What happens when companies spend huge sums of (marketing) dollars on customer acquisition when they can’t even keep the customers they have because their products, services, and experience stink?

I don’t know (OK, I do know), but I think Pizza Hut UK is about to find out.

Pizza Hut just rolled out a new campaign to “inject ‘fun and passion’ into the brand.” The ads are supposed to highlight “Pizza Hut’s ongoing investment in improving its customer experience in-store.” But at the same time, they are supposed to recapture Pizza Hut’s “vibrant vibe.” (Did they ever have that to recapture?)

The first ad announces that Pizza Hut has named comedian Paddy McGuiness as its new Chief Customer Officer. Of  course, that’s what drove me to the Marketing Week article on this topic, but after I watched the commercial, I was a bit confused.

Are they making fun of the Chief Customer Officer position? Do they actually know what the position is? Do they think this will save the brand? Hiring a joke of a human being (even just as a spoof) for a Chief Customer Officer, the role that is supposed to oversee the said “improvements in customer experience” they are hoping to achieve, doesn’t instill confidence in the public or make them feel like you are focusing on the customer experience. Why is that funny? Wouldn’t that have the opposite effect: Here’s a company that does not take the customer experience seriously.

(Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my sense of humor… just playing devil’s advocate here. And yet… am I?)

I’m sure there’s more to come on this story/campaign; the article states that there will be a “series of sketches.”

In an article from mid-August, a Pizza Hut representative says:

The Pizza Hut brand is going through a lot of change at the moment and we’re using digital as the primary outlet to communicate those developments to customers.

Let me repeat. Making a farce of the CCO role is how you communicate to customers that you are going through changes and that you are investing in the customer experience? Perhaps they are actually in the process of hiring a real CCO?

The paragraph goes on…

By focusing on content and putting CRM at the heart of what we do, we feel we can stand apart from rivals. Domino’s are fantastic at what they do online, but its not the right approach for us. Their proposition is built around direct response and ecommerce, whereas ours is slight trickier because we’re trying to get visitors to come into our restaurants and not order online.

 The same article states:

…because visits to its restaurants are “relatively low” in the UK, it must turn its attention to using digital channels to boost sales and target existing customers with promotions.

Target with promotions? Get likes? Accumulate fans? O sure… that’s great. But what about the experience? If you are busy acquiring new customers and/or driving existing customers to your stores with deals, the food and the experience better be great, or you’ve just wasted your money and disappointed your customers.

In talking to clients about the perils of focusing on acquisition and sales rather than on the experience and retention, I like to say: “As fast as you’re bringing them in the front door, they’re running out the back door.” Some refer to it as the leaky bucket syndrome.

If I was a lawyer, this is where I’d present Exhibit A.

On both Twitter and Facebook, Pizza Hut UK has been blabbing about the new Chief Customer Officer. Though from their Facebook posts, you get the feeling they really don’t know what a CCO is:

The top right post states: Make sure you LIKE the page to be kept up to date with Paddy in his new role as Chief Customer Officer. He’s got plans for discount news on Monday! Get it here first!

Wrong! Chief Customer Officers don’t hand out discounts. Chief Customer Officers know that discounts are for losers, for acquisitions, for making a quick buck.

And on their Twitter account (@PizzaHutUK), among their tweets about their new CCO…

…you’ll find several tweets from customers desperately looking for help from customer service, which is where the real focus ought to be.

Follow the plight of one young lady (@hollyfraser87), who had a series of interactions with Pizza Hut UK on Twitter on September 5 after a store manager told her to be quiet when she complained about an extra charge. Pizza Hut UK wiggled all around, sending her to their contact form page, their Facebook page, etc. Whatever happened to: “Here’s our customer service number. Call us, and we’ll help you right away.”

Pizza Hut UK is throwing money at the wrong thing. Forget the advertising. If you’re seeing fewer customers in your stores and year-over-year sales are down, take a good look inside. (And outside. What are your customers saying about the product and the experience?) Why on earth would you throw money at some huge ad campaign that will only bring you more dissatisfied customers in the end?

I heard Robert Stephens, co-found of Geek Squad, say this in a presentation a couple years ago, but it still holds true today… and every day:

Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.