Can’t be fast? Be friendly.

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In today’s world, we expect everything to happen instantly—instant messaging, instant rebates, instant meals. And when everything is moving faster, customers expect you to keep up the pace. Brands have made huge strides in automating and streamlining standard processes in their customer journey—including things like mobile ordering, buy online/pick up in-store options, drive-thru windows, and on-demand delivery—but sometimes being fast remains an obstacle.

There will always be good reasons it’s tough for your brand to be fast:

  • High-traffic times of day
  • Holiday/seasonal rushes
  • Complex menu items
  • Short-handed staff
  • POS system complications

Many of these issues are totally out of your control—but that shouldn’t stop you from delivering a great experience. What can you do? Our research shows time and time again that a friendly interaction with your customers can mitigate a less-than-speedy customer experience.

Here’s how three clients prove it.

Courteous and custom-made

One of our c-store clients sought to measure how speed and friendliness impacts Overall Satisfaction, especially when it comes to their made-to-order menu items. Every brand wants to be fast and friendly all the time, but when high traffic and custom orders come into the picture, speed takes a direct hit. When customers are served quickly and with a friendly interaction, 94% are Highly Satisfied overall. But what about when service can only be one or the other?


When customers were Highly Satisfied with Friendliness, but Not Highly Satisfied with Time to Receive Order, 67% were Highly Satisfied overall. Compare that to customers who were Highly Satisfied with Time to Receive Order but not with Friendliness—only 59% were Highly Satisfied overall. That demonstrates a friendly transaction is more likely to improve an experience than a fast one. But not all kinds of friendliness are created equal.

In the chart below, we can see a number of ways an employee can be friendly. Using text analytics to look into customer comments, the client learned that employees who were courteous had the biggest positive impact on Time to Receive Order.


Happy to help

No matter your industry, resolving issues is critical to keep your customers coming back. But when customers have a problem with their order, it doesn’t automatically guarantee a negative overall experience. When your employees keep a cool head even in the face of a mishap, it can go a long way with your customers. One of our casual dining clients found there are several ways brands can make customers Highly Satisfied, even when their order leaves something to be desired.

Our analysis showed several things impact NPS the most when it comes to problem resolution: friendliness, speed, accuracy, and service quality. And of each of these, friendliness impacted NPS the most.


Driving friendly forward

Drive-thrus are a godsend for busy people everywhere—but for QSRs, they can also be a source of frustration. With high traffic volumes in drive-thrus, brands can’t afford to skimp on service. One of our QSR clients installed timers to track how locations performed in 4 different areas of the drive-thru experience:

  • Greeting (from when the customer pulls up to when the associate greets the customer)
  • Order Board (from the end of the greeting until the customer pulls forward past the order board)
  • Travel Time (from order board to the service window)
  • Service Window (from arrival at the service window to drive thru exit)

They found the biggest difference between fast locations and slow locations was Travel Time-- the time to move between the order board and service window. Unfortunately, that travel time is beyond the operator’s control.

How can a restaurant with a slow-moving drive-thru still deliver a Highly Satisfying experience? You guessed it— be friendly!

Bottom line

For many brands and concepts, speed is absolutely a critical factor in a great customer experience. We’re busier than ever, and we appreciate brands who help us get on our way. But sometimes a speedy interaction just isn’t possible. Fortunately, friendliness plays a huge part in a positive customer experience—and it’s always on the menu.

Here’s how you can up the friendliness ante in your organization:

  • Hire for friendliness, using predictors like how many times candidates smile during the interview
  • Get your managers out of the back room and on the floor interacting with customers
  • Add friendliness-specific questions to your survey to know where to focus your training efforts

Want to find out more about how friendliness can impact your organization? Download our case study to learn how another client launched an initiative focused on giving great customer service.

Jim Sellers
Director of Client Insights

Customer Experience Update