OCR of License Plates in Drive Through

Background

The app is the Taco Bell mobile app; customers can earn rewards, get coupons, and order food for pickup.  After conducting customer interviews and a small survey (n=2), the biggest consumer problem is the need to get fast food into the customer’s mouth faster.  The existing pickup experience has too much friction; it requires the customer to tell us when he is on his way and to read a number to the cashier.

 

Feature Overview

The new feature would rely on license plate optical character recognition (OCR) scanners to notify the food preparation team to make the food when the customer pulls into the parking lot and to notify the cashier which car to hand the food to in the drive through.  Taco Bell and Dominos are the market leaders in using technology to improve their fast food deliver experience, but the same feature would improve any app to physical pickup experience.

 

Personas

Our target customer is “David Drive Through”.  He has a smart phone with a data plan that he uses continually.  David eats Taco Bell more than once per week.  He orders the same thing 60% of the time, but he is attracted to new items and specials.  David uses the drive through when he is on the way to work and he will not eat here if he thinks it will take too long.  If Dave comes with friends, they will come into the store so they can each pay separately (future feature idea).

 

User Stories

  1. As David placing my first online order, I want to enter my license plate number, so that I can get my food faster.

 

  1. As David placing my second order online, I just want to pick my food and hit the order button, so that the experience can be as transparent as possible.

-Verify that the customer can hit one button to repeat last order.

 

  1. As David after I receive my food, I want to receive an in app notification, so that I can know my credit card was charged.

-Verify that there is a feedback mechanism in the alert to block fraudulent purchases.

 

  1. As the food preparation team, I want David’s food added to my order que when he pulls into the parking lot, so we can have it hot and ready for him.

 

  1. As the cashier, I want to know when I should hold David’s food out the window, so he does not even have to stop.

 

  1. As the restaurant manager, I want to report against in app purchase in my location, so that I can manage my business.

 

Validation/Modeling

The expectation is that this feature will save time for the cashier, make the food preparation more effective, drive new customers into stores, and increase the frequency that existing customers visit the store.  We will measure or estimate each of these variables to justify the cost of two OCR scanners in each location and the development expense.  I propose we pilot this feature in the Sioux Falls market, where we can iteratively improve the feature before a nationwide launch.

Great Products Require Iterative Improvement

People coming in from the outside, as well as employees, look at the process and say, “you know, if you would just get the story right—just write the script and get it right the first time, before you make the film—it will be much easier and cheaper to make.” And they’re absolutely right. It is, however, irrelevant because even if you’re really good, your first pass or guess at what the film should be will only get you to the B level. You can inexpensively make a B-level film. In fact, because the barriers to entry into this field now are quite low, you can get to B easily.
If you want to get to A, then you have to make changes in response to the problems revealed in your first attempt and then the second attempt, et cetera. Think of building a house. The cheapest way to build it is to draw up the plan for the house and then build to those plans. But if you’ve ever been through this process, then you know that as the building takes shape, you say, “what was I thinking? This doesn’t work at all.” Looking at plans is not the same thing as seeing them realized. Most people who have gone through this say you have to have some extra money because it’s going to cost more than you think. And the biggest reason it costs more than you think is that along the way, you realize something you didn’t know when you started.

-Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar

From McKinsey.

How to Give Feedback

“There’s a Russian anecdote about a man who loved his dog so much that when the vet told him he needed to cut the dog’s tail off he couldn’t do it all at once, so he did it an inch at a time. Don’t be that kind of manager.”

Giving unclear, infrequent feedback has somewhat of the same effect — though slightly less violent. You end up hurting the person receiving the feedback more, even though you’re just doing what your parents always told you empathetic people do: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

This is where Scott says she’s seen managers make the most mistakes. “No one sets out to be unclear in their feedback, but somewhere along the line things change. You’re worried about hurting the person’s feelings so you hold back. Then, when they don’t improve because you haven’t told them they are doing something wrong, you wind up firing them. Not so nice after all…”

In order to give people the feedback they need to get better, you can’t give a damn about whether they like you or not. “Giving feedback is very emotional. Sometimes you get yelled at. Sometimes you get tears. These are hard, hard conversations.”

Read the full article here.