I can understand that customer service might not be as important if you’re a company working on volumes with extremely small margins, but if you’re a “service” company, such as a restaurant, the experience your customers receive will ultimately affect the amount of business you generate. Such a simple concept, do right by your customers and they will come.
Which is why it baffles me when restaurants get this completely wrong. To show what I’m trying to explain, I’ll share with you the terrible experience I had recently eating lunch at Pizzadelic (a local Pizza restaurant). This includes having someone else’s bill in my pizza crust!
But before I begin, let me just start by saying this wasn’t my first lunch at Pizzadelic, I’ve eaten there at least a dozen times in the last year. Not counting the references I gave (at least until now), the total lifetime revenue of myself as their customer was going to be in the thousands of dollars (at least two to three hundred a year for who knows how long, not counting referrals).
Well I had an experience that really soured that relationship. I will no longer be going to Pizzadelic unless I have no choice. It wasn’t the mistake that happened that one day, it was how I was treated in regards to it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back a little bit. And before I even start, I’d like to point out that I went to the restaurant outside of the lunch hour rush, so it’s that much less excusable.
When I first got there I was seated right pretty quickly. However it took a full 15 minutes for a server to come see me! That’s not to order, that’s just to see if I even wanted a glass of water. During a lunch rush I could see this, but after the rush there’s no reason for that long of a delay when the place is fairly empty. It’s not the end of the world, and if that was all that happened you wouldn’t be reading this now. However as it turns out that just set the mood for what was to come.
Eventually they did see to me and the server took my order to the kitchen. Then I waited, and I waited, and I waited some more. At least 30-45 minutes went by before they brought me my pizza (normally it would 10-15 minutes). Again, remember this is after the lunch rush.
Hungry I started to eat. These pieces of pizza are very large, as big as a full sized serving plate (deli style pizzas), so you generally use a fork and knife in this restaurant to eat your pizza. A few bites in I noticed that I was cutting a piece of paper below my pizza. This caught my attention because in all the times I’d eaten the pizza there I had never seen a piece of paper in the plate. So I just assumed it was paper from the oven that they forgot to remove.
As I lifted my pizza I came to the quick realization that it wasn’t a piece of paper for the whole pizza, but rather a small piece of paper. As I pulled, I quickly saw that it was somewhat embedded into the pizza crust. I pulled on it and then looking at it realized it was a bill (the paper was very oily from the pizza so it was harder to read). That was odd? Maybe it was just my order bill that had fallen. But no, it was someone else’s bill!!!
I quickly called over the server, and they of course were apologetic. The manager then took the pizza to the kitchen and re-ordered me a new one.
And here’s where it went sour. Here’s where they had a chance to really make me into an adoring customer. They had two options. Get me a pizza ASAP or just order another replacement pizza the standard way. Give me some kind of compensation or ignore the whole event.
Due to the fact that I’m writing this article, they obviously picked the later of the two. I ended up waiting at least another 30 minutes before my replacement pizza came. They could have done a rush order, etc., but nothing. Already being upset by the bill that’s not mine in the pizza dough didn’t help. Having to wait a long time to be served initially didn’t help either. Having the first pizza take two to three times as long to cook didn’t help. Nothing was helping me feel good about this particular visit.
Once I had finished the new pizza, it took the server a good 15 minutes to come clear my plate from the table. At this point, there was probably as many people in the restaurant as there were servers, so having to wait 15 minutes after being done eating is a long time.
And then came the bill. Remember at this point I’ve had to wait many times longer than should be necessary (close to 2 hours for a pizza), and the restaurant is not in the middle of a rush. Did they comp the pizza? No. They charged me the full amount for the pizza. Yes. Nothing to compensate for having been given someone else’s bill in my pizza. Nothing at all. Not even a we’re sorry about that. The server just came over and gave me the bill. And if you think it’s just the server, the manager was also aware of the whole issue. Nothing.
If they valued their customers and the total revenues they can bring over their lifetimes, especially for a company in the service industry, they sure didn’t show it. Had they treated me right I would’ve assumed this was a one time event and I was just unlucky. Things happen. But the fact that they made me wait forever for a second pizza, took their time to wait on me (knowing full well I wasn’t a very happy customer), and then didn’t even offer to give a reduction, a voucher, or comp on the meal, well that really shows me how much they value their customers.
Because of this I will avoid going there again. I’ve now also written about it on this blog which means I’ll probably show up on the search results for Pizzadelic. If it’s anything like my Telus adventure from a few years ago, I’ll be near the top of the search results for their website. How many customers, and hence revenues, will it affect? Treat your customers well and you’ll make lots of money, even when you screw up. The folks at 37Signals recently showed the world how to turn a bad event into a great PR. Nobody’s perfect, we all make mistakes. The key is how do you handle these situations?
For example, last week we had someone complain to us that the CD we shipped out to them was defective. We do our best to have a zero defect rate, we even have an automated procedures to test all CD’s before they go out. But unfortunately something happened. Maybe we made a mistake, maybe the CD was broken along the way during the shipping process. Who knows. We don’t question why or what. All we hear is that our customer ordered something and it didn’t work. Who cares where the responsibility lies because in their minds it’s our CD that didn’t work. It doesn’t matter if it was broken after it left our door. It doesn’t matter if the CD manufacturer we use might have made a CD of slightly lower quality. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is to them. From the customer’s point of view they ordered something from us that doesn’t work so it’s up to us to fix the issue.
Our response in that case, as we’ve always done, is to re-ship the CD. However when this happens we ship it by express mail. You see normally we ship all our CD’s by ground shipping which can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks (generally it only takes 1-2 weeks). We’ve chosen this route for numerous reasons, including the fact that our customers don’t need to wait for the CD to arrive to start using the software, and that it keeps their costs down. In any case, if something goes wrong, we don’t ask why or blame the postal system. We ship another CD right away, and we ship it express. It will be there within a couple days, even if they don’t need it to start using the software. We assume the responsibility and we make right by them.
We’ve also been known to do other things to right any mistakes we’ve accidentally done. And you know what, more often than not we get glowing emails from these customers. In many cases they really respond positively saying how well we treated them and that they will let everyone know about us. We’ve even gotten testimonials this way! Word of mouth really helps to grow your business.
Unfortunately for Pizzadelic, the way they handle errors is going to lead them to lose customers. Not just directly, but as of today they will also be found on Google for negative experiences. It’s not that hard, make right by your customers and your business will prosper. Never forget that, especially if you’re a service business.