Domino’s Misses Customer Experience Mark

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After we released the Temkin Experience Ratings for fast food restaurants, a Business Insider report asked Domino’s to comment on the pizza giant’s ranking (15th out of 19 fast food restaurants). Here’s how a Domino’s representative responded:

We’re the only restaurant chain of our size in the U.S. that has experienced seven consecutive years of positive same store sales growth and we’ve been rated the best-tasting pizza by independent research of all the national brands. We believe those mean something.

That response wasn’t directly related to customer experience, but we at Temkin Group were intrigued by the Domino’s claim to have the best tasting pizza. Since it was lunch time, and we were hungry, we put the claim to the test.

We enjoyed customizing and ordering our pizza online, which Domino’s estimated would be in our hands in approximately 33 to 43 minutes. After we placed the order, it was fun watching Pete the Pizzamaker keep track of the flow of our two pies. The experience started out great as we watched our pizzas progress from “order placed” to “prep” to “bake” to “quality check.”

Then our lunch took a turn for the worse, as our pizzas remained in the “quality check” for more than 20 minutes, more time than it took to cook them. What was the matter, what had happened to our customized pizza? Was there a quality problem? Did our pizza fail some important tastiness check? Was a corporate task force being called in to fix our lunch?

My best guess is that the pizzas were just sitting there until they were picked up by the delivery person, so that Pete the Pizzaman could change the status to the final stage “order has been delivered.”

Our pizzas finally arrived after 71 minutes, well beyond the promised 33 to 43 minutes. And, they were cold.

I shared that story in order to discuss the survey that Domino’s asked me to fill out. It demonstrates some good examples of survey design practices to avoid. Here’s the survey…

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 5.05.35 PM

I want to discuss two of the questions on the survey:

  1. Was your delivery driver Julio both punctual and polite?
    • Our pizzas were a half an hour late, so no way was Julio punctual. Was he polite? Sure. This survey question is making a common mistake, it’s asking for a rating of two things in one scale. In this situation, each of the items has a different rating. Given the wording of the question, I answered this with one star (we were very hungry when it finally arrived). How will Domino’s know what to do with this data? They’re likely to mis-interpret it and blame Julio (which is why I added a comment).
  2. Did Pelen make your order accurately and bake it to perfection?
    • First of all, I was disappointed to find out that Pete the Pizzaman did not actually make our pizzas (who the  heck is Pelen?). Once again, Domino’s is asking a compound question. The ingredients were correct (so yes on the first part), but it was cold (so no on the second part). Maybe I shouldn’t blame Pelen for the pizzas being cold, but the customer isn’t responsible for identifying who to blame. The question asked about it being baked to perfection, which it wasn’t.

I don’t know what caused the service breakdown with our pizzas, but I also don’t think my numeric answers to those specific questions will help Domino’s understand what happened. The data could be used to blame Julio for not being polite or to show that Pelen made the wrong pizza, both of which are inaccurate.

As you can see, companies need to think through the specific way they ask for feedback. Even poorly designed questions provide data, but the results can easily be misinterpreted.

So, what about Domino’s claim to be the “best-tasting pizza?” There may be studies supporting that assertion, but it did not match the findings from our little “focus group.” Having said that, we did enjoy our lunch with reheated pizza and a hearty discussion about Domino’s customer experience.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Taste claims don’t count for much when the pizza turns up late and cold. Having, at one point in my career, been research director for a major regional fast food company, let me offer some perspective. Most fast food organizations evaluate their customer experience performance in a largely tangible and functional manner. They are coming very late to the emotional experience measurement party, and the questions in this pretty useless survey reflect that. The only things that will help with customer emotional expectations – if they pay any attention – are low recommendation likelihood ratings and an explanation of why the low rating was given.

    It appears that Domino’s has well-earned its low Temkin Experience Rating. Their defensive response suggests that the company has no clue as to why they were ranked this low and no interest, or mechanisms, for improving customer emotional experience.

    More and more consumers are making pizza their fast food choice; and, for Domino’s, “a rising tide floats all boats.” as they have seen sales increases That said, eventually sub par emotional customer experiences will catch up with them. Again, taste claims don’t count for much when the pizza turns up late and cold. The negative memory of late, cold pizza is what’s retained from the experience.

  2. Two things bother me about your story this Bruce – and both of them are in support of your conclusions:

    1. Domino’s dismissive defensiveness of genuine/authentic feedback
    2. Poor customer feedback design

    Whether you agree with feedback or not, it is essential that you have the willingness to listen and learn. The arrogant response you received leads me to believe that Dominoes are not naturally behaving like this – if they have any desire to remain at the forefront of the consumers mind in their markets, I suggest they read your post ‘toute de suite’!

    Poor customer feedback design is a constant theme I find myself speaking about around the world. As well as leading organisations to draw the wrong conclusion from the feedback they do actually receive, I am becoming increasingly concerned that consumers will eventually stop giving balanced, actionable feedback altogether. It is so important that the capturing of customer feedback is considered as important a touchpoint in the customer journey as any other!

    Thanks for sharing your immense expertise as always Bruce!

  3. Bruce, I agree with your points about the survey. Compound questions don’t work well. And they shouldn’t be defensive about feedback.

    I don’t eat much pizza these days, but decided to give Domino’s a try while watching the NBA finals game this week. Warriors got beat in Cleveland 🙁 — I’m blaming the pizza!

    Anyway, my experience was quite good. I think the Domino’s app is really well done, ordering was easy, and it was fun to see the status of my pizza from order to delivery.

    The pizza itself was very good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but tasty. A huge improvement from the Domino’s pizza I remember from many years ago, when the joke was that the cardbox box had more flavor.

    My main criticism is the price — over $20+ for 12 inch supreme pizza (including about $5 for a delivery charge and tip), more than double the cost of a good quality frozen pizza. But, I would order the pizza again if convenience was important.

    Reading up on the Domino’s turnaround, it seems they finally decided to improve the pizza around 5 years ago. That was a core issue.
    http://www.randallreilly.com/2015/01/marketing-2/dominos-pizza-a-case-study-in-customer-feedback/

    Other posts I’ve read suggest that Domino’s quality is now similar to its major competitors, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, etc.

    I’m wondering if measuring emotion, effort, and success — the major variables in your CX benchmark study — really captures what’s important to fast food customers.

    The fact that Domino’s is growing same store sales does matter, doesn’t it? If CX doesn’t explain it, then what?
    http://marketrealist.com/2016/03/dominos-reported-highest-4q15-store-sales-growth/

    My take: Domino’s fixed their quality of food issue so that their pizzas are now competitive. However, based on the reviews I’ve read, it’s hard to see that being the main driver of revenue growth.

    The bigger change, and possibly a reason for faster growth than their competitors seems to be in the “Uberizing” of their ordering/delivering process. I could see that appealing to millennials.

    Now I’ll have to try Pizza Hut and Papa Johns to see how they compare!

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