The year was 1999. Yes, we used to order pizza by calling the store directly and the average hold time was 45 minutes, especially on Friday evenings. While on hold, if the call got dropped then the customer had to start all over again. Finally, when the time came to talk to the order taker, most customers did not have a menu in front of them and relied on either past orders or suggestions from the order taker. All pizza companies had similar long wait times and some were looking at how to make the wait time more “pleasant” by adding better on-hold music, some were thinking of going to a national 1-800 call center to take the orders. They were all great ideas but it only made a really bad situation a tad less bad.

At Papa John’s, we drew an illustration to show how customers felt. They felt anxious, helpless and in total lack of power. It felt like the order taker had removed all the power. The illustration helped us realize that “a tad less” bad solution was not good enough as businesses cannot win by making their customers feel powerless. That realization put the team in pursuit of the big win, to replace phone ordering completely and this resulted in Papa John’s building the first ever online ordering system. A big win that resulted in a billion dollar business, and the drive came from the illustration that did not allow us to forget how customers felt.

The illustration at Papa John’s helped us feel the magnitude of pain of our customers. Businesses must feel customer pains as that feeling will drive big wins. Once a business feels the magnitude of pain of the customers, there is no denial or going back; there is no stopping until you remove the pain completely. Big wins comes from turning the pain point into a wow moment.


How Do Your Customers Feel?

Today in 2020, the illustration is still relevant to every business, every day. Businesses often focus simply on the highs and not the lows. Even the best experience delivered with a low point leaves a negative after taste.

Businesses must have clarity of customers feelings at different points of their experience. Are there any experience points where customers feel helpless and in total lack of control? Focusing on those experience points may open the path to big wins. Just remember, behind every problem lies a big opportunity. Here are a few thought starters to help you think of what you can do in your business:

  • Retail: Why do they have only person at the return desk while there are 15 checkout stands open? Shouldn’t they consider self-return? If customers buy using self-pay, should they not return that item at a self-return counter? That way customers can buy with more mental peace knowing how easy it is to return the product if they are not satisfied.


  • Medical Office: When patients walk in, they wait to check-in. Then they wait in the lobby until their name is called. Then they go to a secondary solitary wait area where the nurse takes their vitals. Then they wait again. Being a patient does not mean their patience must be tested. Why not offer patients the options to wait in the car or at the coffee shop, where they will get a text when it is their time to walk-in. Why not offer self-vital measurement stations to empower them to take charge of their own health? Why not go a step beyond where the patients can record a voice memo of their concerns at the comfort of their home and AI tools summarize it for the doctor? Imagine a world where doctors walk in totally aware of the concerns and immediately start getting into details of the problem? The patient will truly feel like a valued customer.


Big solutions come from not making the pain a tad less but finding a customer win to reverse the pain.



  1. BE A CUSTOMER: Experience the path a customer takes
  2. PAUSE at every experience point
  3. DOCUMENT every feeling
  4. Next ADD everything that can go wrong scenario
  5. A day later REFLECT on all the feelings: Celebrate the positives
  6. Ask WHY NOT for every negative feeling and find the big opportunity



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