Canadian Pizza Magazine

Just Pizza: The Grandma Principle

By Wayne Rempel   

Features Business and Operations Staffing

The grandma principle

Last month I wrote about how to
get your staff to do what you want them to do. This month I want to
teach you how to train them to be great with their customers.

Last month I wrote about how to get your staff to do what you want them to do. This month I want to teach you how to train them to be great with their customers.

I don’t know if you noticed but I said “their” customers, not “the” customer and not “your” customer, why? Well, it is simple really, that person who has come in to spend money belongs to the person that is helping them. That person is in the hands of the employee, is that scary to you when you think of it that way?

Are there people in your organization whom you worry about when it is explained this way?


The first principle I want to teach you is the Grandma principle. This is how it works:

Imagine the following situation – you’re busy at work and can barely keep up with the pace. The phone rings. You answer and discover it’s your grandma wanting to spend some of her hard-earned retirement money in your store.

Of course, you take special care in helping her out; making sure she gets what she wants and it’s the right colour, size, flavour, brand, shape, whatever. After all, it is your grandmother.

Now ask yourself: is this how you treat all your customers? Would this be the exception, the rule or somewhere in between? Your grandmother will be back, but will they?

How about your employees? When you’re not around do they treat the customer like gold? Have you ever had someone phone or go into your place of business as a mystery shopper and report back to you? Does that sound too scary for you?

As noted author and speaker Jeffrey Gitomer writes, “The ‘Grandma’ self-test has the answer of truth. Here’s a surefire way to determine how ‘what you say’ will sound to the customer before you say it.  A way to ‘test your talk’ so to speak.”

Gitomer suggests that: “Every time you speak to a customer, you end it with ‘Grandma.’”

What he means is, if it sounds like something you would say to your grandmother, say it. If not, don’t.
For example, how would this sound:

“Sorry the coupon expired yesterday, Grandma.”

“We are all out of stock and I don’t know when we will get more, Grandma”

“That’s not my department, Grandma.”

“Next! Grandma.”

“It’s our policy, Grandma.”

Okay, you get it. Just remember to treat all your customers like your best friend, hero, celebrity – or your grandma.
If you wouldn’t say or do it to your grandma, why would you say or do it to your customer?

The next step is to empower your employees to be the best in customer service by committing the business to customer service.
The financial returns for companies achieving uniqueness in service are significantly higher than for those companies that do not have that reputation. If price is a company’s only competitive advantage it will probably be unsustainable.

To succeed in the service business, a proactive customer service philosophy must be in place – one that will create positive experiences for the customer so they will go out and tell others about them. Good customer service brings in new customers through word of mouth advertising. A satisfied customer will tell three more about the excellent service they received. Those three new customers will each tell three more and so on.

Another way to make sure your staff is great with customers is to make sure they can deal with any problem that may arise.
I was recently at a hotel in Toronto and experienced a problem with my parking pass. For some reason it became deactivated and when I went to leave it said I owed money. The person working the gate was extremely prepared for this situation. He asked for all my information, room number, name, when I checked in and when I was checking out. He relayed all this information to his supervisor and then waited for them to figure out what to do.

At first I was a bit annoyed, but as soon as he got off his radio with the supervisor he started to chat me up. He asked where I was from, what I was doing in town and what I did for work. When I told him about owning a pizzeria and a video store he then asked about those, how was business, do I have good staff, what style of pizzas do we offer, what is my favourite, and then questions about my video store, etc.

I didn’t even notice, but by the time the supervisor got back to him it was about 10 minutes. They had reset my parking card and taken the charges off it so I could go. It was the fastest 10 minutes ever. I was so involved in answering his questions I didn’t notice the time.

I am guessing this fellow has dealt with this before and knows if he can keep my mind off the problem, I will probably not complain. It worked.

When I was driving away I thought to myself, how can I get my employees to make their customers forget to complain? I came up with some guidelines for them to follow so they know exactly what to do if pizzas are made wrong, a delivery is late, their pick-up order wasn’t ready when we said it would be, etc.

Now instead of having to ask a supervisor, they have the ability to make the decision fast and not give the person time to think about it. If the problem is too big, or the customer is not happy with what was offered to them, and we need a supervisor to help, the employees are trained to get all the right information. From there they can relay the information to the supervisor so the customer doesn’t have to explain twice.

What a difference this has made; everyone is on the same page and all their customers get treated fairly and quickly – and that keeps them coming back.

Remember, treat your customers like your Grandma, commit your business to great customer service and give your staff the tools to deal with complaints.

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