5/27/2005

Ordering Pizza

Our local independent pizza delivery places are not very good so we tend to use large chains. One of them “Pizza XXX” had some good specials for a while last year and we used them more than the others. For the first while, when I phoned, I would receive the usual greeting, "Pizza XXX, my name is nnnn how can I help you?" But suddenly, one day, I received this greeting instead, "Pizza XXX, we're passionate about pizza, my name is nnnn, how may I help you?” (I have highlighted the new phrase.)

The first time I heard it, the girl on the line was one of those cheery upbeat types. She nearly sounded like she meant it, being passionate about pizza that is, except that her delivery was just a little too practiced, the kind of sincerity that can only be phony. (Ma Bell used to train their telephone operators to talk like that and it was slightly less irritating that the computerized voice recognition system they use now. Nowadays, when you are forced to exit from their computer dialogue and talk to a live human being, you often end up talking to a very grouchy person, who works for an outsourced call center at minimum wage while being monitored every second of the work day. Except for black lung disease, they probably feel like 1920’s Virginia coal miners and I completely understand their grouchiness. It’s too bad that corporations don’t monitor the executives at the top with as much zeal.)

The second time I heard the new greeting the order-taker was a very bored guy, and the way he said the phrase, it came across the way you would hear it in a comedy sketch, in perfect satire. I had trouble ordering my 2 mediums with him because he kept losing his place in the text he was reading, from a screen no doubt, and I was cracking up at his mistakes and the bored sound of his voice. (Think "Ferris Bueller".)

My point is that whatever this marketing tactic was supposed to achieve, I believe it failed. What amazes me is how programs like this get put into place. In a corporation as large as Pizza XXX, you know that this change was discussed at length in several meetings at numerous levels. It would have been discussed first at the marketing consulting company, then later with the VP Marketing, and finally with the executive team who gave it the eventual go ahead. I am certain that there were several meetings at each of these levels.

So, you would expect, that somewhere along the line there would have been one sensible person present at one of these meetings who might have asked why they wanted to introduce a delay at the order taking stage, when people are hungry and eager to get the pizza, to pitch a moronic marketing slogan to someone who has already decided to use your service. That is, why annoy an existing client?

Do they really think that we will believe that they are actually passionate about pizza? How can anyone be passionate about pizza? Come on.

My theory is this. The marketing consulting company was expecting to lose the account. Those firms lose and gain accounts all the time, the way hotel buildings constantly change ownership as though the hotel chains trade buildings the way professional sports teams trade players. Maybe the new VP Marketing hated that consulting company, or maybe he put a move on the consulting company's representative and she said no. Who knows what happened. The consulting company figured, what the hell, we're going to lose the account anyway, let's pitch something really stupid and see if the twerps go for it.

The new VP Marketing, who had done no real work because he truly could not figure out how to gain a one point market share in an over-serviced and saturated market, felt he had to do something. He has alimony to pay and a new trophy wife who needs new jewelry every week or she starts developing headaches, so he's desperate. He does not want to admit that he has no new ideas and pitches the new slogan to the executive committee as if he really likes it.

The executive committee members, who are all wealthy beyond imagining, really do not give a damn one way or the other. They figure if their market share goes up a point, they'll cash in some options and buy themselves new summerhouses. If the market share drops a point, they'll lay off hundreds of minimum wage flunkies, requiring additional unpaid hours from the remaining staff which will have the effect of cutting costs, for which the executives will pay each other bonuses with which they will buy new summerhouses. If it all goes up in smoke, their buy-out packages will keep their grandchildren in furs. In short, they cannot lose. They are just there to watch the new VP squirm.

Just before starting to snore, the CEO's head nods a bit, which the rest interpret as assent. Since they are all too scared to contradict the CEO, they vote yes, and the poor saps that take telephone orders have to humiliate themselves every time someone like me calls for a pizza.

1 Comments:

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Very funny. I've been in some of those meetings!

 

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