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Interesting Marketing/Sales Technique

This week when I was in the Tim Hortons drive through line, a very very famous Canadian coffee/donut chain, and I noticed something very peculiar. When I got to the order kiosk in my car, a very friendly voice greeted me and talked about their latest breakfast ordering. Nothing out of the ordinary, the tone of the voice might have been a little more pleasant than usual, but nothing too unusual. Anyone whose ever worked as a cashier knows that after saying “Hi. How may I help you” many times over, that you get a little less enthusiastic with time. Anyways, like I said nothing too too special, so I went ahead and proceeded with my order. However once I had finished another voice came on to give me my total and tell me to drive forward.

That was odd. At first I thought maybe I was in the middle of an employee shift change, or that maybe I had missed something entirely. However because my car window was still opened when I drove up, I could hear the next car as they drove up to the booth and the same very friendly voice started with the exact promotional description of their new breakfast menu item. The person ordered, and again the second voice came back to give the amount and tell the person to drive forward. Then as I moved up further, although I could barely hear, I did notice the same pattern again.

What’s interesting about this is that it’s the first time I’ve personally seen a company use an automated greeting at a drive through (I’ve heard of order being taken in another country, but not an automated greeting). But what’s VERY interesting is that it seems to be very effective! Why not do this? Firstly you’re guaranteed that every single drive through customer will get a very pleasant greeting. Second, you know that whatever you’re trying to promote will be promoted. Thirdly, you will get exactly the corrent content and tone you’re looking for, it will be a professional voice. And lastly, other than a few people, no one will really notice it!

Now the question becomes just how effective is this technique? I don’t know, only Tim Hortons knows this. But from anecdotal evidence, I can say that the last time I was at Timmie’s (as it’s affectionately nicknamed in Canada), I saw many people ordering this new breakfast menu item. Possibly it’s due to TV commercials, possibly to other marketing avenues, but this definitely can’t be hurting its sales conversions.

Even if it isn’t that effective, the cost of using this technique can’t be very expensive! And as a worse case scenario, you get a consistent and standard greeting that’s guaranteed for all locations. It’s great to see companies trying and testing new marketing techniques in the wild. I suspect this one will become more and more common with time, at least until it’s overused.

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  •     Eric
    · February 19th, 2007  · 10:43 am  · Permalink

    Hello Steph,

    Yes they have been doing it a while. During the day (not the morning rush) they have a standard, pleasant greeting.

    I agree a warm, consistent greeting is good.

    Another angle I believe is that during the time of the greeting, the employees don’t have to be greeting, they are processing previous orders, getting ready to process yours.
    Just like for many years now having an automated system on directory assistance. Reducing the amount of “Hum I think it’s on King Street” “Ah try Queen Street” The directory assistance system I believe illiminates pauses when listened by the attendant.

    In addition to consistency, it’s saving time, for the company, hoping it’s not a total “production” issue but a quality issue for both clients and staff.

    From a results point of view, it must work. I know like other multi nationals…like http://www.landlordmax.com they test, test, test.

    I was in London,ON a few years back, and a few Timmies were on a six month trial of those LCD panels inside the store and in the drive-thru line. The results were positive, I would imagine, as now most locations have them.
    I have been “victim” of the success of these methods: Pulling in for a quick coffee, having a short video of the donut of the month “pumpkin spice” and said: I’ll try one of the new donuts. When I first saw them, I said: Is seeing a video of a soup being put in a bowl going to make me want to have a soup, when all I want is a coffee?

    From a convenience, customer experience point of view, and a big time saver for client and resources. I have been to my bank’s ATM and they now have “take out your regular withdrawal” option. Saving time to pick: savings/checking/account/amount etc.. you just chose the option and get your cash. 4-8 keystrokes, mini decisions add up.

    Efficiency in enterprise!

  •     Steph
    · February 22nd, 2007  · 10:47 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Eric,

    I didn’t realize it had been going on for some time. Based on how I run LandlordMax, they must be continuing it because it’s effective!

    And you’re absolutely right, it can also be used very effectively to save time and money, if done right! That’s they key. Too many times we see companies getting you to enter in information in an automated system only to ask you again by the “real” person you finally get (and every person thereafter).

    It’s interesting that it worked on you. I’m sure it’s worked on me in the past as well, I just probably wasn’t aware of it. It really brings home the point that not all marketing needs to be direct and in your face, sometimes subtle smaller techniques can be quite effective as well.

  •     Lucy
    · March 1st, 2007  · 5:18 pm  · Permalink

    Great post. Gets me to thinking if a drive-thru is using technology to their advantage, there are so many possibilities for the rest of us! It’s not just the IT Departments that need computer skills anymore, it’s an imperative prerequisite for all job facets, including the cashier at the local grocery or the real estate agent.

  •     Steph
    · March 1st, 2007  · 10:55 pm  · Permalink

    Thank you. And you’re absolutely right! It’s affecting everyone. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you probably need to also see how technology can help you.

  •     Lucy
    · March 2nd, 2007  · 9:42 am  · Permalink

    Thanks, Steph! Yes, and I do try keeping up with the changing times myself. It’s very important.

  •     Eric Carter
    · October 30th, 2008  · 2:27 pm  · Permalink

    I absolutely hate automated greetings. I feel like I’ve been tricked every time a different voice comes through the speaker after I place my order.

    I’ve called and complained to a few local restaurants about this practice. One place explained it was to help decrease wait time. I, however, would rather that the order-taker ask me to wait for a short time if they’re too busy at the moment to take the order.

    I refuse to be greeted by a machine, and I will happily take my business to other establishments.

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