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It’s not for us to judge what they should be doing

Last weekend I was intrigued to see, at a fast food restaurant, queues of people at every self-service screen-based ordering point, but a minimal queue for a member of staff accepting orders behind a counter.

Similarly, you can see long queues of cars at ‘drive-throughs’, when it’s clearly much quicker to park up, walk into the restaurant, place an order and walk back with the purchase.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Match ordering systems to what customers prefer, and customers will migrate to that. Of course they will.

In the examples above, customers like to browse the offerings on a screen, in their own time; or they’re prepared to wait longer if it means they can remain in the comfort of their vehicles.

It’s not for us to judge what they should be doing if they think like us. It’s for us to provide what they actually prefer.

“It’s what our market wants”

I’m frequently told by suppliers who’ve “always done it like this” that “it’s what our market wants”. But is it?

A business once told me that it could never operate an online store, because every order needed to be discussed with an advisor and customised. But when pressed, they admitted that repeat customers knew exactly what they wanted, and they rarely got it wrong. Their orders were often processed by the most junior admin staff, not experienced salespeople, because anyone could do it, and getting the order into the system quickly and efficiently was the most important customer care priority.

Would these existing customers prefer an online store, so they could see the current range properly, and order at their leisure? They’d never been asked, of course.

“But it’s so easy for them to call us and place their order”, claims the supplier, “why would we offer anything else?”

Maybe because the customer might prefer it?