Many new businesses operate in an “if you market they will come” type of philosophy. They focus their efforts on how to get more clients/users/customers and think that as long as those leads stream in, the business will grow and prosper.

However, if those marketing efforts are effective and leads do stream or even gush in, is that new business prepared to handle the rapid intake? Unlike Field of Dreams, where “if you build it they will come” is enough, simply marketing isn’t enough to handle ‘them’ coming. A business must be ready internally for the possibility of a rapid lead increase before mass marketing or their efforts and dollars will be wasted and they risk harming their reputation.

A recent example of this scenario arrived in my mailbox in the form of a jumbo, beautifully designed color post card offering $7 off a $15 purchase from DoorDash. DoorDash is attempting to disrupt the market as a food delivery service from restaurants that don’t normally deliver. Like PostMates, Bitesquad and others, DoorDash’s concept is a great idea and one that will surely be successful if executed well. Now that’s where the giant IF comes into this story.

My husband and I decided using DoorDash would be a great way to start our Friday evening after a long workweek. The idea of staying in and getting one of our favorite meals from a restaurant we hadn’t patronized in years sounded fantastic. We decided to order the food early using our recently installed DoorDash app and timed it for a perfect arrival of 7 pm to beat the Friday night rush. We began wrapping up our work and settling in for the evening, happily awaiting our dinner. At 7:05, our food was not here. We looked in the app and found no notice of delay. My husband then checked his email (something he rarely does throughout the day) and finds an obviously canned email from DoorDash simply stating that the order could not be placed with this particular restaurant and our money would be refunded in 3-5 business days. Our food was not coming! At this point it’s 7:15 on a Friday night and we’re hungry and frustrated. We timed our order to avoid the Friday night rush and now we’re in the middle of it. And whom are we blaming for this predicament? DoorDash – the company we were excited to use for the first time. And also the company that spent who know how much money on a direct mail campaign designed to gain new customers like us.

This is the exact opposite experience a company wants to create when earning the business of a new customer. Had the business taken the time to create better systems for proper order intake, order change notifications, and customer service, they could have handled the issue better and kept our business. Instead they had two hangry customers on their hands vowing to never use them again.

Here is what they did wrong and how they could have fixed it:

  • Improper Intake Process They didn’t collect the necessary information needed to notify us if something did go wrong with our order. Since they just asked for our email, that is what we gave them. Had they asked for our phone number, they could have sent us a text notification and substantially increased the likelihood of us receiving a change notification. Plus, as a business, the more information you gather on your new customers the better. This is basic permission marketing.
  • Improper Customer Communication System A new business has to have systems for communicating with customers. This means both the technology and the staff to meet this need. You can’t just send an email to someone who has ordered a product through an app. The business would have to assume the person using the app is not checking their email at that moment and would instead need a text message or pop-up notification on the mobile device using the app.
  • False Advertising or Unclear Expectations From Service Providers DoorDash’s inventory of restaurants was impressive, but after this experience I have to wonder how many of those restaurants had a clear arrangement with them. Their email stated that they, “were experiencing operational issues with this restaurant.” I have to wonder if that means the restaurant was either not onboard with the delivery arrangement or not ready for it. Either way, the restaurant shouldn’t have been on the list. Issues happen, but a new business should avoid over promising and under delivering scenarios at all costs.
  • Lack of Customer Service – The initial cancellation notice was handled with a canned email message. My husband responded to that email expressing his frustration and received an automatic canned message saying they “will do our best to respond within 24 hours.” Then to add insult to injury, 48 hours later he received another canned message saying they appreciate the feedback and will send it “to the appropriate teams to address your concerns.” We never heard from them again. There was no person there to handle the issue. No apology. No offer of a free entrance with the next order. Nothing that showed they actually gave a shit we were dissatisfied.
    This last one is the gravest mistake of all. Ok, you’re a new company and there was an issue and maybe it was the restaurant’s fault. It happens. But the sign of a truly good company isn’t their lack of mistakes; it’s how they handle those mistakes. And DoorDash completely dropped the ball on this one. Had they been even somewhat willing to make good on the issue I likely wouldn’t even be writing this right now.

Learn from this business’s mistakes. Here is what your new business should keep in mind when preparing to greatly increase your marketing efforts:

  • Check Your Inbound Lead Process – Are you fully staffed to handle a rapid increase in leads? Is there is system in place to ensure these leads are handled effectively?
  • Check Your Product Execution Ability – Do you have enough of whatever it is you are offering in your promotion?
  • Check Your Customer Service Abilities – Do you have staff and systems in place to both manage the increase in leads and handle the issues that will almost certainly arise with this increase?
  • Check Your Conflict Resolution Protocol – Is your customer service staff trained and given the proper tools to resolve common issues. Ideally they should have a degree of discretion to resolve issues on their own (i.e. offer a small discount on a future order, refund an order under a certain amount, etc.), and then protocol in place for larger issues that require upper management intervention. Your customer service staff should never be in a situation where they simply say, “Sorry, we’ll take note of your complaint,” and leave the unhappy customer hanging with no resolution.

Have you experienced situations like this? Let me know what you think.