Giving Voice to Pepperoni – Customer Service Lessons from the Field

Giving Voice to Pepperoni

Personal human service wins business

There’s No Substitute For a Human Being in Customer Service

Some of the best customer service lessons we as small business owners can witness come by watching employees in our neighborhood fast food establishments. The workers are generally young, often in their first job experience, and learning. In the process, many of them make colossal mistakes. On the up side, many improve from those mistakes and develop into fine young business people. And some seem intent on making burger-flipping and sandwich-serving into extraordinary experiences of pleasure for the customer. So whenever I grab and go, I like to make an anthropological study of the service samples exhibited behind the counter.

Recently, I walked in to the local pizza chain to carry out a stuffed-crust I’d ordered over the internet. It was not ready, and the kid behind the counter was clearly frustrated. The lines were long, the lady ahead of me was angry because her pie had double onion instead of double pepper, and the kitchen area looked woefully under-staffed. As I was asking about the status of my order, the phone rang.

“I’ll wait while you pick that up,” I offered.

“Nah,” said the customer service specialist, “They’ll hang up.”

I must have looked shocked, because he went on to explain himself. “Dude, people hate that recording,” he said with a twisty smile. “About half our callers hang up before being on hold for a minute. The longer they hold, the less chance they have of making it to me. And if they don’t make it to me, I don’t have to make their pizza.”

Well, how’s that for candor – and a small business owner’s nightmare? But besides the lousy attitude and cheesy sabotage, Pizza Dude had hit on a key element in customer service. The number one improvement surveyed customers ask for in a service provider is simply this: Better “Human” Service. Simply put, customers do not like answering machines. Whether they are ordering a pizza, needing a plumbing repair, or experiencing a medical emergency, nothing can replace a living, breathing human being offering efficient, pleasant, personal service on the other end of the line.

Within one minute, Pizza Dude told me. Less than a minute spent listening to a recording is enough to send more than half of his customers in search of pepperoni with a voice. Because, of course, an answering machine does not erase hunger. It simply sends clients in search of your biggest competitor.

Challenge: What voices do your customers hear when they call your business? What can you do to eliminate machines, decrease wait time, and offer better “human” service on your end of the line?

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