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The Customer Experience Conundrum, Part Three

Third in a short series of blog posts on this topic

This is the third in a short series of posts about the customer’s perspective. I believe that companies that do not put themselves in their client’s shoes, are failures.

This has been a recurring experience for me lately. Companies, like people, speak volumes about their values through their actions. When they act like they don’t care what their customers are experiencing, it means that they actually don’t care about their customers. Which to me is weird, because without happy customers, the business probably cannot continue to exist and make money, and therefore cannot pay its employees. I think that being nice to customers and keeping them happy should be as important as profits.


Companies that focus too much on what they want to measure for their business, rather than providing the basics to make customers happy, or worse, at the expense of their customers’ happiness, are the worst! Have you ever encountered the terms “Sorry, but it is company policy”? Why are your customers asking for something that is against company policy? Why not measure the customers’ needs, and make meeting the needs a revenue-generating company policy?


Case example: I wrote this letter to the head office of a pizza restaurant chain in Toronto recently, and they responded by telling me that the pizza box policy is valid, and then they mailed me two kids' colouring books and a gift card for a free pizza.


Dear Pizza Chain,


I am writing to describe an experience I had in one of your stores recently, and to ask for an explanation on one of your policies.


I have been a loyal customer, attending one of your stores in Toronto weekly. You see, my elder daughter has piano lessons every Tuesday evening in the same plaza as one of your stores, so on Tuesdays I pick up both my daughters from their school buses, and we head over to the plaza early before the piano lesson. We sit at the pizza store and enjoy a couple of slices of pizza and some chocolate milk, taking the leftovers home for snacks or for the next day’s lunch. Then we head across the street to the park, and finally I take them upstairs to the music school. My elder daughter has her music lesson, and my younger daughter and I read books while we wait for her. It is wholesome family time in the community. And we have been doing this weekly for a long time. Your pizza chain is a member of this community, it is conveniently located, and it makes one of the better pizza crusts (in my opinion).


Recently I visited the same store and requested a couple of extra slices. I told the staff we were going to sit and eat a bit, and then take everything else home. I asked her to cut all the slices in half, and put them all in a pizza box for me. She told me that she cannot give me a pizza box, it is reserved only for pizzas of 6 slices or more. This puzzled me. What was the purpose of this policy? So I asked her: "Was I supposed to buy six slices instead of four in order to get the box?" She said no. I asked her: "How shall I carry my pizza away with two kids in tow?


She proceeded to put each slice in an individual triangle paper plate, and then stack the four slices vertically in a paper bag. I have never seen anyone stack pizza slices vertically, ever, anywhere. Pizza is always served, stored, and even eaten, flat. She went on to add the chocolate milks and my can of Brio to the paper bag. I was frustrated. I asked her a few more times how this was supposed to work. I carried the paper bag over to the table where I had seated my daughters, and then said aloud to the staff-member: now how do I know which slice is which? I started to pull the triangle paper plates out of the bag and each pizza slice slid back into the paper bag. This is how you serve food? Is this how you feed your own family? We were not having a good experience, and the staff was not caring or responding. So after the kids ate their minimal portions we got up to leave. And the paper bag ripped.


I went back to the counter and said, look I am not trying to make trouble for you, but I am trying to understand why you are quoting policy to me while you are watching me struggle here. She went and asked the manager and came back and told me again, no pizza boxes for pizza slices. She did dig up a plastic bag of her own (not your pizza chain brand), and helped me stack my slices vertically in the bag. The counter was then covered in crumbs falling out of the triangle paper plates.


So I ask you, pizza chain corporate head office, why does your company have this policy about pizza boxes? Why did the staff not offer to sell me a pizza box for a buck? When she heard I wanted to buy four slices and take them home, why did she not offer to make me a whole pizza for a similar price?


Your company comes across to me as though it does not care about my customer experience, nor does it respect the food it serves. The staff seemed to just want me to leave, with or without the pizza. They probably did not care if I ate the pizza or threw it out. They probably did not care if I spent my money there or not.


Maybe this is a one-off experience. Maybe the staff was having a bad day. But your brand is only as good as the customer’s last bad experience. But that experience, and the focus on caring for the food and the people who are engaging with your brand starts at the top. I cannot imagine what you can do to win my loyalty back. I am planning to drive out of my way to another pizza brand next week prior to piano lessons.

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