I have sat on this for a few days, but the time has come to share this experience. For the record, I have been providing customer service in Flagler County for nearly 20 years now. At the old Harborside Inn in Palm Coast (1996 – 2001) I worked as a bellman, front desk clerk, and night auditor before becoming Front Office Manager for the last two years I was there. I then spent a year working as Operations Manager at Sheraton World Golf Village before coming back to Flagler County where I worked for Tee Times USA (2002-2004) as a golf vacation specialist. In 2004 I went back to my roots at the Harborside Inn and started my first ever bartending job. This is also where I received my nickname TikiTender. The hotel closed in 2005 and I began a 9 year run (2005 – 2014) at the Golden Lion in Flagler Beach. During my time there I was a bartender and front of house manager. In 2012 I launched my event bartending company, Fun Coast Bartending. In summer of 2013, I became managing partner for Flagler Cigar Company, running The Humidor Cigar Lounge in European Village. Along the way, when I needed some extra cash (especially in the late 90s and early 2Ks) I worked, ironically, as a pizza delivery driver and shift manager at Pizza Hut. This intro is just my way of saying I have some experience interacting with customers.
So, to the incident on August 2nd. I was out running errands and called my significant other to discuss lunch. She suggested Hungry Howie’s Sticky Fingers pizza, which I was very excited about. I asked her if she could make the order, since I was driving around. She placed the carryout order using your online ordering system at 1:12 pm with a 20 minute estimated pick-up time. According to the the ticket on the box I later received, the order printed in your store at 1:13 pm. I arrived at your store and checked in on Foursquare at 1:29 pm. Not really expecting the order to be ready at this point I dilly dallied about the store, let a couple other customers go to the counter, went to the bathroom, etc.
When I approached the counter a few minutes later, the girl working the counter was confused by the order. She didn’t see it in the system, etc. I was a little rankled but figured these things happen. I called my other half to ask if she had a confirmation email from the order. She forwarded it to me 1:36 pm (23 minutes after the order was received in your store). Your employee finally located the order and found the ticket hanging. She said “Here it is! It is in the oven. Should be out in 2 or 3 minutes”. She was very pleasant and at this point all was well. I know sometimes orders take a little longer. I worked at a different pizza chain for many years.
So I sat down. I scrolled through facebook. Posted a photo of one of the store signs to Instagram at 1:40 and watched as others came and went. After what was more than 2 or 3 minutes, I stood up and approached the counter again. I politely asked “What’s happening with that pizza?” The employee appeared surprised that I was still there and took several laps around the kitchen, looking around. Meanwhile I could an order ready to pick up (boxes with a ticket attached) on top of the pizza oven. I assumed it was mine. She finally saw the same box and handed it to me.
I’m a polite guy and fully understand the ebbs and flows of customer service, but I had to make a statement about this wait time. I said (in admittedly exasperated tone) “Come on guys, I’ve been standing here for 25 minutes and my oven was on the oven the whole time.” This was your chance to win me back. Instead, I got a sassy “No, you really haven’t [been waiting that long]” from the employee as I turned to leave. “Yes I really have”, I said as I pushed the door open to leave for what will probably be the last time. “Congratulations…” I heard as the door closed. I can’t say what she said, but can speculate it was something like “Congratulations for being a jerk”. It was 1:52 (39 minutes after the order was placed and 16 minutes after I was told my order was “in the oven”). It wasn’t the time the order took. It was the “It’s in the oven and should be ready in two or three minutes” statement.
I was ready to be wooed. I sat there patiently. I could see the general manager / owner in the kitchen. The opportunity was so close. The chance to shine was right there in front of you. Right there in front of you was the opportunity to say a simple phrase. “Sorry about the wait.” I’m no expert on delivering an outstanding customer service experience. Actually, scratch that, I AM an expert on delivering an outstanding customer experience. I know customers aren’t always right. I know they can be pains in the ass. I know they can be egocentric. I also know they like to feel important. They want to be recognized. They don’t want to be ignored and made to feel as if they are being done a favor by receiving something they have paid for. By the way, your employee was right about one thing. I hadn’t been waiting 25 minutes as I stated. I was only there for 23 minutes.
It was right there. Your chance to go from passive to proactive. Your chance to say “Sorry about that. Hope to see you again and we will do a better job.” But instead, a smartass comment from your employee ruined it and chased away what was, up to that point, a frequent customer who is also a chronic oversharer whose check-ins, instagrams, and status updates are seen by thousands of potential customers in the area.
In customer service 101, it is taught that you should ask customers about their experience and correct it on the spot. Why? Because not only do dissatisfied customers sometimes not come back, they also tell all their friends about their bad experience. I’m mad at you, Hungry Howie’s. Mad and disappointed. I will miss the Sticky Fingers pizza.