Woah! What is happening?

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly caused massive disruption to our everyday lives. There are countless stories of frontline NHS and other key workers being unable to buy essential food as panic-buying has stripped shelves bare, and the most vulnerable customers are unable to shop for fear of contracting the virus. Not to mention those of the population who genuinely cannot cook and for whom takeaway and food deliveries are a lifeline!

Among the chaos, however, food delivery businesses are adapting and continuing to provide vital services for customers.

Achieving this has required a huge shift in thinking and fast action!

There has been a unique collaboration across Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa Johns to work together with the Aggregators (Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats). Collectively they lobbied the government to ensure that delivery staff were able to access key worker status.

Why is this important?

It enables staff to get the childcare and support required in order for employees to be able to keep producing food and providing home deliveries.

Whilst I really don’t like the term Social-Distancing, at a time when Physical-Distancing is imperative to prevent the spread of the virus, we should be embracing Social-Closeness which is of paramount importance for our wellbeing right now.

But how are food delivery companies adapting to the needs of their staff whilst maintaining a service?

One measure is to reduce the menu items available.

Why? I hear you ask! The more complex the menu is, the more inventory required. The make table chiller where pizzas are made has ingredients close together which means the team having to work close in proximity. Most home delivery food stores also have limited workspace. At a time when the kitchen staff need to maintain a physical distance from each other, a simplified menu allows fewer staff to produce the same volume of food.

How are these measures adapted for customers?

The first and most obvious is the introduction of “Contactless Deliveries”.

Customers can let the delivery driver know when ordering where they would like their order to be placed – usually on a portable table or raised shelf. In some cases, the delivery driver carries an empty box to prevent those containing food from being in contact with the floor.

The driver then contacts the customer to pick up their order. The driver then leaves knowing that the customer has been in receipt of their food, and both the driver and customer have not needed to handle the boxes at the same time, maintaining the recommended 2 metre distance.

The second adaptation for customers is the removal of collection from the transaction process. No longer can you pop into the store, place an order and grab a cheeky pint next door while it cooks. Again, to protect all involved, closing the shop to shoppers popping in off the street and preventing collection orders minimizes the opportunity for physical contact.

Thirdly, the use of cash is removed from the equation – we’ve all heard the phrase “Dirty Cash” but in this case it literally could be! So, once again, removing cash payments and reverting to online card transactions only, both customers and staff are further protected. Will we ever go back to cash transactions?

How is service recovery adapting?

As with most large retail businesses there is, sometimes, a need to recover a service issue. Whilst most retail stores will have a phone number, some companies provide an additional layer of Customer Service to customers.

There is a catch though, most customer service teams sit in large contact-centres with multiple data systems needed to resolve queries and complaints. There is also the added challenge of maintaining data privacy and compliance with GDPR which for people working at home is still hugely important.

The beauty of the modern age is that contact centres are now typically managing customer contact through multiple channels. The use of multiple digital channels makes it feasible to move to remote working and still maintain secure customer service.

Making these changes to allow staff to provide the service to the public is key both in providing a community the food services it requires, but also for business survival. Such adaptive responses to COVID-19 have been driven by the need to provide food to customers, but will also provide growth in times of adversity for such brands too.

The ability to continue trading in such hard times places a degree of responsibility to be benevolent and support those who depend on you most.

There has been plenty written about what we will remember when this lockdown passes and the memories fade. Businesses that have adapted and whose motives have been truly customer-focused are likely to be looked upon more favourably.

As a result, the food delivery companies are offering universal discounts for key workers from the NHS, Community Care, Teaching and other Emergency Services. From 50% off, to additional value deals.

For some this is not enough and there are businesses co-ordinating with the London Hospitals to deliver regular weekly food. There are also relationships with homeless charities such as Mungo and Shelter to provide food for homeless people who have been given temporary hotel accommodation during the pandemic.

I admire the reaction and rapid response from the food delivery businesses who have come together to maintain a vital service to their customers, who have adapted to ensure the safety of their employees and who have gone further to gift food to those who need it most. There is only one thing left to say – Thank you & keep up the good work!



Well actually no!  We must remember that Net Promoter Score or NPS for short is one of the forefathers of today’s short, intelligent and low effort surveys.  Without which, many businesses would still be struggling to embed the importance of customer feedback in their organisations. The sheer simplicity of NPS meant that from C-Suite to Store the entire organisation could understand how the score was calculated.  Board of directors love a number to chase – but I will get to that later.

For those who are not familiar with NPS; way back in the last millennium, during 1993, Fred Reichheld with Rob Markey developed the Net Promoter Score by sending 20 distinct questionnaires out to thousands of customers in different industries. He and his research team found that one question stood out when correlated with propensity to buy and the advocacy behaviour of those customers.  In 2003 both Bain & Company and Satmetrix adopted the measurement as a way to predict customer loyalty and the rest is, as they say, history!

The Question itself is: “How Likely is it you would recommend us to a friend?” *

However, it was not the question but the way in which the response was captured and the score calculated, which was revolutionary. By understanding customer behaviour when presented with a scaled response; NPS tackles the human tendency to be more outwardly positive; where a respondent may rate differently to the way they might actually feel. Whilst Reichheld identified that respondents could be grouped into 3 categories, Detractors, Passives and Promoters these were not evenly distributed.  The scale is significant, and the use of an 11point scale from 0-10 is built around this behavioural psychology:

Detractors – customers who gave a score of 0-6 are considered dissatisfied with your company and are more likely to discourage others not to use your brand’s products or services.

Passives – those who scored 7-8 are actually considered as passive.  They are neither unhappy or particularly happy with their experience, but are unlikely to proactively promote your brand.

Promoters – those who scored 9 or 10 are likely to actively recommend your brand to others.

The score is then calculated by taking the percentage of respondents who give a 9 and 10 “the promoters” and then subtracting the percentage of respondents who give a response of 0-6 “the detractors”. Passive responders are not used in the calculation. This generates a score ranging from -100 to +100, which is the Net Promoter Score.

A modern conundrum!

Companies use the score to measure individuals – which is a problem!  As a result, for many organisations NPS fails to provide a clear or obvious route to action – and it never will! It was not designed, according to Fred Reichheld’s ‘The Ultimate Question’, as a measure of an individual employee but as a benchmarking tool for loyalty to a company/brand.

As a result, it is hard to link NPS to a direct improvement in performance; yet it is so often linked to performance KPI’s for employees – there are of course other measures to measure staff performance. But, by creating a target nobody can wholly or materially control, it has often had a negative effect when used to measure employee performance.

The inclusion of such measures in employee balance scorecards has driven the need to re-purpose NPS into something is wasn’t designed to do.

The ease of NPS was that it was a standard question, to be asked in the same way, with the same scoring mechanic, irrespective of industry, sector or customer type. However, the need for businesses to link the measure to a tangible outcome has meant many re-incarnations of the question text to a point where it has a materially different impact on the response.  Whilst still using the 11-point scale and scoring mechanic or even going as far as representing the score as a percentage. Shock Horror!


OMG! I have seen some surveys apply the 11-point scale to every question in the questionnaire; to which any knowing respondent will constantly score 7, just to pass the time and antagonize the poor researcher trying to find that one nugget of insight in the melé of drivel collected!


Simple light touch surveys do help identify the proverbial ‘Wood from the trees’ but in many ways the use of structured questionnaires with pre-coded responses restricts the measurement and the survey simply delivers the expected result.

However, no matter how poorly the use of NPS across voice of customer programs has been applied, the intention of finding a measure which helps organisations understand, and improve, their customer’s experience is a huge positive.

The methodology has evolved into more practical applications of the metric such as Net Easy, Customer Effort Score and Net Satisfaction to name a few and this re-purposing of the question has undoubtedly had a positive influence on how companies respond to customer feedback.

The use of voice and video capture is now enabling true sentiment and emotion to be shared as part of the feedback.  This might shorten the time it takes to respond meaningfully, but unless the right technical solution is used, can mean the interpretation of comments is more difficult; essentially, businesses will always crave hard and quantifiable numbers.

Appreciate NPS for what it is intended to be and optimize its potential. NPS is absolutely not the root cause of the issues in customer measurement, but its misinterpretation and misuse has tarnished its own, once shiny, reputation. Used well, in line with its original instructions, NPS allows businesses to benchmark themselves against both direct competition and other sectors/industries in a way no other measurement can. Helping identify the best and poorest perceived customer experiences was its raison d’etre and properly implemented can still deliver when measuring the impact of brand loyalty.


For further reading about NPS:

* Net Promoter, NPS, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks, and Net Promoter Score and Net Promoter System are service marks, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.

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