Deliveroo balancing customer service with the rights of riders

While the company might be nailing customer experience, it needs to be sure the rights of drivers aren't the casualty.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

For food delivery service Deliveroo, personalisation and an exceptional customer experience is at the top of its agenda.

And while Deliveroo CIO Will Sprunt earlier this month at Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent detailed the various ways the former startup is succeeding at that, he touched on the constant battle his company faces when navigating jurisdictional nuances and defining what it means to be a rider for the company.

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In countries such as Australia, the company faces legal action from riders concerned about being underpaid while performing deliveries for Deliveroo.

One former rider filed a lawsuit against the company in August for allegedly paying him AU$10.50 an hour, which would only be around half of the Australian minimum wage of AU$19.49.

ZDNet asked Sprunt if a strong focus on personalisation and customer satisfaction had come at the cost of the rights of the gig economy workers.

"What's really interesting about this area is actually we're in a space where we're actually defining, in a lot of ways, a new sort of work," he said in response.

"What's been a big challenge for us is actually trying to provide some more benefits that you would associate with more traditional employment for those people in gig economy practices without losing the flexibility which they have said that they value -- the ability to go, 'ah, I'm not actually doing anything tonight, I'm just going to log on, grab a couple of shifts' and our riders consistently say this is the thing they value most about working with us."

Sprunt said if this type of flexible work is able to be supplemented, for example, with sick leave and the ability to accrue holiday days, it "would be amazing".

"We've worked with the governments actually in the UK and France to try and change the legislation so we're able to offer these benefits without considering these people as full time employees," he said.

If a rider is deemed a full time employee, Deliveroo would then be required, Sprunt said, to schedule shifts and change the way that riders work and interact.

"We've made some progress there which is very promising, but I think what's excited me about this is, this is us defining a new framework of working and as much as we like to innovate and go quickly, it has to be a partnership with regulators and governments in order to actually make that a reality," Sprunt explained.

See also: Amazon invests in UK mobile food courier Deliveroo

Deliveroo operates in over 13 countries, which Sprunt said means the company has to tailor its offering from country to country in order to nail the differences in markets.

"Every country will think about their food in a very different way and as a company we have to respect that and understand what's going to resonate well in a local market … otherwise you're not being a true local player," he said.

He said elements such as Australia's very high expectations for service levels and Japan's emphasis on food specialisation are reflections of these local markets and "very clear national pride points when it comes to food" that the company has to take account of.

"We have to think very carefully about how we use technology to help us with that," he said.

Sprunt said it's also about Deliveroo being mindful of the interests of restaurants and riders when it comes to navigating nuances.

"For local businesses -- a lot of input into our own tech roadmap is to say it's really important that we comply with local regulations, do business in a way which is structured right for the B2B partners, and that becomes a key component to our roadmap for rolling out those as well," he explained.

From a technology perspective, Sprunt said the technology that is being employed is dramatically different to how it would be set up with a mainframe system, where each time Deliveroo wanted to do something, time, effort, and money would need to be thrown at the problem to ensure the infrastructure that was required was there.

"With a cloud-based infrastructure, it's just, 'okay, this is a new feature we want to develop, we dreamed it up, how do we prototype it', and we just do it," he said. "A lot of complexity about the investment case, a lot of complexity about raising that capital and where you put it has been taken out, which is fantastic for us obviously as a startup company, but speaks exactly the same benefits if you're trying to drive the same innovation at a large organisation."

Asha Barbaschow travelled to re:Invent as a guest of AWS.


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