Touch screens in your pocket? Fine. Phones are generally filthy (in fact, the filthiest thing we touch daily), but at least it’s your filth.
Touch screens in public places? This is a bit sketchy. Even on a good day, they’re veritable Petri dishes for germs.
Touch screens in public places during a pandemic? Nope, absolutely not.
Restaurants and hospitality have been the hardest-hit industries by shutdowns, and many locations are doing away with communal drink machines altogether to reduce points of contact. Rightly so; every risk they can reduce is worthwhile, with COVID cases spiking aggressively in several US states (California, Texas and Florida in particular).
To combat this, Coca-Cola has introduced a solution in the form of touch-free Freestyle drink machines. Customers can now use their smartphone to scan a QR code located on the machine, which pulls up the usual drink menu – no touching or app installing required.
Of course, it won’t make choosing between a dozen different flavors of Dasani water any easier. It also means that unfortunate users of Nokia and similar burner phones will simply have to go thirsty. Or maybe bring a Q-tip.
We still tend to believe the experts that the best thing for safety is to avoid restaurants and bars whenever possible. But, at least you no longer have to brave the grubby touch screen to get your refreshment. Pandemic or not, we can see the feature becoming a must-use for the germaphobic and health-conscious alike.
The jury is still out on whether customers will actually make use this feature. While we think it’s a clever, low-cost solution to an otherwise sticky problem, there remains a question of how willing people are to pull out their phone for that extra step. Personally, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually used my own QR code scanner, but maybe that’s just me. There’s still time for it to catch on.
The company seems resigned to the chance that this QR feature will be a passing curiosity, at least once the pandemic slows down. VP of Coca-Cola Freestyle Chris Hellmann was quoted, saying “I’m not sure how much we’re going to see consumers use it. And I’m okay with that.”
That attitude might suggest that this sort of safety measure isn’t any better or worse for the company. Realistically, it isn’t; it doesn’t take much effort to update the drink machines, and Coca-Cola stands to gain more than they lose if business picks up again. However, even if it’s not much of a sacrifice, the gesture will still pay off in the long run. Any perception that Coca-Cola is making efforts for the customers’ safety will stick with people, even if they don’t remember what exactly was done. We can only hope that Coca-Cola continues to set a positive example with their local coronavirus actions – US businesses need all the positive role models they can get.
Besides that, Hellmann’s response shows that the customer is first in Coca-Cola’s process, the very definition of customer-centricity. For keeping customers’ safety in mind, and knowing you might not see a return on it, I say kudos. Or, more appropriately:
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I’m Worthix’s Head of Content, editor and producer of the Voices of CX Blog and Podcast and backup watercooler comedian (see Peter Sooter). I’m a Film Major who enjoys good writing (books, too), martial arts and competitive games, virtual or not.