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Pizza and the Digital phenomenon

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See it to believe it…. Well we have all seen and mostly comprehended the power of social in our digital lives and in some cases offline avatars as well. With the Digital revolution having encompassed almost all interaction touch points of brands with customers or prospects, we have all seen the all pervasive nature albeit seemingly in compliance with PII regulations across geographies.

So you have the much hyped social media, including platforms like twitter , the mobile channel and the good old re-invented email marketing. While the proliferation of web surfing and purchases on smart phones see an almost exponential growth, demanding new technologies like using beacons and leveraging geo-fencing to personalize offers in real times; the good old email lists still work wonders, with the tweaks incorporated for SEO efforts.

There are hordes of case studies on the internet today and almost everybody has engaged with the brands using these channels for a better UX and conversions. I had an interesting occurrence today. When I ordered a pizza from a well known brand in my locality today, I was flabbergasted. To set the context, one day per week is typically celebrated as “Pizaa Day” in the household and it is always the same brand whose product is ultimately ordered. So today I ordered a little variant from my previous typical orders and paid extra for some toppings which my taste buds demanded today. I was amazed to notice that none of the extra toppings were present when I had taken a few bites of the pizza.

I submitted an online complaint on the brand’s website and also posted about the experience in a neutral manner (no over the top antagonistic user sentiment here!), since this was more of a disappointment from a loyal long time repeat customer. I wanted to see the outcome of this little social experiment, not having had much experience in the past or rather not having had the occasion/social media skills!

So while I got an automated mail (auto-Responders configured in email marketing campaign) in response to my online complaint, mentioning that somebody would look into the matter and revert in XX hours (“hours”! really?); I received a phone call around 10 minutes later having posted on Facebook.  An employee from the local franchisee of the renowned brand apologized and in matter-of-the-fact tone mentioned that they would send the same product configuration to me free of cost. I expressed my genuine surprise and mentioned that having had one medium size pizza, I did not think that this was a very responsive corrective action. However the employee was in a hurry (and might have been miffed that I did not even have an appetite to manage a couple of medium size pizzas!). Flustered, I expressed a tired thanks and hung up. I did wonder about the superlative impact of web analytics and the efficiency of “listening posts” in social media. So in the last mile of analysis human element had manually validated the data presented by the analytics for the final action and based on the historical data extrapolation, somebody had decided that the usual placatory offer of a similar product (For Free!!!!) would suffice and result in customer delight.

I was certainly NOT delighted; however the thought did not linger on. 20 minutes later, the door bell chimed and I asked my parents to collect the pizza. In response to my dad calling out to me, I had to discard my lazy posture spread over the chair watching Befikre (hindi movie) trailer and strolled outside to face the pizza delivery guy.

“Rupees 619” he demanded. I thought I had mis-heard and asked him to repeat his question. Then I was sure that I had indeed heard what I had thought I had heard! It took me 4 minutes to explain the entire episode to him and in the end softened by his confused demeanor, I asked him to call the local franchise and confirm. He made a quick mental calculation (I could not help but imagine a SQL query or a web service running in the background to fetch the confirmation data). Suddenly coming out of his momentary trance, he displayed a dazzling white toothed smile and said it was all fine.

In his haste he forgot to wish me a good night and left me holding the warm pizza box in my hand. When my wife asked to open the box and spread some oregano on the slices, I stopped her. I prophesized the need for a 20-30 minutes waiting period (the shop being 5 mins away from my home by bike and I added ample buffer for manual conversations and decision making, in case it needed to be over-turned and I needed to pay the money yet again). With 30 minutes having passed now, I finally gave the go-ahead signal to my family. Yes, of course I got lot of nasty stares for letting the pizza go cold and to micro-wave it again.

Well sure, Digital is path breaking and really a great disruptive phenomenon in the customer focused world. But the last few feets (no longer “miles” in the customer journey I am sure) do need to be validated by a human element.

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