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American Coffee Preferences: A Brief Insight

American Coffee Preferences: A Brief Insight

When getting a quick cup of coffee or a breakfast sandwich on the go, the drive-thru has become an essential feature for many Americans. In fact, according to a recent survey, almost half of US consumers consider drive-thru facilities to be crucial when selecting where to grab their morning brew.

However, what sets apart an average drive-thru experience from an excellent one? While speed and accuracy of service are essential, other factors can make a drive-thru experience exceptional. 

To better understand the customer experience at leading coffee chains, Intouch sent mystery shoppers to locations across six top brands: Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Dutch Bros, Caribou Coffee, Dunkin and Peet's Coffee. Their task? Help us understand what makes a drive-thru experience extraordinary.

The Methodology: Mystery Shopping 

The research method involved sending mystery shoppers to 15 different locations of six major coffee chains throughout Texas, Georgia, California, and Michigan. The shoppers ordered a specialty coffee and breakfast sandwich through the drive-thru of each location.

Key Findings

The study's findings highlighted crucial aspects significantly impacting the drive-thru experience.

Speaker Volume: Clear Communication, Seamless Interactions

Crystal-clear communication lays the foundation for a smooth drive-thru ordering process. According to the study, 93% of customers found speaker interactions to be both clear and understandable. Additionally, 95% affirmed that the speaker volume was loud enough to hear the employee.

Despite the positive feedback, nearly 20% of customers reported needing to repeat at least part of their order. This indicates an area where enhancements in clear communication could further enhance the drive-thru experience.

Do you want to check out all the data we collected in this study? Download the infographic here.

Average Wait Time: Racing Against the Clock

Customers visiting drive-thru facilities prioritize saving time, especially during the morning rush. According to a study, it takes an average of 5.67 minutes from entering the drive-thru line to receiving orders, the expected time for almost 50% of customers.

An interesting finding from the 2023 Drive-Thru Study linked the quality of speakers and the impact on service time. The data showed that orders were: 59% faster when communication was clear and understandable; 61% faster when the speaker was loud enough to hear the employee; 64% faster when the shopper didn’t have to repeat the order.

Service Time: A Friendly Facet

A warm smile goes a long way, and it's no different in the drive-thru lane. Orders accompanied by friendly service were processed 54 seconds faster than those without. This highlights the significant impact of positive interactions between customers and employees on customer experience and service efficiency.

Order Accuracy: Precision Matters

Accurate orders are the cornerstone of customer satisfaction, and brands hit the mark on this criteria, with 99% of customers reporting that their orders were made correctly. Moreover, all coffee chains successfully delivered the beverage at the correct temperature, with all shoppers stating that it was appropriate (i.e., iced coffee was cold, and hot coffee was hot). 

Interestingly, the study found that friendliness not only correlated with faster service but also resulted in an 8% increase in order accuracy compared to unfriendly encounters. 

The quality of the speakers also significantly impacts this metric. Clear and understandable speaker interactions contributed to a 33% higher order accuracy, emphasizing the importance of effective communication in the drive-thru lane for customer experience and operational efficiency.

Regional vs. National Chains

Regional coffee brands stand out with a 93% friendliness score, compared to 77% for national chains, demonstrating the value of personalized customer experiences. 

Regional coffee shops often have a closer connection to their local communities, allowing them to tailor their interactions to their customer's specific needs and preferences. This creates a more welcoming and friendly atmosphere that can make a big impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Going the Extra Mile: Small Gestures, Lasting Impressions

Small gestures can have a big impact. For example, when employees add a personal touch to a customer's experience or do something extra, such as decorating the coffee foam, writing the customer's name on the cup, or simply smiling, friendliness levels increase by 18%.

When compared to national brands, 56% of customers who visited regional brands reported that employees did ‘something extra’, while only 14% of national brands did the same. The results suggest that national coffee chains have a significant opportunity to improve customer satisfaction, positive word of mouth, and ultimately, increase revenue.

Do you want to check out all the data we collected in this study? Download the infographic here.

Elevating the Drive-Thru Experience At Coffee Chains

An exceptional drive-thru experience can make a huge difference in attracting and retaining customers. By providing efficient and accurate service, along with friendly and personalized touches, customers are more likely to return and recommend the brand to others. 

Happy customers can also lead to positive online reviews, which can help increase the coffee chain’s visibility and reputation.

Moreover, customers with a positive experience are more likely to order more items or add-ons to their order, increasing the average ticket size. They may also be more open to trying out new items on the menu, ordering custom beverages, or signing up for loyalty programs, which can further increase sales and customer retention. 

Intouch Insight can help brands deliver exceptional experiences with mystery shopping, operational audits, surveys, and inspection software as part of a comprehensive customer experience solution. Want to know how we can help your brand exceed expectations? Let’s chat

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