Data lessons from Pizza Hut


Thought leaders and pundits like me espouse the virtues of big data. Although you'll get no argument from me on the potential benefits of this essential trend, it's important to remember that there is still tremendous value from using basic customer information.

Driving home from a networking event on the Vegas Strip a few weeks ago, I was feeling far too lazy to cook something at home. I asked Siri for the number of my closest Pizza Hut and, within seconds, was calling the store.

What happened next was, to say the least, a bit surprising.

Me: Hello. I'd like to place an order for pickup.

Pizza Hut Guy (ostensibly recognizing my phone number):  Hello, Phil. Would you like another personal pan pizza with pineapple and ham?

Me (bewildered): Well...actually, yes. That would be great.

Pizza Hut Guy: Great. The total is $3.49. It will be ready at 8:05 pm.

Me: Wow. That was easy.

Pizza Hut Guy: Thanks. See you soon.

The entire process took under one minute and I was back listening to Rush in no time.

Better customer service via small data

Now, I have no inside knowledge into the inner workings of Pizza Hut's CRM and/or IVR applications. It doesn't take Walter White, however, to figure it out. The company keeps at least the following data on its customers: phone number, name, last order and last order date. Equipped with that data, even a non-technical employee probably making minimum wage can easily help a customer place an order.

I suppose that some people might consider this type of thing creepy. Pizza Hut knows that I like ham and pineapples on my pizza! What else does it know? And what does it do with that information? Maybe I'll start receiving phone calls from wholesale ham distributors.

I don't mean to dismiss legitimate privacy concerns, but let's be reasonable here. The benefits of tracking this information – and actually using it – make for a very pleasant customer experience. What's more, there's the efficiency argument: Pizza Hut can service more customers because its employees need not verify name and phone number on each call. I would suspect that most customers don't want to wait on hold for others when they're hungry. Also, repeating the same information seems so 1998. Imagine having to reenter your credit card every time that you bought something on Amazon or eBay.

Simon says

Text analytics on petabytes of unstructured data can manifest amazing insights. Don't dismiss, however, the potential benefits of boring old small data.


What say you?


About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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