You're running a business. Customer Service is an important component of that business. That's true even when you are doing delivery work for a nameless faceless app.
But it's harder to think in terms of being ‘customer first' when you realize that our customer really is Doordash, or Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates or any of the others. With some of the things they pull, how can we even begin to think of being customer first?
I have to admit it's a little harder to write about customer first when realizing who the actual customer is. I found myself wishing I hadn't put this in the schedule. It's a struggle because the whole relationship is founded on an exploitative aproach by these gig apps. They knowingly thrust people into roles where they are not protected, with no guarantees, no insurance, and yet make it clear that they still want you to think and act like employees. That's not a great start to the relationship in my opinion.
How do you put them first?
Let's first understand what a customer first attitude is NOT.
Being customer first does not mean accepting how they act towards you. It does not mean accepting everything they do.
If you operate a store or restaurant, your customers will have all sorts of views and ideas. You will find people of differing political views. You will find people with the same political views but the way they approach those views is offensive. There will be those who have differing religious views. Some might really stretch the limits like New England Patriots fans.
And you are going to find those who are looking for every angle they can find. All they care about is what they can get for themselves, not whether it helps you at all. However, in the end they are paying for what you do, and more often than not when that is happening those things don't matter as much.
Being customer first is not bending over to their mistreatment.
Here is the thing: If the customer is asking you to do something that flies against your ethics, you have the choice to say no. There may come a point where it becomes a matter of principle. You just don't want to take their money any longer. That's okay if you do get to that point, we'll actually talk about that more on Friday.
By virtue of accepting an order, you are saying that you are willing to put that aside for the moment. You aren't condoing anything, but saying I can still meet my business goals within this system.
Customer first doesn't mean always doing things the way they prefer.
I had a great email a couple days ago from Aimee. She brought up a great question about getting multiple orders:
“It seems like Doordash has been giving me many stacked orders over the last several days. I have been accepting them all because it seems like it's pretty lucrative, but last night I had a batch of four and one customer didn't get their food for over an hour. It would be easy to rationalize this by saying that Doordash offered these deliveries and we are in it to make money, but there is a customer service ethic that perhaps should not be ignored. If Doordash doesn't care, should we?”
What a great question and it gets to the heart of the whole customer first idea. I think the problem is in a lot of situations like this, so much of it is automated. The computer sees a pickup at a restaurant and oh, hey, there's another order from the same restaurant, just automatically assign it to the same driver. I'm not so sure that customer service is always built into the algorithm, you know?
The important thing here is that you are the one human element in the decision process. You can think through things that the computer might not be programmed to do. If the restaurant isn't going to be happy, and the end user isn't going to be happy, it might be time to make the executive decision not to take as many orders.
What does a customer first attitude mean?
It starts with being true to who you are and being true to what you have promised.
I'm a big believer in integrity. When you agree to accept money for something, you also are making an agreement to do your best. Furthermore, I believe an agreement is an agreement whether money changes hands or not. It's just that getting money for it has a way of doubling down on that.
It means treating people the way they want to be treated
I learned long ago in my business career to look through the eyes of the customer. What does our customer want?
- To get all the orders delivered.
- To make the restaurant (their customer) happy
- They want to make the end user (their customer's customer) happy.
Good customer service requires knowing which things you can do, and doing them well. You can't get all the orders delivered, and the nature of the relationship as an independent contractor means that's not your responsibility to begin with. But you can be efficient in your deliveries.
How you act with the restaurant and with the end user goes a long way with their satisfaction or dissatisfaction where your customer is related. That means not hanging on to negative attitudes. That means realizing there are things that the restaurant workers and the diners have had to deal with that impact how they act with you. It doesn't mean it's okay, but you can control the interaction. You can be pleasant and professional.
Does customer service really make a difference for us?
I think it's hard to take the customer service thing seriously in our position. It's hard to take this idea of being our own business seriously. If we aren't actively gaining and losing customers, does it really make that much difference?
Honestly, I don't think that improving metrics or anything really helps improve the orders you will get. I've seen horrible drivers get great orders and I've seen drivers who accept every order and have perfect metrics get taken advantage of. Here's the thing, if you own a store and give away your products, the customers are going to expect more of the same.
I do see some benefits that result from excellent customer service:
It protects the boundaries that you set up as an independent business owner.
Sometimes we get nervous about metrics that the delivery companies are not allowed to really impose, particularly acceptance rates. However, when you do the things you promise you will do when you take an order, you have fulfilled your contract. If your relationship with the restaurant and diner is good, you protect those boundaries. If you are doing the things you promise to do, you have lower risk of penalty for things that cannot be required of you.
It improves things for you in the long run
I think this is particularly true in the restaurants. We talk about this some in episode 13 on the podcast. When you create a good relationship with workers at the restaurants, you start to get priority. They are more likely to take care of you because they realize you are taking care of them.
It makes a difference in your mindset
This may be bigger than anything. Once you decide to approach things with integrity, I think it has a positive impact that spreads across everything. There's a sense of pride and professionalism that goes with it. When you treat others positively, you tend to sense more positivity from them.
The bottom line
Ultimately, our customer service is a reflection of who we are as a person. How you act in small situations like when you're frustrated with a restaurant or with a customer care agent is a reflection of how you act in larger things. If you ever end up catching the entrepreneurial bug from doing this, it will show even more on a larger scale.
I don't like the things that that our customers do in certain areas. But as long as I'm willing to accept money from them, I'm not going to let those opinions get in the way of my own integrity. They can be the worst that they can be at times. That doesn't mean that I can't still be the best that I can be.