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Courier MBA Day 26: Customer First

On Day 25, we talked about how there was a customer relationship really with not just the people who ordered the food, but the restaurants and the gig companies.

In fact, Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubub and others are the ones who really have the direct customer relationship with you. They actually define the relationship as a business to business relationship among equals.

If you get horrible service from a restaurant or a store or any kind of business, you can decide not to go back. When you think about it, it's the delivery companies that have that ability more than the restaurant or end user.

Why does a customer first attitude matter?

Personally, I would start with, it's just the right thing to do.

When you agree to provide a service, it's just part of being a person of your word. Do what you agree to do and do it well.

On top of that, it just makes business sense.

Neither Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub or any of the others have any obligation to continue to use your services. Just like you have no obligation to that crappy grease house that calls themselves a restaurant. If you don't provide a good product, they don't have to keep paying you.

Too many couriers take the “I'm an independent contractor” think beyond what makes sense. Yes, you are free to do things how you want. But when you embrace that freedom you have to accept the consequences of doing horrible work.

Good customer service insures your ability to assert your rights as a contractor.

You might say that the relationship with these delivery companies isn't as simple as a regular relationship between a business and its customers. To be honest, it is a bit more nuanced than that.

Usually it's a lot of customers choosing between a handful of businesses. In this instance it's a handful of customers looking to be customers of thousands of businesses or contractors. Some would say that it puts a lot of power in the hands for those few customers.

But here's the thing that goes with that nuanced relationship. Doordash and Grubhub and friends are using contractors to dodge the extra cost of using employees. When they make that decision THEY are the ones who have to walk a fine line. If they cross that line, it can cost them millions of dollars. That means there's a lot more eyes on the customers and how they behave.

The bottom line is, they cannot control you like they can an employee. Terminating a relationship simply because you didn't do things the exact way they want you to crosses that line. To punish or retaliate for things outside your agreement can get them in a lot of legal hot water.

But they can look for excuses. If you're doing what you agreed to do and doing it with excellence, you take away any excuses. That protects your ability to assert your rights as an independent contractor.

What does a customer first attitude entail?

On Day 25 we talked about a customer of a customer of a customer. There's a sort of three headed customer monster between the gig companies, the restaurants and the end users. What you want to do is take care of all three of them in the best way you can, within the parameters of your agreement.

Do what you agreed to do in the best way you can possibly do it.

Treat the diner as though they were buying directly from you.

Treat them as you'd want to be treated if you had ordered.

Get the food to them in great condition. Get there as quick as possible. Communicate when there are issues so they're not left in the dark.

Give them an experience that would make them want to go back and order delivery again.

Treat the restaurant as though you are delivering for them directly.

Be good to the people in the restaurant.

Walk into the restaurant fully respecting the fact that it's the restaurant that has the most to lose if this delivery goes bad.

Have you ever thought about that? Have you thought about why these restaurants are doing delivery in the first place?

Do you realize that restaurants are often losing money on delivery orders? At best they are breaking even. I've had a few owners tell me that on average they make about 15 to 20% on any order they do. Doordash, Grubhub and others are charging them at least that much or more.

I've asked them, so why do you even do delivery if it's not a money maker?

Exposure. Marketing. Delivery through these gig companies introduces them to the folks who are ordering delivery. If all goes well, that customer will soon come in directly, and that's when the restaurant has a chance to make some money.

It's cheaper and more effective than a lot of other ways they can pick up new customers.

The restaurant's reputation is on the line with every delivery that is taken out.

That's downright terrifying to some business owners. If you see some of the other delivery folks who are handling the food and who are presenting it to the customer, you can understand exactly why.

Many restaurants have stopped using delivery services directly or have chosen explicitly not to do so for that very reason.

If you walk in, you are professional and courteous and you look like you give a crap about what you are doing, that's the kind of thing that helps them breathe a huge sigh of relief. When they can tell you're going to take care of the food, take care of the customer, and more than anything, take care of their reputation, that's huge.

And that helps protect your future potential earnings.

Treat your primary customer well by doing what you agreed to do and doing it well.

I've said this before in previous sessions. It's worth repeating.

Your agreement with the gig company begins when you accept a delivery offer and it ends when you complete the delivery.

Every moment in between should be focused on doing what you agreed to do in the best way you can possibly do it.

What did you agree to do? You agreed to get the food to the customer in a timely manner and in the best condition you can.

Ultimately that means getting the food to them the quickest you can reasonably do so. It means taking care of the food in the best way possible. It means ensuring to the best of your ability that the order is correct.

In the end, it means being awesome at what you agreed to do.

What customer first does NOT mean.

It does not mean taking every delivery that is thrown at you.

A lot of people make that mistake. Their intentions are good but they're mistaken about what they agreed to do in the first place.

I've heard many say that them not taking an offer means the diner might not get their food. But here's the thing: it's not your responsibility to make sure the diner gets their order.

That's your customer's responsibility. That's on Doordash and Grubhub and Uber Eats.

It's not your place to run your customer's business for them. You never agreed to that. I could go so far as to say you're stepping out of line if you assume that it is.

When I sold telecom, we sold equipment and services designed to help our customers be more profitable. It would have been out of place for us to try to take over their sales and customer service and operations. We were there to provide a specific tool.

You're there to provide a specific tool. And this goes back to the point about being a delivery by delivery agreement. Your agreement is to be awesome on the deliveries you accept.

But doesn't accepting everything mean I can get more business?

Maybe. I haven't seen it proven yet.

But the question you have to ask as a business person: Is more business the best thing for you?

I'll go back to our telecom days. We sold phone systems. Back in those days there was a strong network among owners of hotels and motels in the area. If one hotel owner liked you, you could expect a whole lot of business from the hotel community.

That sounded awesome, right? But our experience was, if you wanted that business, you had to be cheap. And you had to be ready for them to quibble over every dollar in an invoice. It wasn't worth the time. More business usually meant less profit.

You have to make your business decisions. We talked about that a lot when talking about accepting and rejecting orders. It's part of setting your price. In the end you have to decide whether the benefit of whatever extra business you gain for taking every order is worth the cost of lower profits.

You can sell cheap and get a lot of sales. You just have to do more sales to make the same amount of money. That's a business decision nearly every business owner has to make.

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