use part-time workers or work-at-home-agents (WAH) to create a pool of customer service agents you can quickly activate to manage the spikes. You don’t have to sacrifice quality when using WAH or even just part-time agents - you can include conversational analytics and all the same management and processes you would use in a full-time team, and even benefit from recruiting from a high-skilled talent pool.
  2. Digital solutions: consider how you can use automation to deflect some of the traffic to the contact center. Can you accept refunds by automatically parse and process the order based on delivery time and customer’s track record? Can you use chatbots to connect rider and customer? Most customer request for food and grocery delivery are highly similar in nature and as such partial automation with chatbot should work for most orders. But always ensure there is an option to swap for a human in case the customer is explaining an unusual request and the chatbot is struggling to understand.

It looks like food and grocery deliveries are here to stay. Many companies will have struggled along offering a very basic phone or text answering service with long waiting time because it’s all they manage to offer during the crisis. As we emerge from the pandemic this will not be good enough. There is plenty of choice and it is easy to switch provider so the focus on the customer experience is essential. You need to delight the customer so they keep returning to your service, and you become the platform customer return to over and over again, when all is back to normal.