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Confessions of a Former Pizza Boy: Sometimes, Experiences Don’t Need to Be “Improved”

Customer Experience

Today, there are three basic ways to get food prepared by others. One, go to a restaurant. Sit, order and eat.  Two, call ahead for takeout. Three, call and have it delivered.  In high school, I was part of that delivery supply chain – I was a pizza boy.

Oddly, I loved this job. The time spent driving around the San Fernando Valley at night, on the clock but, somehow, my own boss, and the promise of the next big tip. This isn’t even counting the chance interactions, the (occasionally) compelling invitations, and friends I made.

And now, Dominos is threatening to destroy it. Good use of words, actually, since the tool they’re choosing is a drone.

Look, Up In The Sky! It’s a…. Pizza Drone?

Confessions of a Former Pizza Boy: Sometimes, Experiences Dont Need to Be “Improved” image make my dinnerEarly this summer, Dominoes UK delivered a few pizzas to their customers using drones – potentially relegating the pizza boy to the recycling bin, threatening both their social lives and income.

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Despite some obvious benefits (fast, hot) it’s pretty clear this was a publicity stunt (note Adweek’s coverage of the “DomiCopter” live video). That said, it may also be a glimpse into the future—perhaps not of pizza delivery, but of a world where changes to every existing process, supply chain and experience may be right around the corner—or flying overhead.

Since the FAA is still working on plans for commercial use of drones in the U.S., its likely there won’t be much progress for at least a few years. And of course, the FAA will need to reconcile opinions around urban drone use; as with most things these days, passions appear to be running high. (Deer Trail, a town in Colorado, is thinking about passing a law legalizing drone hunting.)

Nonetheless, the idea of further optimizing any experience is a good one. But as appealing as the idea of drones may be, how can any firm know what should be improved – not just what can be improved – when it comes to delivering better customer experiences?

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Last April, we published an article on Ron Johnson’s ill-fated attempts to improve the JC Penney experience, ultimately costing him his job – and the company over $1 billion. In 2008, Walmart de-cluttered store shelves, boosting satisfaction while sales tanked; a result similar to that of Office Depot’s 2011 experiment in improving physical experiences with things such as cleaner bathrooms and less clutter in aisles.

This is an issue we’ve seen many times—the apparently logical customer experience fix isn’t always the right one for your customers, or your company. The problem is, many companies don’t do the work required to find out what the right answers are. Surprisingly, 89 percent of customer-related decisions made by marketers are made based on “intuition,” hunches and second-hand information.

And making changes based on partial information is often much worse (more expensive, time and resource consuming) than doing nothing at all. There’s no point at all in making “experience improvements” just for the sake of doing so.

Improving customer experience in any meaningful or systemic way requires knowing what your customers want, feel and need, and what it takes for you to give it to them—looked at from the outside in and inside out.  It also requires a crystal clear understanding of where and how these improvements tie back to real economic value.

Know Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing… Before You Do It.

The truth is, every firm has countless opportunities to improve customer experience. None of us is, nor should we exp ect to be, perfect. But identifying these gaps, then developing an understanding of what aspects of experience drive measurable value, is the place to start.

There’s not a company we’ve worked with (no matter how large) that has unlimited resources when it comes to improving customer experience. Which is why customer experiences–even less-than-ideal experiences–don’t always need to be improved.  But don’t make any decisions until you know what does need to improved, and why.

This way, you won’t risk upsetting customers by leaving a critical interaction unfixed. Or hurting your bottom line by fixing experiences that simply aren’t that important.  Even more importantly, consider the effects your changes will have on your people, and your customers.

Chances are, there’s the equivalent of a pizza boy out there advocating for brand, building loyal advocates one customer at a time. Please, don’t cut him or her off unless and until you know it’s the right thing for your brand, your customers and your bottom line.

And who knows? Maybe these erstwhile advocates will be happy to continue doing so for little more than tips and the occasional invitation to join in the fun with your customers…

This blog originally ran on CMO.com, where Michael Hinshaw writes the weekly “Get Customer-Centric” blog.

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