2011 August: Commentary

It was a pizza night, to be sure. My six-year-old had a baseball game that didn’t end until nearly 8 p.m., and my two-year-old had a checkup with his pediatrician before the game. There was no time to squeeze in dinner before hitting the diamond. Needless to say, the family was famished afterwards. As soon as we hopped in the car, I dialed a local pizza shop and Italian restaurant that used to be a favorite of mine. The order was simple enough — cheese pizza for the kids, a salad and two orders of pasta. I asked for delivery and was quoted a time of 45 minutes.

Perfect — I had time to get home and get both kids bathed and in their pajamas. We’d have a late dinner, watch a cartoon and then the kids would get to bed at a respectable time. Or so I thought. After an hour went by, my wife reminded me that the last time we ordered delivery from this place it took well over an hour to get our order. After waiting another 15 minutes, I grabbed the phone and called to check on the whereabouts of our food. After a lengthy hold, I got the obviously inexperienced hostess on the other end of the line. I explained that my order was 30 minutes late and asked her to check its status. The answer was anything but encouraging: “I don’t see the delivery guy anywhere around, so it’s probably on its way now.”

I thanked her for her “help” and hung up the phone, shaking my head all the while. As I visit the country for Pizza Today, I constantly come into contact with astute restaurant owners who understand the importance of customer service. I visit pizzerias that do back-flips for their customers. Throughout the course of a year, we’ll publish several articles that detail why anything less than exceptional customer service is tantamount to career suicide. Those very same sentiments will be backed up, time and again, by educational seminars at International Pizza Expo. Yet, try as we might, we simply cannot reach everyone with this message. That was never more obvious to me than the night my exhausted and hungry boys waited more than 90 minutes for a cheese pizza.

But the wait wasn’t what upset me. Things happen, after all. Orders get lost. Delivery drivers get lost. But customer service should never get lost. That’s not a variable — it’s a basic component that is critical to success.

The girl on the phone never offered me an apology, nor did she find out why my order was late and let me know exactly when it would arrive. All I got was a lazy “it’ll be there soon” attitude.

Perhaps I should have called the manager to let her know exactly what had happened. If she were worth her salt, she would have promptly apologized and comped my order. She also would have looked into the matter and made sure her employees knew that this could not happen again. If fact, I know I would be doing the manager a favor in the long run by letting her know about the snafu. But I was tired and hungry, my boys were tired and hungry, and we had big plans for the next day. I decided to eat and go to bed — and to never order from this particular place again.

I wonder how much more business they will lose before they learn the importance of customer service? For the sake of the owner and manager, I hope they figure it out fast.

Best,

Jeremy White, editor-in-chief
jwhite@pizzatoday.com