Subway and Dominos are two popular fast food joints. They both have a reasonably similar product. They both target a similar kind of target customer. They are well known and liked – and for good reason. They have good quality, accessible products sold in convenient locations.
The first thing that is a noticeable similarity about the two companies is the menus. There is clear pricing and visuals of what the products we can order will look like when we receive them. The images especially set our expectations of what our money will buy and guide us in our decision making.
Then the first difference occurs – how the product is assembled:
For the sake of the example let’s imagine that we order a pizza from Dominos over the phone. The order cycle looks like this:
The noticeable thing is that the pizza is made without the customer there. The first time the customer sees the product is when it has been delivered. This is also the first opportunity they have to give feedback on the product. If the chef made any assumptions about the order, or there was unclear communication – which is especially easy over the phone – there is a risk the product will be wrong in some way. It will still be a pizza, but just might not meet expectations. What are some options the customer has here?
- Send the pizza back and have it re-made and re-delivered
- Pay anyway and deal with the disappointment
- Throw it away
Also, there is the risk that the delivery takes so long, it goes cold and loses its value – by effectively becoming stale: so much time has past the customer has lost interest, patience or simply moved on.
Either way, the opportunity for something to go wrong is quite high.
Then there is the Subway approach, which is subtly different:
In Subway the customer is asked for their requirements at every step of the build process. They can also see the product being built and can build a working relationship with the subway staff, however transient.
Every step is a small test that has been taken with the customer. These are just lots of tiny feedback loops. It’s hard to see how the customer would leave with the wrong sandwich, or would have a reason not to pay.
It’s worth remembering that as the customer has been engaged throughout the process there could be a perception that it didn’t take too long either.
Next time you’re building a product, consider how you can find some better ways to collaborate with your customers. A great place to start is thinking about how established organsiations go about it and then apply some of the lean systems thinking to your delivery process.