The Drive-Thru Theory

drive_inMy morning routine includes a stop at my local Starbucks on the way to work. Equipped with my Starbucks Stainless Steel reusable mug and App on my IPhone I am welcomed into the establishment each weekday morning by a cheerful well trained staff that truly understands that  customer satisfaction is everything.   I’m not just paying for a cup of coffee, even though it is the best coffee on the planet. What I am paying for is the Starbucks experience.

As I enter the establishment I notice that the drive-thru window is usually 8 to 12 cars deep. Even though there is nobody in the store the drive-thru is usually packed.   Makes you wonder, “What’s up with that”?  Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the drive thru supposed to be a convenience to make things easier and to save time.  Most of the time when I leave the store the line of 12 cars is down to 10.  So much for saving time!

According to Wikipedia, A drive-through, or drive-thru, is a type of service provided by a business that allows customers to purchase products without leaving their cars. The format was pioneered in the United States in the 1930s. Drive-thru’s are now found in the vast majority of modern American fast food chains.

Notice the key phrase in that definition is “purchase a product”. Nothing in that definition mentions a service or customer experience.  Now if I just wanted to purchase a product and didn’t want to get out of the car then I could go to McDonalds for a .99 cent cup of coffee. (FYI: that will never happen). If I’m going to spent $2.49 for a cup of Java then I want the whole customer experience and the service that goes with it. It’s all about the value.

Back in the 50’s a fast food establishment had what was called drive-ins.  This was where you parked your car and a car hop came out, sometimes on skates to greet you and take your order.  This was all part of the customer experience. Not only was your meal enjoyable (hopefully) it was a fun and pleasurable experience. With the exception of Sonic, this service is hardly ever seen anymore.

We basically have taken the Drive-in theory and completely destroyed it.  What remains is the Drive Thru, which has become more impersonal every day.  Many feature a wall with a voice that tries to  sounds human when you talk to place your orders (AKA, Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s and Burger King just to name a few)

Honestly, how hard is it to park the car get a little fresh air, talk to real people, stretch your legs and probably save time?  I can understand if you are in a crowded city or its 30 below zero, but if you’re a suburbanite like most of us that are reading this piece, you really have no excuse.

This blog would not be complete if I didn’t mention the drive-thru experience at the bank.  Photo Feb 26, 8 19 48 AMNow we all know how wonderful that is. First question we need to ask, do we really even need local banks anymore?  Last time I checked we can make deposits with our smartphones, we can get cash at ATM’s and variety of stores. We can pay bills online and most banking forms can be downloaded.  When was the last time you had a friendly experience at a drive in teller?  Most look at you as an inconvenience. The concept of drive up tellers was a unique idea that worked probably in the 70’s 80’s and even the 90’s but for today’s consumer, something has to change.

Let’s not forget about the Drive-thru Pharmacy.  Does this sound familiar?

“Please ring the bell for assistance.  A pharmacist will be right with you. While you are waiting please enjoy this 3 hour movie, if you are dropping off a prescription please have your passport, voters registration, copy of your electric bill and 5 forms of identification.  If you are picking up a prescription please come back some other time. If you are really sick and need medication quickly we suggest you try mail order.”

Also gone are the days on the Drive-in Theater. It won’t be long before the actual movie theater fades as well.  More and more of us have gotten accustomed to streaming on our tablets and home entertainment setups. Why spend $40.00 for a night at the movies.  No need to even leave the house, much less get out of the car.

What does the future of Drive thru’s have in store for us? Can we foresee the drive thru Apple store?  You enter with an IPhone 5 and pull out with an IPhone 6.   Anyone for a drive thru hair salon? Can you picture it now, you stick your head out the window, these automated clippers come out and in minutes you have a new dew and drive off.

Call me old fashion, but I think I will just park the car and enter the brick and mortar establishment and experience reality. For everything else theirs Amazon.com….. But that’s another blog.

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Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)