October 1, 2015

Self-service choice: paralysis or freedom

The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported today about a new self-service kiosk that McDonald' of Canada is rolling out that purportedly is targeted towards higher-end customers who want a customized burger.  The idea is that a customer can make their own burger and each additional topping will add to the cost.    They report

The efforts are bound to stir a buzz but the added touches also come with a price. Mr. Betts digitally ordered a $9.26 Angus True Blue & Guac (blue cheese and guacamole) burger with fries and iced coffee (with an extra espresso shot) for a total of $12.46. The custom burger prices at the kiosks are more than 15 per cent higher than those of a regular Big Mac. A burger conceivably can cost as much as $50, depending on the extras.

I have a few thoughts about this idea:

1:  Added choice could lead to choice paralysis - research has shown that too many choices has led customers to balk.  While added choice leads to a sense of control - too much choice leads to out-of-control feeling.

 2: Perhaps choice paralysis not a big issue considering improved kiosk interfaces that lay out choices in a way that make them more "digestible"....

3.  The article quotes a researcher from University of Toronto that has done research to show that in self-service scenarios, customers are more likely to add more toppings.  They claim that potential embarrassment coming from the social-stigma that might come from a server's look when a customer says "give me one of everything" is not there in self-service concepts.  Customers are not afraid to order it all if they don't have to talk to a human to do it.

So, maybe the solution to choice overload is to put it on a nice user interface and let customers choose without the pressure of a human looking down at them.

Interesting stuff....,  leads me to a couple other thoughts:

4.  What if customers make a hamburger that they don't like?  What if they put everything on it and it is gross?  My son does this regularly.  He gets excited about a hamburger that we cook at home on the BBQ and proceeds to put everything in the fridge on the bun - last week he put potato salad on his burger.  he admitted that it was a mistake.  What happens if the product that a customer "customized" is a bad one?  Who gets the blame?  How do you recover from it?  How can you keep it from happening?  Can you put smart logic into the kiosk that tells that customers that the combination of topping might make them sick?

5.   My final issue with this idea is that fundamentally the operations and McDonald's doesn't likely have the capability of making a $50 hamburger.  They hire minimum wage workers to cook in a mini-factory.  They don't cook chefs who know how to prepare a $50 hamburger.

I like the idea of innovation in choice structure and thinking about how to avoid paralysis through technology is an interesting thought.

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