Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Common Courtesy Counts in the Customer Experience

By Candy Parks - Director, Integrated Insight

As children, some of the first words we learn are ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ - the common courtesies. Another important one is ‘you’re welcome’ - one we seem to forget as we grow up. In years of doing customer satisfaction research, I’m always amazed at how wowed consumers are by courteous behavior from businesses with which they interact. It’s often this common courtesy that sets one grocery store, bank, or hotel apart from another. As consumers, they are taught to HOPE for courteous behavior, but not to EXPECT it. So when a business delivers, it sets them apart. And voila, a consumer advocate is born. Consider how people talk about Publix, Nordstrom, Disney, Ritz Carlton, American Express, and Chase banks.

I’ve learned there are few acceptable replacements for the common courtesies, especially ‘you’re welcome.’ Ritz Carlton and Chick-Fil-A use ‘It’s my pleasure’ and that’s a winner. It conveys that they were happy to be of service. What customer doesn’t appreciate that?

In contrast, here are some that I think should be stricken from the customer-facing vocabulary. When a customer says ‘thank you,’ it is not appropriate to say:
  • ‘No problem.’ I just gave you $500 and I say ‘thank you’ for the service/attention/product/etc. And you say, ‘no problem.’ Really? Of course it’s not a problem for you. You just got $500 of my money!
  • ‘Sure thing.’ Well, yes, I guess I was a sure thing, but you’re not making me feel very good about it.
  • ‘Yeah,’ ‘Yep,’ ‘Uh huh’ or any other variation of ‘yes.’ I didn’t just ask you a question!
  • And the absolute worst response to ‘thank you’ is NO RESPONSE AT ALL. A head nod is not a substitution for actual words. Surely you can trouble yourself to say ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘thank YOU, I hope to see you again.’
If you want to create a customer experience that is outstanding in your field, create a culture of courtesy. Make it a basic expectation of how you deal with each other in the workplace (because you are modeling the behavior), and how you deal with your customers. Train for it, monitor it, and hold people accountable for the behavior. It will cost you nothing in capital, but could net you loyalty and increased revenue. I drive past two other grocery stores to get to my Publix – and I pay more for my groceries – because I like the atmosphere and the way I’m treated. I don’t think I’m alone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Pizza Should be Square

By Kirsten Snyder - Director, Integrated Insight

The announcement of Sbarro’s bankruptcy filing this week got me thinking about Pizza. And although Sbarro’s problems are much bigger than just the price of their pizza, I wonder if traditional pizza chains couldn’t benefit from abandoning their traditional round pies.

Have you ever ordered a pizza and asked how many pieces are in a medium vs. a large?  Chances are that you have been told 8 in one and 10 in other.  However, in the world of round pizza not all slices are created equal. So, how much pizza do you really get?

Pizza companies try to answer this question by using the diameter or with large and overlapping ranges of the number of people it feeds. Both of these methods still leave much interpretation to the customers.

Think back to your high school geometry class. When you calculate the area of a 12” circle versus a 14” circle, although there is only a 2” difference in diameter the difference in area is about a third.

So, the more difficult it is to understand the difference in size, the more difficult it is to see the value in the buy up structure. This makes it challenging for pizza companies to ideally stratify pricing by the size of the pie.
For example, at my local Domino’s a small 10” cheese pizza is $5.99, a medium 12” is $7.99 and a large 14” is $9.99.

As customers contemplate what size pizza they actually need, the buy up structure easily draws them into the largest pie without a second thought.  But it might not be optimal for the customer or for the pizza company.

That leads me to my point:  square pizzas are better. I will admit that square pizzas create the undesirable middle pieces with no crust. And in Naples, Italy the mention of square pizza would probably cause a riot, but financially it gives companies more pricing leverage through a clearer buy up structure. It is easier to communicate that a small square pizza gives you nine 3-inch pieces while a large pizza gives you 25 3-inch pieces – more than double that of a small pizza. So, now pizza companies can optimize their pricing structure, allowing them to take more pricing, while still providing the strong value proposition on the largest size pizzas.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Consumer products and overwhelming choice

How much is too much?

By Joni Newkirk - CEO, Integrated Insight

I see it frequently:  The blank stare at a shelf in the grocery store or the menu board at a fast food restaurant.  I know it well as I often find myself in the same situation, looking for a certain item and finding everything but.  It doesn’t seem to stem from too many brands, but rather, the ever increasing number of choices for almost identical products within a brand.   Sometimes, it seems the simpler the product, the more complicated the choice, like ordering a Starbucks coffee.

Take for example, Triscuits.  I love the original Triscuit, but more than once I’ve walked out of the store empty handed.  The original was either sold out or shoved so far away that it became difficult and time consuming to find.  Today, you can buy Triscuits in at least 15 flavors, not including Thin Crisps.  This photo, posted by Ted Parsnips at www.tedparsnips.com, sums up the resulting display that consumers are faced with every day.
Drive-thru menus arguably provide an elevated level of frustration for the consumer.   Even younger generations who have been raised in the world of overwhelming choice can find it less than inviting as evident from this post by my 22 year old son:

“Taco Bell’s drive thru menu is really big and intimidating and I just can’t handle it sometimes.  You’ve got someone behind you in line, the lady in the box waiting on my order, and I’m trying to sort through what seems like thousands of grandes, chalupas, locos, cantinas and whatever the hell a gordita is to find what I want.  It’s like the first world problem of our generation.”

Which led me to wonder how often companies study “non-purchasers” versus mining the transactional data among those who did purchase.  Do they really know why consumers behave as they do?  Does my neighborhood grocery store know how often I didn’t buy a product because I lacked the patience to spend more time searching?  Does a fast food restaurant realize how many customers balked because the line was moving too slow as others studied a menu of overwhelming choice?   Does an online merchant know how often their carts are abandoned because consumers run out of time studying the long lists of almost identical items?  A recent article in QSR confirms drive-thru transactions are indeed becoming longer, but is the increased choice really paying off?  According to a now infamous study on the purchase of jam, when faced with significantly more choice, consumers were far less likely to make a purchase.
“Congratulations! You’ve created a taco grand burrito.”  

Working toward more streamlined and simplified selling may help manage the choice. For those that know what they want – “I’ll have the Beefy Crunch Burrito with Flamin' Hot Fritos, please” - have at it. Perhaps mobile apps to pre-order will alleviate some of the pain, but others may be better served by throwing them a “build your own” lifeline, much like the Cantina Bell menu attempts to do for a limited portion of the overall Taco Bell offering. 

We all want it our way, so the trend toward more choice is likely to continue. Just don’t make us think too hard.