Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

And Would You Like A Free Timezone With Your Burger, Ma’am?

…and would you like that orange-juice medium or large?” says the voice taking the lady’s drive-thru breakfast order at McDonalds. “Fine, that’ll be $12.40 in total. Have a wonderful day!”  Nothing unusual there, you would think, except that the girl taking the order is in a call center 150 miles outside of Los Angeles, and the lady ordering breakfast on the squawk-box is in Honolulu, two and a half thousand miles away.

The next customer the LA order girl talks to is in Mississippi. Seconds later, she logs an order for a gentleman in Wyoming. She is taking and relaying orders for the McDonalds morning shift in a geographic area covering six time zones.

The technology is not complicated.  The drive-thru McDonalds squawk-box is connected to a closed internet relay of packet data.  The order girl in California simply taps on-screen buttons to file incoming requests with the computer system of the restaurant concerned.  The order instantaneously arrives on their screen, and local workers carry the food and beverages the few yards to the customer waiting at the collection window.  No-one knows or cares that their request has made a round trip of several thousand miles.  If customers are told what’s actually going on, they describe the experience as “weird”.

But what was wrong with the old system, with the squawk-box talking direct to the restaurant itself? The case for long-distance, centralized order-processing is based on efficiency and cost-saving. It helps with a growing problem of restaurant workers dropping the ball because of dividing their attention between too many tasks, like order-taking, serving, counting out change, and cleaning.  

But the big gain from remote call-centering is optimized time-usage. It might not seem important, but there is typically a 10-15 second gap between one car driving off with its order logged and the next car pulling up at the microphone point. While the Honolulu breakfast customer is idling forward to the collection window, the girl in California can be using those seconds to talk to a different customer in Baltimore, who has already pulled up to the microphone. The increased order-count raises efficiency. Customers get snappier service.  It’s about “saving seconds to make millions”.

How does the order girl near LA feel?  There are advantages in working in the call center rather than the restaurant itself. She can wear whatever clothes she likes. She can roll her eyes and make faces at irritating customers, or the ones with funny accents — they’re hundreds of miles away and they’ll never know!  And she doesn’t have to go home from work smelling of fried hamburger…

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: USA / North America Product – Business / Professional