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  • Tony Bosco

HANDSHAKE to HANDSHAKE: Why app based services like GrubHub need to act now on the tota

In our fast paced, over-connected world it has become way too common to find words that are pulling a "second shift" with an entirely different definition than the original meaning.

In some cases, the latest meaning becomes so common place in today's vernacular that we all tend to forget the original definition - the heart and soul of the word.

Case in point - the word HANDSHAKE. The original definition focuses on the act of shaking a person's hand with one's own, used as a greeting or to finalize an agreement. A handshake was once a warm welcome, an expression of gratitude, a firm signal that word was bond and commitments would be honored. The handshake then moved to high-fives for fans, fist bumps for germaphobes, but still retained some of its original definition along the way.

The definition evolved with the rise of technology, as a HANDSHAKE is more well known today as an exchange of standardized signals between devices in a computer network regulating the transfer of data. If it sounds a little cold and impersonal, it is probably because it is.

What does any of this have to do with a food delivery based app like GrubHub? Well, EVERYTHING.

As a GrubHub user, we've found ourselves ordering probably once or twice a week. The app is extremely easy to use, the menus from most of your favorite restaurants are there, and gone are the days where you are yelling your order through the phone so the guy with an indeterminate thick accent taking your order in a very noisy kitchen can hear you. There is also a level of security protecting your credit card information - or as secure as it can get these days, Overall, if everything was confined to the app you would have a pleasant experience.

I have, however, noticed an evolutionary shift recently in the city I live in with respect to the all important DELIVERY aspect of what GrubHub promises. Over the course of the last few months, one out of three orders has been over an hour late, ice cold, and delivered by a new belligerent driver who blames anything from the restaurant to the traffic for the errors. The first words out of one driver's mouth as I opened the door on an order delivered an hour and a half late "Not my fault, not my problem". There was no hello, no remorse, no apology. This is the unfortunate HANDSHAKE we've been getting at the end of doing business with GrubHub too frequently lately.

Now GrubHub does have some things going for it to help handle delivery issues, such as a tracking map to see where your driver is with your food, a means to text and call customer service if your order doesn't arrive or if its wrong. Oddly, i have also found that one out of three customer service representatives are actually skilled enough to really help you through and remedy the situation (if this happens to you, ask for Brittany, she listens and she ROCKS).

Here's the core issue - GrubHub currently has a model that puts more emphasis on the cold, impersonal and technological definition of the HANDSHAKE. They are focused on the transfer of signals and data. If they were focused on the human, personal definition of the HANDSHAKE, they would be harvesting that data to ask questions such as:

- Where are we going consistently wrong?

- Why are we crediting so many experiences?

- Why is user frequency dropping off?

- What are restaurants saying about us?

- What are consumers saying about us?

- What the hell is up with our drivers and our field team?

I have talked to several restaurant managers in town about GrubHub. They are telling me what once held promise is now a problem for their restaurants. Drivers rush in and push past customers, barking at the staff for an order, disrupting the restaurant's business. I've had some restaurants recommend DoorDash and others actively remind me if we just order through their website we get their delivery guy minus the GrubHub fees.

As a marketer, the whole situation infuriates me. It means that as GrubHub grows nationally (and internationally) they are already at that phase where they are too big to see what is actually happening to their quality of service. They are blind to the fact that the HANDSHAKE stops at the consumer's doorstep, and they are leaving too much in the hands of the drivers who do not reflect (or care about) the brand.

If it were me, I'd stop to evaluate and then double down on program innovation:

- Re-evaluate driver training, tracking, performance and incentives

- Initiate consumer communication when there's a problem, and the ability to tip AFTER service has been rendered

- Mine the data from your customer service representatives - you will be surprised what you find out

- Revitalize your restaurant partner relationships, your business partners deserve a better process, and you need them.

These four key items cannot be solved by simple signals and data collection. They can only be solved with human interaction, understanding, and innovation of the current approach - and most importantly, a firm handshake to seal the commitment to consumers and business partners.

Otherwise, GrubHub, you can just use your hands to wave goodbye to what you have built, and watch as companies like DoorDash start to eat your lunch.

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