This is a story about the ‘best’ pizza I will choose never to eat again.
Last week I tried the new local pizzeria as they provided a gift certificate as part of its welcome to the neighborhood promotion. So I called the number and this is what I got
“Yeah what do you want”
“I’d like to order a pizza,”
“Got first name with that ?”
The rest of the call went about the same. I never thought that ordering a pizza would be an adventure, but it was.
When I went to pick up the pizza, the adventure continued. I stepped up to the counter and realized that this was a small pizza operation, the owner and one other person.
The owner told me I was in for the pizza experience of a lifetime and that I had just purchased the best pizza I would ever eat. Why I asked. It’s the best because it’s New Jersey style pizza and New Jersey is the best.
OK , I thought, I have friends in the Garden State and I am sure that they make good pizza.
The owner then when onto say that he would give me $100 dollars if I tried his pizza and said I did not like it. I could have the $100, but if I took the money, I could never walk through the (expletive deleted) door again.
That type of challenge may work in Patterson (NJ) but this was the western suburbs of Chicago. Being a Midwesterner and somewhat conservative, I declined the offer and waited for my pizza.
Ten minutes of this discussion went on, the owner finally reached for a box that had been sitting on top of the oven and handed me my pizza. It was there all along, but like a time share condo advertisement I guess I needed to go through the sales pitch before I got my pizza. I did not know they had time shares in New Jersey.
Here is the catch – the pizza was good. Not the greatest I have ever tasted, but good enough that we should order from there again in the future.
The problem is that we probably never will.
Not because the Pizza’s bad, but because the customer experience was terrible. The owner forgot that people want good pizza, but also just a dash of customer service, a friendly voice on the phone and prompt delivery when you come by to pick it up. After all it’s a pizza, its not like its an IT system I have to live with for the next twenty years.
When you have choice, you value more than product quality
The owner forgot that how he makes the customer look and feel are a significant sources of value. “Look Good” and “Feel Good” value sources are often overlooked in favor of value based on solving a problem or enabling an opportunity. In this case the taste of the pizza was supposed to be more than worth the hassle of getting it. Unfortunately that is not true, at least in this case.
As the customer I have choice. I choose when and where I get my pizza. I can choose because I have options – there are at least a dozen places to get pizza, some as good or even better than the ‘best pizza’ I finished on Friday.
Choice is what makes ‘look good’ and ‘feel good’ salient in a marketplace. Look good and feel good can be the deciding factor when the difference between pizzas or software for that matter is small. How you look and feel determines the difference when people work to calculate best total value.
Choice is more than ‘customer experience’ it’s a recognition that how you work with me, make me feel, and make me look is at least as important as the solution you deliver. Deliver a customer experience that is so standardized and bland and I feel like a number – and I will go elsewhere.
IT better pay attention, because businesses are gaining choice
This really matters for IT executives as their business peers have increasing levels of choice in how they provision IT, applications, infrastructure, etc. With more choice, how you make your business partners look to themselves and each other, how they feel about their working with IT, etc
This is a real problem for IT professionals given their traditional relationship with the business. A relationship that is often defined by with limited trust, a view that each side does not understand or appreciate the other, and a culture that places IT professionals outside the line management of the company.
CIOs and IT professionals need to embed value in terms of both the technology they provide as well as the way they work with the business if they hope to remain the object of choice. Otherwise they are like the pizzeria owner mentioned above.
Pizza this Friday night?
Yes, but probably from somewhere else where the pizza is not as good, but they show that they want the business.
Customer choice is based as much on how they make you look and feel as it is on the quality of the product. I know that is an old message, but its one that applies to just about everything – even IT.