Upsells may not be a Slam Dunk for Dunkin’

dunkin-donut-upsellTrying to upsell a customer is nothing new. McDonald’s made a cliché of the practice by asking billions and billions, “Do you want fries with that?” And, their success has hardly gone unnoticed. From grocery stores to coffee shops, polite – and sometimes not so polite – nudges to add a bit to your order are commonplace. But, Ronn Torossian says, even if they are expected, upsells are not always the best PR move. A lesson Dunkin’ Donuts may soon learn about.

Now, it should come as a shock to absolutely no one to learn that Dunkin’ Donuts does most of its business before lunch. Sure, the afternoon crowd will pop in for an iced coffee on a regular basis, but the cash crop flies off the shelves in the AM hours. In response, Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis has told reporters he directs his employees who are taking orders to upsell to afternoon customers. Because most afternoon customers are in no rush to be anywhere, employees have more time to engage them in conversations, most of which begin: “How about a donut or cookie along with that drink?”

While franchisees might be excited about this news, consumers might not be so pleased. Sure, they expect it at McDonald’s, but sooner or later the practice wears thin. Mainly because the strategy works so well, so often. The average person might feel they are above such emotional manipulation, but the numbers say otherwise.

And, let’s be honest, when you go into a coffee shop or fast food joint, do you find yourself glancing back up at the menu board or into the case long after you have decided what you planned to order? That acknowledgment of temptation, according to research, translates into being more susceptible to a friendly suggestion from a smiling cashier.

So, will this new edict turn customers off? Well, we’d like to think so, and some of us may even say so. But, the reality is much different. We will still go, and we will still buy. Because they may make it feel like it was our idea.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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