ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

When Customer Experience Suffers at the Expense of Packaging Technology – A Case Study

Posted by Plish on April 20, 2011

Courtesy of KFCs Website

Since May of last year, KFC has been rolling out reusable packaging to package their side orders.  These containers won a Greener Package  award. According to KFC’s website the new package,

  • Reduces the shipping cube by 14% over expanded polystyrene foam (EPS)
  • Replaces single-use, nonrecyclable expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) with a reusable and more widely recycled resin, polypropylene (PP)
  • Represents the highest value in stored energy when incinerated as an end-of-life solid waste component and part of a waste-to-energy program, at 38 million British Thermal Units (BTUs) per ton of material
  • Requires 25% less energy to produce than general-purpose polystyrene (PS) production
  • Generates half the amount of greenhouse gases as compared to general-purpose PS

These are all great things but there is a problem with this package. 

It’s a problem that stems from companies getting so excited about technology that they forget about how customers will use the product and how that helps create their experience.

What do I mean?

Today I went to KFC to get a couple of single piece meals for my wife and I.  As I was leaving she said, “Make sure you take the cole slaw out of the box before you leave there.”

Why would she say that?

KFC’s sides consist of mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, baked beans and green beans.  Some of these are served hot, others are served cold.  If you buy a single piece meal, you will receive a piece of chicken, a biscuit, and your choice of two sides.  Order two hot sides and there is no real problem; everything in the box is hot.  However, order one or two cold sides and there’s a very real problem.

The chicken, biscuit, and sides (Cole slaw and Mashed Potatoes/Gravy in my case) all get packed tightly in a small cardboard box.  If cold side servings, like cole slaw, are in the box, they get warm…really quickly.  If the drive home is more than a couple of minutes, the cole slaw (or cold dish) will become warm, sometimes disgustingly so (unless you like warm cole slaw).

KFC says this is their best packaging idea since the bucket.

Actually, the bucket did a great job as a package.  Because all the hot/warm chicken was lumped together in the bucket, the chicken stayed pretty warm.  It was also a great way to serve the chicken; just reach in and grab a piece.   The bucket was, and is, a good idea.

This package?

It’s great for the environment but it doesn’t deliver on basic functionality, and that translates to a lousy culinary experience.

People don’t go to KFC to replenish their container stash at home.  They go there for the food – for hot chicken, warm mashed potatoes and gravy, and cold cole slaw.

I look forward to packaging improvements that not only benefit the environment, but win awards because they actually preserve, and protect the food for the trip home.  After all, that’s the real need. 

It’s such a simple concept really. 

Maybe that’s why it was forgotten.

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4 Responses to “When Customer Experience Suffers at the Expense of Packaging Technology – A Case Study”

  1. thank you very much for information

  2. […] When Customer Experience Suffers at the Expense of Packaging … […]

  3. Right on, Plish!

    You’ve identified an issue that is far too prevalent among consumer product companies. At the end of the day, they should hold themselves accountable to one particular clientele, and that’s the end-user of the product.

    Any time a company wants to make some change – big, small, concrete or conceptual – it should first identify the direct impact of that change on the customer experience. If it makes the experience better, go for it. If it detracts from the experience, DON’T DO IT.

    KFC’s primary customer is the person that consumes their food. Anybody or anything else is secondary.
    While making changes to become a more environmentally-friendly company is a worthy objective, it’s only worth doing if KFC can figure out how to do it, without compromising the customer experience.

    Great post, Plish – you’ve struck a nerve with me, and I hope you’ve done the same with the people that really need know this stuff – those who create the customer experience!

    Best regards,
    Jim Watson
    http://bit.ly/efrxOg

  4. Plish said

    Thanks Jim for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!! It’s amazing how often the customer gets lost as the focus of customer service oriented organizations. By the way, I love your blog; would love to have you as a guest poster here sometime!
    All the best!
    Plish

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