Can the CEO of a company also be its food delivery partner? Looks like it is truly possible at Deliveroo. The global food-delivery company’s top management team left the boardroom and chose to drive along with their delivery executives in the bike lane. In an effort to experience the frontline operations, the company has introduced a unique and enjoyable initiative called “We Are Deliveroo”. Executives from the company decided to temporarily set aside their formal attire and hit the streets as delivery riders, bringing tasty meals to hungry customers.
Among those who enthusiastically embraced this challenge was Sashi Somavarapu, vice president of engineering and country head, Deliveroo, India. Based in Hyderabad, Somavarapu willingly exchanged his usual desk job for an adventurous day of delivering food and shared his experience with us:
Deliveroo functions around three of its primary customers — the paying customer that avails Deliveroo’s services; the food partners, that is, restaurants or grocers; and the riders or logistics providers. In trying to significantly emphasise on and understand all three aspects of the marketplace, the company came up with this unique initiative.
Why did they do it?
“As we examine the three facets of our marketplace, it is crucial for us to genuinely comprehend and show empathy towards the experiences of our customers,” shares Somavarapu. He also shares that this is something that was initiated by their founder, Will Shu. When Shu established the company, he personally acted as the first rider delivering food to customers. He aimed to gain a thorough understanding of how the food being delivered to customers travelled. He paid attention to details such as the insulation provided by the riders’ bags, the types of food that retained heat, the foods that tended to cool down during transportation, and even how items such as pizzas could be damaged if not properly handled.
“This invaluable first-hand experience helps us identify and implement convenient features for all three parties involved in our platform. We have separate apps for customers, riders and restaurants or grocers. By understanding how these three components fit together, we strive to provide the best service output.”
Sashi Somavarapu, vice president of engineering and country head, Deliveroo, India
Optimal customer experience: The primary aim was to give the customers an optimal experience. And in case the experience somehow failed to be up to the mark, then outline the steps to be taken to make it better. “Recognising the importance of the aforementioned factors, we strongly believe that anyone involved in developing a product for all three segments of the marketplace must have a thorough understanding of the practical realities on the ground. This understanding guides us in crafting our products to ensure that we provide the finest possible experience to our customers. This serves as the fundamental framework of what we aim to achieve at Deliveroo,” points out Somavarapu.
Rider’s perspective: Another great aspect that the company prioritises is gaining a ‘rider’s perspective’. The team fully immersed themselves in the role by wearing the rider jacket, hopping on a bike, and utilising the rider app. This allowed them to experience the process of delivering orders to unfamiliar locations, understanding restaurant wait times and the variety of food being delivered. Additionally, it also helped them get an understanding of their customers’ experience on receiving their food through the app.
“This invaluable first-hand experience helps us identify and implement convenient features for all three parties involved in our platform. We have separate apps for customers, riders and restaurants or grocers. By understanding how these three components fit together, we strive to provide the best service output,” explains Somavarapu.
Customer care: The management team also got involved in a regular programme that required them to act as customer-care agents. This involved actively engaging with live emails, participating in sessions to address customer problems, and handling various types of customer communication such as calls and chats. These activities were conducted across different countries, focusing primarily on locations where they have the necessary resources to conduct live sessions with the help of their care and trust agents.
These are some of the activities that the management team performed while walking in the shoes of their delivery executives. Moreover, more than 500 employees also had the opportunity to volunteer for various roles, such as being a rider, working in Deliveroo’s customer- care team, assisting at editions (delivery-only kitchens), or participating in ‘Hop’ sites (rapid grocery service), globally. This hands-on involvement allowed employees to directly experience consumer and rider research.
Riders’ experience: Sharing his thoughts and experiences on the initiative, Somavarapu adds, “Diving into the specifics is crucial, as the experience gained is truly invaluable. It is necessary to have first-hand experience in order to comprehend the workings of each area within our company. While we are primarily exposed to the customer side of the app, it is essential to spend time using the rider app and actually complete deliveries of customer orders. This allows us to fully grasp the journey of an order, understanding the process from start to finish.”
He mentioned how riding a bicycle through the streets of London was an adventurous and invaluable way to navigate the delivery process, as it provides a unique perspective and first-hand understanding of the rider’s role in the firm’s operations.
To facilitate riders’ experience, the company has an algorithm in the rider app that operates in a manner similar to the experience of booking a ride on the Uber app. “Just as drivers arrive to pick you up, in our delivery system, they receive orders to be picked up through the rider app. This experience allows riders to assess whether they can undertake a delivery that requires a longer distance. This decision-making process depends on the rider’s willingness to take on that specific order,” explains Somavarapu.
“When designing such systems, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the orders being assigned to riders. This information can only be truly known when on the ground. This hands-on experience provided me with valuable insights. I had the opportunity to observe the activities taking place in restaurants during the time of order pickups, which further expanded my understanding. Delivering orders to customers and receiving their feedback on factors such as order- delivery time was also incredibly valuable in shaping my perspective,” admits Somavarapu.
“We need to consider their comfort while riding and ensure that the packaging materials provided do not make their journey uncomfortable. By addressing these concerns, we can safeguard the quality of the food being delivered and prevent any disappointment on the customer’s end when they receive their order. It requires a holistic approach to ensure that all parties involved have a positive experience throughout the delivery process.”
Sashi Somavarapu, vice president of engineering and country head, Deliveroo, India
Somavarapu shares the major challenges that emerged while he was out delivering a soup to one of the customers. He was informed that soups have the potential to spill while riding a bike, which made him extremely cautious during the delivery. It was crucial for him to pay close attention to how well the restaurant had sealed the soup container to prevent any spillage, even while ensuring that the customer received the hot soup without any issues.
“Experiencing such situations firsthand, made me realise the gravity of the situation. It felt like a high-stakes event, where the slightest mishap could lead to an undesirable outcome,” shares Somavarapu. He goes on to say how “these are the kinds of experiences that one needs to encounter in order to truly understand and appreciate the challenges involved in the process”.
The experience helped the company understand that it is essential to empathise with both sides involved in the process. First, the restaurant must be made aware that the order will be transported on an unstable ride, with the rider navigating twists and turns. It becomes crucial to ensure that the packaging is secure enough to prevent any spillage. This aspect can be seen as a form of coaching, where the restaurant needs to understand the challenges faced during delivery and take appropriate measures.
Another important facet is to empathise with the riders themselves. “We need to consider their comfort while riding and ensure that the packaging materials provided do not make their journey uncomfortable. By addressing these concerns, we can safeguard the quality of the food being delivered and prevent any disappointment on the customer’s end when they receive their order. It requires a holistic approach to ensure that all parties involved have a positive experience throughout the delivery process,” asserts Somavarapu.
Innovations & modifications: This first-hand experience helped the team adopt numerous changes and modify their packaging approach. Now, Deliveroo has a dedicated team that carefully observes the practical aspects of transporting food and develops innovative ideas to enhance its services. The platform considers factors such as the temperature sensitivity of hot and cold foods, as well as the need for spill-proof packaging for items such as soups. Based on their observations, they formulate strategies and educate restaurants on the appropriate packaging to ensure the best possible experience for both riders and customers.
Additionally, these experiences have resulted in various innovations within their food- and grocery-delivery space. Some of these innovations include the use of thermal sealing, spill-proof containers, and robust packaging that can be recycled. Additionally, efforts have been made to develop containers that enable reheating of food, even after extended travel time. These advancements aim to ensure that the quality and freshness of the food are maintained throughout the delivery process.
“The initiative has had a very positive impact and provides an excellent opportunity for our employees to gain insights into all aspects of our marketplace and develop their knowledge and skills. We will continue to drive this initiative and encourage more employees to take part in enhancing their understanding of all three facets of the marketplace, which brings us closer to achieving our goal of becoming the definitive food-delivery company,” concludes Somavarapu.
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