If You're Really Good, You Can Lose Lots Of Customers At Once

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We just led a webinar on customer winback for health and wellness businesses, so watched a customer service train-wreck with fascination tonight at our corner pizza place.

Not many customers in the place. Guy sitting at the counter when we arrive is still there when OUR pizza is ready. He suddenly asks one of the staff, “Are those my pizzas there?”

Long story short, yes. Turns out they’ve been sitting on top of the oven since about 60 seconds after he arrived — but no one noticed.

He’s rightfully furious, because they promised the pizzas would be ready nearly fifteen minutes ago.

OK, stuff happens.  No one expects perfection. It’s what you do when there’s a problem that saves or loses the customer relationship.

But then…the counterhelp gives him some blather about how they normally do it and how this time no one noticed (excuses, excuses!).

She’s almost making it sound like it’s his fault for not asking sooner.  (Guess they didn’t notice he was sitting there for fifteen minutes — even though the place was nearly empty.)

I’m eavesdropping, thinking surely she’ll apologize to him.  She finally mutters “I’m sorry” — but it’s very late in the conversation and not particularly energetic.

And finally, offers him a salad to make up for it.  Yep, a $5 salad.

Now, this guy just bought at least $40 worth of pizza, maybe more, which is now markedly less than fresh. I bet anything he’s been a loyal customer up to now, too. He’s been significantly inconvenienced, and they failed to deliver on the timing they promised.

If he were my customer, I’d GIVE him the whole freaking order PLUS his choice of any additional item off the menu he wanted.  Also free.  Plus coupons for a huge discount on his next visit.

My apology would be immediate, along the lines of:   “I am SO sorry, we totally dropped the ball.  We should have told you your food was ready. And I’m so sorry we’ve made you late for the people who are waiting for you.”

So he takes his pizzas and stomps off, clearly completely ticked off and not at all satisfied by their superficial attempt to compensate him for this snafu. Not that I blame him.

Now comes the worst part.  The counterhelp start talking about him. We can hear every word they say.  So can other customers. And the workers are blaming HIM for the fact that THEY screwed up.  It’s quite snarky and nasty.  And nothing remotely along the lines of  “God, I can’t believe we left his pizzas sitting there like that.”

So in addition to losing him as a customer, we’re all sitting there wondering, “Is this how they talk about us?  Now we know how they really feel.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel good about going back.  And up til now, we’ve hit this place probably 2 – 3 times week.

Unfortunately, customer service experiences like this aren’t limited to my corner pizza joint.  It happens every day in health clubs, wellness centers, yoga studios and other wellness businesses.

And the only way you’ll ever know if it’s happening in your business is if you reach out to customers through surveys and other ongoing feedback methods.