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The Pizza Chef: When customers are wrong

When customers are wrong


March 3, 2008
By Diana Coutu

Topics

Dealing with the public is one of the most stressful
jobs that you can do. In fact, if you try to get disability or life
insurance based on the job description “restaurant owner” or
“restaurant manager,” you’ll find yourself paying premiums equal to
those of ER doctors because the insurance companies have done studies
that prove the extreme stress levels for either position are about the
same.

Dealing with the public is one of the most stressful jobs that you can do. In fact, if you try to get disability or life insurance based on the job description “restaurant owner” or “restaurant manager,” you’ll find yourself paying premiums equal to those of ER doctors because the insurance companies have done studies that prove the extreme stress levels for either position are about the same.

Kind of makes you think twice about your paycheque doesn’t it?

Much of the stress comes directly from dealing with the public. There has been a long-standing saying that “the customer is always right” and some people really take it to the next level. Of course, when you do make a mistake, you should do whatever you can to make it right, but some customers would have you sign over the deed to your home over a pizza with the wrong toppings. 

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Take “Fred,” for instance. Fred has been ordering pizza from us for over five months. Two months ago, Fred called back to complain that there wasn’t enough sauce on his pizzas. My staff gave him a credit for the full amount of the order.

A week later, Fred redeemed his credit and the pizzas were great. A week after that he places another order and again complained that there wasn’t enough sauce on his pizzas. My staff gave him another full credit for his order. A week later, Fred redeemed his credit and the pizzas were great. A week later, Fred places another order and complains that there wasn’t enough sauce. It’s important to note that my manager made his pizzas the exact same way the last four times he ordered.

Are you beginning to recognize a pattern?

Next there’s “Mark.” Mark ordered from us for the first time a few weeks ago. He wanted strip bacon, and we were able to accommodate his request.

But, he insisted that he wanted it crispy. He said that if we sent him a pizza with raw bacon on it that he’d immediately send it back. My husband informed him that the strip bacon we have is already fully cooked, and that it crisps up nicely in the oven when we bake it on a pizza.

He continued to insist that we cook the bacon again, before we put it on his pizza, regardless of my husband’s assurances that it was already fully cooked and if we did what he asked, it would be burnt bacon. At this point he became angry, and further insisted that he was the customer and that’s the way he wanted his pizza made.

Reluctantly, my husband agreed, and then did exactly what Mark asked, and sent out his pizza with extra crispy, black around the edges bacon. Mark called back to complain that the bacon was burnt. He wanted his money back and he wanted us to remake his pizza for his trouble.

Next there’s a man that I don’t know his name. His wife ordered four large pizzas and a family size Caesar salad. Shortly after the order was delivered, the husband called back to say that we had insulted his whole family because there was real bacon in the Caesar salad and his family was Muslim and therefore they do not eat bacon. Although the pizzas were perfectly fabulous, he wanted us to refund the entire order because of “this insensitive conduct of our company.”

Then there’s “Sheila.” Sheila called one day to redeem a credit. Since all credits are stored in our POS system, we simply need to type in the phone number to recall the details. Sheila gave four different phone numbers, none of which had been entered in our system, which means that there was no trace of an order, much less of her being a customer.

We tried to pin down the date she ordered, so we could go through the back end of the system and find her credit.  There is always a record kept, it’s just a matter of finding it.

She stated that it had been three months since her order. My husband exported three months of orders into a spreadsheet to look for it. She became irritated, understandably, when it appeared that she was a scammer. However, my husband kept his patience and asked if there was possibly another phone number, perhaps an old cell phone number or a work number that she had given when she placed the order. She insisted that she already gave him all the phone numbers that they’ve ever had, and added that we had very poor customer service.

My husband decided to go back further, and exported eight months of orders. Sure enough, he found Sheila, with a matching address and a completely different phone number. He called her back to tell her the good news; he found her credit, and it was linked with this other phone number, which was the reason we couldn’t find it.

Plus, she ordered over six months ago, not three. Instead of being happy, she rudely told my husband, “Well, that’s my husband’s downstairs business line, we never give it out and you still have bad customer service” … as if we had a conspiracy against Sheila and had dug up some hidden phone number to mess with her.

My husband couldn’t hold his tongue, Sheila had consumed over two hours worth of my manager’s and my husband’s time by giving the wrong information. Plus, despite our ingrained friendly attitude trying to find plausible solutions, i.e.: another phone number, she was extremely rude and insulting and she felt she could dish out abuse to any and all because she was the customer. 

These types of customers take a lot of time and energy out of you and your staff. You all have them too, I bet. In my experience, these types only get worse with age.

There is no satisfying such a customer. Typically we fire these types. That’s right, we fire them … just like an employee who is not pulling their weight.

This is a free country and we consider ourselves an “At Will Business,” meaning we choose whether we’ll accept business from someone or not.

If we make a mistake then we’ll make it right, but there’s no mandate that compels us to do business with undesirable customers like the ones above. It’s also my experience that some people are extremely unhappy in their lives and will complain about everything, especially if they can find someone to take it out on.

There’s no reward for taking the abuse and insults they throw at you and your staff. Truthfully, they leave you little time and energy to look after your best customers.  We put our foot down and politely tell those individuals to move onto another pizza place because we won’t accept their business. 

I’ll tell you that when you do fire an undesirable customer it really feels great. You regain control of your business and reduce a lot of the stress. Your staff will also respect you more, because they know first-hand that the customer isn’t always right; sometimes the customer is absolutely wrong.•