Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Paradox of Choice & Why Chipotle Taste So Good

Consumers want choice. The more, the better. Searching for any item on Amazon will turn up a staggering number of options such as the 140,000 watches you could purchase with a click. With so many options sanctification is nearly guaranteed! How could you not find what you want? Yet an interesting paradox is noted by philosopher Barry Schwartz: A greater numbers of options lends itself to a greater opportunity of discontentment. With so many options human are plagued by the idea of missed opportunity costs. Yes, the watch is everything I wanted, but what if I had purchased the other one? This lowers our enjoyment/utility of a decision.

Another related note is the effect choice has on our assignment of blame. If it were 1909 and you choose to purchase the only car availalbe, the Model T Ford, any dissatisfaction would be directed 100% toward Ford. Now, in 2009 if you were disappointed with your Ford's performance you would partially blame yourself. Why did I choose this car? Why not the Honda? I should have know better...

This plays out brilliantly in a modern Chipotle. As the customer moves along he/she builds their burritos making narrow selections; beef not chicken, corn salsa not hot, etc. Lets assume the impossible that the customer was dissatisfied with the burrito. Since the customer co-developed the product the majority of the disappointment is directed inward rather than outward toward the company. The result is a return customer that a bad Steak House would never enjoy.

Brilliant. The paradox of choice has turned a bad customer experience into my fault. This is why Chipotle, Subway, Starbucks, etc will continue to grow and be emulated.

Next time your coffee sucks, demand a new cup: It's not your fault!