Nailing Customer Experience: Lessons from an Urgent Pizza Order

Early in my telecommunications career, working with my dad in our small technology-centric business, we began offering an early PC-based PBX product called Dash. Dash’s claim to fame at the time was that it was the primary product optimized for a major national pizza chain, utilizing the system’s revolutionary (for the time) ability to integrate with their network, send call data such as caller ID to the store’s workstations, and had an early low-end call queuing system that enhanced a caller’s experience when calling into a busy store at peak times.

At the time, I was inspired to write a story for our company website to illustrate the differences between a pizza parlor that utilized this technology and their more traditional competitors, to give some idea of how a business can benefit. Everyone loved it, and I’ve revived it several times over the years since. Unfortunately, through PC moves and the changing and ending of the various websites, it seems to have vanished. The technologies the original story showcased, however, are nowadays a little more mundane, so it seemed appropriate to rewrite the story from scratch to spotlight the utilization of some of the more recent technologies in business environments.

This new story is quite a bit longer than the original, but it is (I think) far more entertaining.

“You mean they just showed up?” Sarah’s eyes flew wide open, realizing that her loving husband of 15 years, the man she’d promised to love and cherish until death do they part, was about to meet his untimely end with her tiny hands on his meaty throat.

“I didn’t invite them,” Dan, the aforementioned doomed husband, whined. “All I did was mention the size of that big-screen TV we won in a raffle.” His feet shuffled in the manner of a man knowing how closely his demise loomed. Everyone knew that the “Big Game” came on in less than an hour, and now there were darned near 20 of Dan’s co-workers, friends, and poker buddies taking up residence in the couple’s spacious, but barely-spacious-enough living room.

Fortunately for Dan, Sarah had always been the type to keep the house in meticulous order at all times, so she couldn’t commit mariticide for not having the house ready for guests. Her more immediate concern, however, came flooding in. How are we going to feed all these people? There were a few snacks in the pantry for the kids, but nothing that these guys would eat, and certainly not enough. So glaring at him, she said, “Well if you think I’m cooking for all these men, you have another thing coming!”

“I think it’d be fine if we just order pizza,” Dan replied, relief flooding his features realizing how close he’d come to his untimely end and that there was some hope in appeasing his angry spouse.

“Pizza?” She retorted, “with everyone and their brother ordering it for the game? Those places are bound to be busier than you could imagine.”

“I don’t mind calling them,” Dan said, realizing that at least offering to do the hard part would go a long way towards ameliorating the situation.

He also knew she would never allow him to do any such thing. “No, I’ll do it.” Exasperation in her voice signaled continuing unhappiness, but a temporary reprieve from his execution. “But you owe me big-time mister!”

Dan beat a hasty retreat to the living room to schmooze with the guests while Sarah picked up her cellphone and looked up a local pizza company. One rule that had served them well was that they always used local businesses wherever they could, so she found the listing for a pizza shop around the corner and called. At first, she didn’t realize the sound coming from her phone. It’d been a long time since she’d actually heard a busy signal. “Oh, this can’t be good,” she thought. She dropped the call and redialed. Busy again. Had they gone out of business?

On the third try, to her relief, came the more familiar sound of ringing. But relief gave way to further exasperation as the ringing continued four or five times. Just as Sarah considered giving up and trying another number, someone finally answered. “Thanks for calling Pete’s Pizza, please hold.” And without a chance for her to reply, she heard a click and then silence. After a few minutes, she began to wonder if she’d been hung up on, but a quick glance at her phone revealed that the call was still connected. Finally, a voice came on, “Mr. Smith?”

“No, this is Mrs. Johnson.”

“Oh. Sorry. Wrong line.”

Another click and more silence. Sarah waited patiently but began to realize that they must be slammed and just couldn’t take the extra business. Her thoughts began to return to that dark place of killing her husband.

Instead, she just hung up and went back to her phone, thinking maybe she should just go with a national chain that would be better able to handle the extra load. Instead, she tried one more local shop, just down the road. They’d called them before, and the pizza was always pretty good.

This time, no busy signal greeted her, and to her surprise, there wasn’t even a ringtone. Instead, a cheerful voice answered immediately. “Bonjourno, you’ve reached Nick’s Pizzas, best pies in town. Hello,” a heartbeat-long pause made Sarah realize she had connected to a machine, and her brief elation at having the call answered so quickly disappeared. “The Johnsons,” then another pause. “Are you calling to re-order the same large hand-tossed pepperoni and pineapple pizza you ordered last time?” Sara had been prepared to press 0 to get to a live person, so the question caught her off guard.

“No,” she hesitatingly replied. “I have to order for a lot of people this time.” Sarah knew the machine probably couldn’t understand her, but to her surprise, it did.

“Totally understand,” it said. “I probably won’t be able to help you then, but please hold on for the first available associate, it shouldn’t be long.”

Again, Sarah went on hold. But unlike Pete’s, her time on hold had been made more pleasant with upbeat Italian-sounding music, pizza jokes, and the calm assurance that she was number 1 in line, and someone would be with her shortly. She enjoyed the on-hold messaging so much that she was almost sorry when a friendly voice came on the line. “Hello Mrs. Johnson. I’m Judith. I understand you are placing a larger than usual order with us this evening?”

“Yes,” unable to keep the exasperation from her voice, “My husband apparently unintentionally invited 20 of his buddies over for the game and neglected to tell me.”

“Oh my,” Judith chuckled. “There seems to be a lot of that going around tonight. Don’t worry, we can certainly get all those men fed. We have a special just for tonight, just for situations like yours. Would you like to hear about it?”

The tension in Sarah’s shoulders instantly relaxed, and she discussed the details of the order with Judith. As she hung up, she looked at the timer on her phone and realized that the entire call lasted less than two minutes.

So what can be learned from Sarah’s story? As business owners, we are constantly looking for ways to improve customer experience (CX). It’s well known that CX is tied inseparably to a business’ success or failure, so we know it’s critically important to get it right. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that next time Sarah wants or needs pizza, she sure isn’t calling Pete’s.

Certainly, Nick invested heavily in technologies specifically designed to enhance CX, as well as in his team members and point of sale equipment, while Pete went with the cheapest options all around. When business became busy, Pete paid the price, not only in lost revenue for that sale but also the potential of repeat business.

When you are deciding on a business phone system, take some time to consider all of the options. Put as much thought into how your business looks to callers as you do the motif of your shop for when they walk into your door. Feel free to call Southern Cross Communications for a free top-down review of your phone system to see what can be done to optimize your telephone presence and make your business the wildest success it can be.

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