How to Improve Online Ordering and Food Delivery Processes To Increase Customer Satisfaction - The Ultimate Guide
As traditional dining takes a back seat to make way for the growing demand for off-site foodservice experience, you’ve probably incorporated an online food delivery system in your operation. Online ordering and food delivery have truly become valuable tools for any restaurant. With the right techniques and implementation of those techniques, you are putting your business in a better, more profitable position. But if you are not seeing as much progress as you expected or gearing up to hit that next big milestone, we’ve put together a list of tips on how to improve your online ordering and delivery process to help you get there.
1. Simplify online processes
Place important information such as your contact number or menu front and center for customers to easily find. Don’t make them fill out countless boxes every single time they place an order. Make checkout a breeze by asking them to fill in a form for their first order or logging in via Facebook or Google. Then, ask their permission to save the personal information like the name, contact number, and address they input to make future transactions quicker to process. Add multiple payment methods to cater to a wider range of customers.
Some people might not be comfortable leaving such details in your hands, so give them the assurance that their data is safe with you. Since everything is online, the privacy and security of data that your customer provides to you are important. Add easily accessible information on your website or app that lets them know how you use their data. This will give them more confidence if they ever were skeptical and can convince them to place that order. While you want them on your email or SMS list, you can also give them the option to sign in as “guests” if they don’t want to sign up or remain doubtful.
Still, endorse the option to subscribe to your newsletter and promotional emails, and make it enticing by offering voucher codes upon registration or a special discount for first-time customers, which is useful to customers who are just discovering your restaurant and are in turn more careful about spending more money.
If you are struggling to get online orders or to simply be found online, we have a comprehensive guide on mobile marketing where we talk about various strategies in increasing your visibility, customer retention, and sales.
2. Don’t make them wait
We don’t have to tell you the importance of timeliness. Making people wait longer than they should for their orders is a mortal sin in the industry. Yet, half the time, many customers still find themselves at the end of late food deliveries. Of course, sometimes, despite your best efforts, orders end up being delayed. Customers know that too. And how these unforeseen instances are handled seems to matter more to them than what caused it in the first place. Most of the time, they will understand when there is a good reason and when they see that you did everything in your power to rectify it. So if a problem regarding their order comes up, inform your customers right away. They are unlikely going to appreciate being told after the fact when it is already at their door as they will feel like getting less for what they paid for.
Get as much information about weather conditions, potential roadblocks, or ongoing events that could slow down the delivery. If your restaurant is experiencing a surge in delivery volume, set let people know. It is important to set customer expectations and to keep them in the loop as much as possible.
Customers want timely updates regarding their orders so they know what to expect. You will probably provide an estimated delivery time upfront, but you can take it to the next level by notifying them about each move you make to progress their order. Send them a notification or a text message when you are preparing the order, when it has been handed to delivery staff, and when it is on its way. As an extra step, you can even provide a live tracking option that provides real-time updates on where their order is, so they have an accurate estimation of when the food will arrive.
But make sure that you deliver them the right order. In a survey, it showed that one of the biggest customer complaints regarding food delivery is that some items are missing or incorrect. It can be frustrating to get a small pack of fries when you ordered the large option, so while timely delivery is of the essence, accuracy is just as important, if not more. Take the time to check the order before handing it over to delivery staff. Make sure that condiments like ketchup packets, sauces, and dips are complete.
An online food delivery portal is a great way to prevent these mistakes from happening. Unlike on the phone, where misunderstandings can happen. On an app or a website, the customer can choose exactly what they want and you can instantly see their selection through your system.
3. Package food the right way
You might be able to deliver on time, but if it isn’t up to the quality your customers expect, the satisfaction level drops big time. That being said, you have to travel-proof both your food and the container.
Find the correct packaging to ensure that the food is secure during travel. It is frustrating when your drink spills onto the packaging leaving only three-quarters of a full drink or the sauces and dips douse the packaging and ruin the rest of the order, which not just affects the taste but also looks downright unappealing. Customers are left feeling like they are unable to enjoy their money’s worth. A few delivery tips:
- Separate hot and cold foods so your burgers and salad stay at their ideal temperatures as much as possible. Place the sauce on the side.
- Leave the sauce in a separate container. This not only prevents it from spilling and getting the food soggy, but also gives them the ability to decide the amount they want on their food.
On the other hand, you want to ensure that your packaging is tamper-proof. While you would want to count on your delivery staff to deliver the food as it left your kitchen, there is simply no way of knowing that. You may have also probably seen videos of delivery people sneaking a fry or two or taking a sip of the drink before handing it to their customers. For good measure, use food packaging that alerts customers if the order has been tampered or opened.
What about the type of material you should use for your food packaging? Aluminum or foil ticks all the durability, sealability, and non-absorbent properties, but it is the more expensive option out there and is not microwaveable. A more economical alternative would be styrofoam, but is not environmentally friendly, which might be a deal-breaker for customers who are more inclined to support businesses with sustainable practices. Take note that more and more people are feeling this way as they become conscious of the impact of their actions and decisions on the planet. If you are not using eco-friendly packaging, you might want to start now.
As the industry develops greater understanding of the challenges that come with food delivery, smarter packaging solutions are being developed in order to eliminate these problems altogether. For example, there are vented containers for fries that prevent moisture, which causes them to sag. At the same time, more sustainable packaging alternatives are popping up; the catch is they tend to generally cost higher at the moment. Additionally, you also have to monitor the support of your customers regarding such change. Will the higher price and labor be worth it? Customers seem to favor brands committed to the safety of the environment. Data shows that 66 percent of all consumers are willing to pay more for products from eco-conscious brands, and half of them will spare no expense for sustainable food packaging. Your sustainable effort can be used as an entire selling point for your business, and can ultimately improve your brand image.
If you use a third-party delivery company, you could end up losing control over how the food ends up in your customer’s hands, so it is important to choose a company that you can trust to uphold your standard of quality and service when it leaves your doors.
4. Maintain product quality and freshness
Strive to deliver an authentic restaurant experience to your customers right at the comfort of their homes. The convenience of being able to enjoy restaurant-quality food and their meal favorites at their own couches or dining table is one of the reasons delivery is a continued hit.
Did you know that customers are more likely to blame you, and not your delivery company if there is a problem with delivery? A lot of the complaints have to do with less than fresh food being delivered to them. If you receive a lot of complaints about cold pizza, you might want to look into a couple of things. First is whether or not the items on your menu actually travel well. Some food just can’t survive a trip without degrading in quality. Make sure that your online food menu is delivery-friendly. Burgers, pizzas, tacos, pasta and most noodle dishes, grilled meats, and salad are delivery favorites and so are chicken wings, fried chicken, deli sandwiches, and barbecue. You can test this by sending food by a food courier from a distance that your average customer lives from.
The second factor is the tools you use. You need reliable equipment that will keep hot food at perfect temperatures throughout the trip. It can be as simple as having an insulated delivery bag. Some operators take it a step further by outfitting their delivery vehicles with cooking and food warming equipment, which allows them to cook the order while making their way to the customer address for a quicker delivery time.
5. Food should look the same as the picture
Make sure that the images you use on your app or websites are an actual representation of what the customers will get. The picture sets their expectation on the quality and quantity of the food they are getting. Anything less than that, you have a disappointed customer on your hands. It goes both ways, too. If you have a good picture, they expect something high-quality. If you use a bad one that poorly showcases the food item, they might order something else. If you want to know more about how to design and reengineer your menu, check out this guide here.
While you of course want your food to look as enticing as possible in pictures and videos you share on your online menu and on your website and social media, you have to put in the work to make sure it looks like that in the flesh too. It is especially challenging to accomplish that when the food has to be transported, so we can’t stress enough how investing in equipment will help you overcome this issue.
Share actual pictures of the food on your social media and on your business listings on Google My Business. Customers will most likely share theirs too, especially if your food is “Instagrammable”, so customers will get a good idea of what they are ordering. Add descriptions to the food that will tickle their senses and make it easier to “add to cart”.
6. Polite and well-mannered delivery staff
A chunk of customer complaints regarding online delivery involves rude behavior of the delivery staff. If complaints have been made against them, investigate promptly.
Even if problems occur, delivery staff that is polite and helpful can help appease customers. If you have your own delivery people, train them to think on their feet and apply solutions to common problems that they might face on the job so that they will be able to handle such instances as they come. At the same time, they should be able to handle unhappy or unruly customers properly too. Your delivery staff should be briefed and trained to respond to these situations appropriately. As much as possible, it is important that they do not take things personally, and instead stay cool to be able to listen and understand where the frustrated customers are coming from. This will not only give them an assurance that you are listening, because at the end of the day, they simply want to be heard, but they are also in a much better position to provide the best solution for the specific problem.
After gathering the information regarding the issue, repeat what their concerns are back to them to confirm that you understood everything correctly. If their situation is beyond your scope of responsibilities, help them reach people who can handle the problems.
7. Be easy to reach to address problems quickly
People have an expectation as to how quickly they want their problem resolved. In fact, most people think everything can be sorted out within 10 minutes. The longer you stray from that, the deeper the satisfaction rating sinks. Because your customers are not in your establishment where you can handle issues in the fastest manner, a system in which your customers can easily reach you is the closest thing to that. These situations will still need hands-on approach, which is why mobile is once again king in this scenario. SMS is a great way to interact directly with customers simply because they use their smartphones regularly and are likely on them or next to them when they don’t. If there are issues with delivery, customers prefer to be called on the phone to be notified. Nobody wants unpleasant surprises, and this is truer than ever in online food delivery.
8. Build a ghost kitchen
Delivery is so popular that a new hybrid of establishment was born out of it. That is the ghost kitchen, a facility dedicated to delivery sales. There is no dining area in these facilities as the space is designed solely for production. This gives you more space to work, so you can get more orders out. If a ghost kitchen is way beyond your budget, look for shared kitchens, which accommodate multiple restaurants by providing a dedicated kitchen to cook and pack orders in a shared space. This is a great way to test-drive the idea without making drastic changes to your existing establishment and without having to shell out upfront real-estate costs.
We hope that our tips can help you iron out the kinks of your online ordering and food delivery processes. The next step is to make sure you have reliable kitchen equipment that can keep up with you. And if you are looking for more tips and guidelines on how to improve your foodservice restaurant, make sure to check out our blog.