We shared this post on our Call-To-Action Flipboard Magazine
As I shared on LinkedIn, I'm spending time in hospitals again. I'm getting treatment in a clinical trial at the University of Cincinnati, where there is little other than overpriced condos, the hospital and college, and few restaurants.
After spending a week at the Graduate Hotel, eating at the three "fast casual" restaurants near the hotel, and spending hours at the University of Cincinnati's cancer center, an exciting contrast between the hospital and Chipotle made this Flipboard Friday easy to write. My best "customer journey' was the many trips to Chipotle, so I compared and contrasted my experience with the hospital. In this long way around-the-bend analogy, the hospital is a stand-in for any company that still needs to figure out how to meet their target audience's needs, as well as the leading Mexican grill. So you and your hospital should steal these five marketing tips from Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Use the links below to learn how Chipotle creates a continuous game their customers want to play, eat, and repeatedly share. You'll discover marketing tactics your company, brands, and products should steal to win your customers' most valuable possessions - their time and attention.
How you treat customer time is becoming a customer service tent pole - a seemingly little thing that significantly impacts your customers' journey. Time treatment is something only some marketing or customer service teams think about because there is no easy metric to measure, benchmark, or improve. Customer time and control perceptions need to get directed. When customers complain of long lines, they are frustrated by being reminded they aren't in control. Once customers or patients get reminded they need to be in control, any line feels lengthy and burdensome.
Think of the last time you got stuck in traffic. The helplessness you feel driving a few feet, stopping and then stopping again, rinse and repeat, makes most drivers angry and more frustrated. Of course, in reality, you are no more or less in control sitting in traffic than driving in general, but the perception of the invisible traffic hand robbing you of your perception of control creates anger and frustration.
Let's compare and contrast the Duke Cancer Center with the University of Cincinnati. The last time I got treated at Duke, more than ten years ago, they used "hospital pagers." Hospital pagers are the same as the "your table is ready" pagers at Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants. Hospital pages helped patients like me feel like we had a measure of control while creating a valuable symbol - the pager said patient, hospital, and doctor time is all equally valuable, and in our chaotic digital time, time, not money, is the most valuable thing. Of course, you can always make more money, but people have yet to figure out how to manufacture more time.
That was an exciting memory for me to share since my Duke doctors didn't treat me like my time, feelings, or ideas mattered. Then, finally, someone at Duke recognized a traditional hospital problem - hospital patriarchy - and experimented with pagers to see if they could help patients feel better.
There was a time when doctors and hospitals were dominant secret societies. Then the web happened, and patients like me began to understand hospitals and doctors are people too. Letting my healthcare providers treat me like my father did when I was ten and had just misbehaved is a sure prescription for an early passing, even as they keep trying and I keep resisting (lol). While not all the secret society romance got knocked off the healthcare business, patriarchy dies hard; we are heading toward healthcare as another consumable. Healthcare is and always has been a consumable, even if we aren't smart enough to know or understand it.
When our perceptions of healthcare as just another consumable match current customer journeys, patient frustrations with patriarchal time management will boil over. In our digital chaos, everyone's time is valuable, and those who forget or never learn that rule will get punished. The Chipotle mobile app understands everyone's time is more valuable than money, so they use our smartphones to create two enormous customer benefits - Chipotle values my time, and ordering at Chipotle is a game I can play on my smartphone.
Let's compare and contrast again. I'm in a clinical trial requiring I fill out a "pill diary" daily. The diary could be better designed, easier to write within the tiny spaces provided, and a source of real frustration. I was so frustrated I created a Google sheet to show how to eliminate my frustrations. I'd bet the money I raised on Martin's Ride to support cancer research every smartphone-enabled patient is as frustrated by the pill diary as me.
While I suspect lawyers are behind forcing this particular frustrating experience on UC's clinical trial patients, UC Health owns the touchpoint. Forcing patients or customers to do frustrating things over and over when we are all digitally savvy enough to know a better game is available paddles us like my father did when I was ten. If ordering Chipotle is a fun mobile game, why is filling out a pill diary such a "We're in control and your not" and "Our time matters, yours doesn't" reminder?
As a cancer patient, I can argue that my time may be the most valuable. Still, other than the Duke pager experiment, every hospital treats their patients' time as if it isn't significant enough to matter, creating the ultimate "We are in control, and you're not" statement. And patients' perception of control is related to recovering from cancer, heart disease, or anything. I understand the "not invented here" reaction to my Google Sheets pill diary, but robbing patients of their perception of control keeps us sicker longer. Patients get better faster when they feel included, informed, and respected. It is easy for me to write and an almost impossible concept for most hospitals to understand and have in their PX (Patient Experiences).
Chipotle knows something Hospitals need to learn - one size doesn't fit all. As a "fast casual" restaurant Chipotle knows speed is a bedrock idea, but there is a good reason other than lower costs. Chipotle designs its kitchens and creation bars shallowly. They want customers to see what is going on to be engaged in creating their meals. And that idea worked great until popularity meant long lines.
Chipotle is smart. They know lines feel long when control is absent, so they used technology to solve the control problem, not the mirage of long lines. That last sentence is a basic definition of the problem because Chipotle's app will only sometimes appeal to some. Still, if you need a burrito at lunchtime, life is too short to wait outside the University of Cincinnati, so I downloaded the "make your burrito online" app and may never stay in line again.
Chipotle designed its business for two target audiences - bread and circus. Bread customers want to eat NOW and don't care about engagement, standing in "long" lines, or watching their burrito get made. Circus customers want to watch everything their server does, guiding and improving their burrito in real-time. Chipotle also knows bread customers may become circus customers and vice versa. Circumstances influence customer behavior. Ordering during the lunch rush means the app is my only option, but other customers may be willing to stand in a thirty or forty-five-minute line to get what they want.
Easy doesn't begin to describe onboarding with Chipotle's app, and all UX and UI designers should study their innovative solutions. Chipotle must have looked hard at the Dominos tracking app because they improved it with cleaner screens and fewer choices. Unfortunately, choice, as Schwartz points out in one of my favorite books, The Paradox of Choice, is not always good. It goes back to control once again because some choice reinforces our sense of power but crosses the line between too few and too many options, and power feels diminished as anger and frustration creep in.
Chipotle's lessons you should steal include:
Chipotle has weathered food safety and employee dissatisfaction because customers feel they know and trust the company. There are several ways Chipotle's authenticity helps create customer support, including:
By pushing everything under customers' noses, it's almost impossible to hide anything. Hence, customers see the grill and prep area; little is cloaked or kept away from active inspection. That shallow footprint also saves on one of Chipotle's highest costs - rent - so double benefit.
Chipotle's menu, ordering, and preparation simplicity drive speed and efficiency, lowering costs and creating trust and perception of authenticity, another double benefit. When something is simple, customers feel they know and understand it. How can Chipotle be disingenuous when they are so simple?
Knowing and responding to your target audiences creates a "Chipotle is like me" feeling with customers. Bread customers use the app while circus customers wait in line, and the ability to decide what segment you want to be in today makes the company and brand feel authentic, honest, and "like me.
Chipotle responds to trends such as sustainability and farm-to-table without being dominated by them so customers feel included and respected, not preached to or lectured.
Why Not How
Read Chipotle's Values page for a study in Simon Sinek's Start with Why. Chipotle knows its target customers want to feel connected and included and in line with Chipotle's values and beliefs. You may ask if Chipotle's values and beliefs came before or after their target audience research, and that is a chicken crossing the road problem because the answer doesn't matter and is the definition of a distinction without a difference.
Writing more about the distinction between business storytelling and popular fiction is a topic I'm thinking about, and I will write more of a "how to" soon. Still, I return to Chipotle's values page for lessons on how to tell stories today. Chipotle's values page is a master class in movement, design, UX, and storytelling for a smartphone and pad-infested world.
Words are spare but essential on Chipotle's values page, but note how the page looks and acts on different screen sizes. The page seems fresh, exciting, and informative, no matter what size screen you're using. There is a lot of talk about "mobile first" and responsive web design without much belief in or adherence to that idea. Chipotle's values page is a masterclass in a mobile-first design. Oh, and creating an excellent layout for every screen reinforces Chipotle's feeling of authenticity and ability to tell converting stories to their target audiences.
Smartphones make everything a game, so loyalty must be rewarded or lost. Loyalty programs that require customers to do anything fail, but, thanks to smartphones, that card you never have when you need it is usually less than ten feet away. Smartphones are the key because they make everything a game all the time.
Standing in the Chipotle line, this was before I added their app, I noticed everyone was miles younger than me, and all had one thing in common - their smartphones were in their hands the moment they joined the line, and that was true for men and women and every other demographic and psychographic segment standing in line with a strange old guy not looking at his phone - me. I was observing a reminder of one of my favorite mega-trends - everything is a game that gets played all the time.
The first part of my last sentence - everything is a game - is easy to understand and recognize, but the second part is more complicated. Let's return to an old guy's youth when I loved playing pinball. I'd spend hours trying to win a free game, and the absurdity of that math never even crossed my pre-marketing geek mind. But pinball was flawed in a way smartphone games aren't because there was no way to put a pinball machine with all its excitement, buzzes, beeps, and rewards in your pocket. You see where I'm going. Apple figured out how to put a pinball machine in our pockets, which means play is continuous, disruptive, and attention-seeking. If time is more valuable than money, then attention is the most valuable commodity on earth, and the buzzes, noises, and alerts every application and website developer uses to claw your attention away from everything, but their game is a study in how to use technology to hypnotize the world.
When customers give you two of the most valuable things they possess - their time and attention - your game should reward their actions. Nothing breaks a hypnotist's spell faster than a lack of appreciation and respect. Operant conditioning pairs a reward with an action to shape behavior. For example, Pavlov rang a bell when he fed his dogs. Pavlov's dogs made the connection - bell equals food. Eventually, Dr. Pavlov's removed the food and observed his dogs act like they got fed because their behavior - bell equals food - was shaped and rewarded. The Chipotle loyalty program is Pavlov's bell, a simple way to reinforce the customer behavior the company wants - continuous gameplay and eating more meals at the world's leading fast casual Mexican grill.
Let's avoid the smartphones are good or bad debate and recognize how little that debate matters. As a digital marketer, and who isn't these days, you must see things how they are, not how you may wish them to become because earning customer attention, support, recommendation, shares, and loyalty is needed before your company, brands, products, or apps change the world. So make whatever you sell a game whose well rewarded object is more gameplay, and like Chipotle, you may achieve your "change the world" goals.