February 28, 2013 |

Commentary: A Customer Service Failure

By Jeremy White

Jeremy White, Commentary — A Customer Service FailureThe pizza arrived blackened. And by that I do not mean merely overcooked or even slightly burned on the bottom — I mean “end of times” black. We posted a picture of it on our Facebook page (search: Pizza Today) with a short caption and it went viral. The comments and shares from pizzeria owners ran deep. They could not believe a pizza shop would send the charcoal black pizza to a customer.

Neither could we. We needed a pan pizza for a photo shoot and simply did not have time to make it ourselves before our deadline. We called an independent pizzeria just blocks away from our office and placed the order –– anonymously, of course. When we opened the box, our jaws dropped. Our managing editor, Mandy Detwiler, placed a call to the shop. She asked to speak to the manager regarding a burned pizza. After five minutes on hold, Mandy was informed the manager was busy helping in the kitchen because someone didn’t show up to work that day (the customer’s problem?). Mandy was promised a return call from the manager.

Well, the return call came — but not from the manager. Again, too busy. But the employee was courteous and apologetic. She explained the reason for the burned pizza (their inexperienced crew had turned the deck ovens up too high in the morning) and offered to make it right by sending a gift card. That did nothing to satisfy our needs for a photogenic pizza or to remedy our hunger, but it was a gesture that, as pure customers, we appreciated. She was working to make it right.

The best part of the story — at least it gave me a chuckle — was when the employee called Mandy back to get the address to which the gift card should be sent. “908 South 8th Street,” Mandy said … “Care of Pizza Today magazine…” There was a gasp at the other end of the line. The poor girl couldn’t believe they just sent a national magazine a product even a hog wouldn’t eat. But, in reality, we are absolutely the best office in America for this sort of mistake. We understand. Others do not. At some point it becomes not about the poor product that was served, but about the service the unhappy customer receives post-mistake.

What would you personally have done in this situation had that call come into your pizzeria? Would you have returned the call yourself? Would you be happy if you learned that the hostess instead of the manager called the customer back when the customer specifically asked to speak to the manger? Would you have delivered a new pizza immediately along with the gift card? These are all questions that our staff has asked one another and our operator friends since the blackened pizza left us all feeling blue.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you would have settled the matter if it occurred in your pizzeria. Please e-mail me at the address below.

Jeremy White, editor-in-chief