The past few weeks I've been getting emails from Nextdoor, a social network (supported by advertising) where people can report lost dogs, ask for contractor referrals, complain about noisy neighbors and basically do online what neighbors have done forever.
Recently, a post appeared with a complaint about the service at a local pizza joint, a family-run place I know has been in business in our town for over 35 years. Here is the exchange (all names have been changed; the person making the complaint is identified as "A").
A: After a very long drive home from work, I decided to place an order for pizza online through (online delivery service). I ordered from (pizza place) at 6 p.m. I got a text saying it would be an hour — long time, but I figured they were busy. After an hour and a half, no delivery. I looked at the order on (online service), and it said the restaurant handles their own deliveries and to contact them. When I called they said they didn't have an order from me and were very indignant. I asked them to call (online service), and they refused and told me to. When I called (online service), they told me (pizza place) had an error with their system and they helped them fix it. Did (pizza place) call and apologize? Nope. Terrible customer service. There is much better pizza in town from places that actually care about their customers.
B: We just had dinner at (pizza place) (7 p.m.). The food was incredible. The pizza looked fantastic. They were very busy, not that that that's an excuse for being indignant, but they were very pleasant to us, and I would go there anytime! Sometimes people have off nights. Sorry this happened to you.
C: (Pizza place) is one of our favorite family restaurants. The food and service are usually incredible. My family and I have been going there and getting takeout for years. Could the issue have been with the online app? We usually call (pizza place) direct. But they are such a nice family-run restaurant. Please give them another shot.
A: Errors happen. I get it, but a good restaurant would say, "OMG, you have been waiting an hour and a half? You must really want our pizza. We will take your order and will address the (online service) issue after." Instead they asked me the same questions over and over, and when I said I won't order from them again, they said fine. They don't want my business, so I'll spend my money elsewhere.
D: Who's (online service)? Call directly, and stop using third-party places to save a buck. Great pizza and owners.
E: Try (competing pizza place). The food is scrumptious.
A: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would have been happier if they said after I waited so long and there was an error they would take my order and make it ASAP. I would have even accepted if, after (online service) called them, they called me back and apologized. Mistakes happen. That's life. It's how a business treats mistakes that determines if I will patronize them again.
F: Look, people. I've had enough of the minor bullying I've been reading on here regarding one woman's experience at a local pizza place. I get that you are all trying to defend your local, family-owned pizza joint, but how about instead of trying to blame her for using a third-party app, you acknowledge this happened and throw some blame where it's due — on the family-owned pizza joint. They did not do the right thing here. Period. They should have acknowledged their mistake in the first place, and certainly, once they realized the error was theirs, they should have called her back and apologized for being idiots on the phone, given her a credit or something. And she's right; if they can't get their (expletive) together with the apps, then don't participate in them, and only allow people to call them directly. She did nothing wrong here.
A: I'm going to enjoy this beautiful weather. I won't see updates to this post.
So what can business owners learn from this exchange?
— That no matter how well you obsess about customer service, mistakes will happen and disappointed customers will take out their frustrations online. — That customer complaints should always be handled courteously and promptly — being busy is no excuse.
— When allowing customers to order from your business online, make sure the software works seamlessly at all times.
— When firestorms break out online, it pays to have lots of satisfied customers who can come to your defense and tell people how great you really are.
— That you need to monitor social media so when things like this happen, you can take prompt action (note that the pizza place did not respond directly to A's online posting, which I think it should have).
— If you can't take the heat from the pizza oven, don't post negative reviews about local businesses with strong followings.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.
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