Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Being treated the way you deserve to be treated

A pizza outlet I frequent showed some really bad customer service. It was normally the Sunday night shift. The staff looked surprised when there were people at the counter. Heaven forbid that people actually wanted pizza. After a couple of months of this, I finally complained after I turned up to the store and one of the staff was sitting there reading a magazine while another was taking a phone order. The guy reading the magazine eventually got up and carried on working - ignoring the people at the counter.

The result of this was a very sarcastic email to the franchise in question. What completely escaped me though, was that no one else had complained.

The outcome was that my email ended up on their notice board with a note attached to it that if another complaint of that nature came through, the staff Christmas do would be cancelled. The service has been exemplary since. I am a little bit worried that they may have printed my name on the email - given that I use the web ordering page and go and pick up the order 15 minutes later, my name is in full sight of the staff filling the order.

But the problem still remains. We don't complain nearly enough. We get treated the way that we allow ourselves to be treated. Bad service? Put a complaint in. If it's a franchise, then chances are, they'll be under pressure to fix the problem promptly or risk being in breach of their franchise contract.

America doesn't have this problem. Given that service staff aren't actually paid enough to live on, they rely on the tip culture in order to obtain enough to live off. In other words, if they're good at customer services, they get an amount in excess of what they would probably get here. If they're mediocre, they'd probably get enough to live on and if they're terrible - it's probably time to find a new line of work.

Oh course, there's the problem that the staff aren't getting paid enough to live on. That and that there's an expectation of getting the tip. Not perfect by any account but something to think about.

It does give some perspective. In New Zealand we should be raising our expectations of those staff. Given that most of the time those staff are people in their first jobs, then you do them no great favour by ignoring bad service.

Instead they'll learn from complaints. Life isn't a smooth ride. You have to work to get what you get. I got a few in my time in customer services - working on the phones of a courier company where you're the furthest you could possibly be from the missing packages that you're expected to find (further exasperated by the fact that the courier drivers are contractors rather than employees so are more concerned with covering their own butts rather than helping out some annoying person on the end of a phone). To my credit, I did find myself delivering packages on my way home (not easy given that I don't drive) and going the extra mile where I could.

Even more fundamental to this discussion (if this turns into a discussion) is, why don't we complain? Personally I hate conflict. I'll avoid it at all costs. The funny bit though is that the pizza franchise in question were thankful for the complaint. I was contacted by the franchise holder and someone who administers the business. 2 levels of contact thanking me for the complaint and working with me to improve the situation.

Assuming that the owner of a business can't be there all the time, then complaints actually give them some feedback as to what's happening. If the staff slack off as soon as they're out of the building, they should probably know about it. They're losing business through this - dissatisfied customers are more likely to find alternatives. It's far cheaper to keep existing customers than to get new ones.

So is it a hate of conflict? Or do we not think we deserve better? Are we indifferent to it and are really time poor as the fast food industry suggests? I'm sure there's the start of an open source discussion here - something about how the majority of people have learnt to live with the instability and limitations of the various Windows operating systems over the years - that's probably a post for another day.


  1. isnt it that if you complain in the US, they replace you anyway due to such high unemployment over there?

  2. There's no real need to complain in the US though. The tipping system means that you don't have to. Everyone's after that ever so important tip in order to live.

    The point is, in New Zealand, we don't have the tipping system so we need to complain.

  3. You do realise that all your food from there is now going to have "special" ingredients added, right?

  4. Yeah that was my concern :/ If I'm lucky they ran a marker over my name.

  5. the problem is: you complain, the employee gets it in the neck. that doesn't help your problem, but the reality is the people that run places like pizza hut franchises generally have the same ethics as Victorian mill owners, and consequently the employees don't care one way or the other.

    the answer? get your pizza from somewhere where they're not trying to shave every last cent off the cost (check out https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/McDonaldisation for more on this), and hence treat their employees as humans



  6. True enough. Does anyone still eat Pizza Hut pizzas? I'm not sure why we feel so inclined to use the franchises. For every one of those franchise stores there's a small business gone.

    I really think we should be supporting small business where we can. Those businesses which are most likely to remember you and greet you like an old friend. Who are run by people like you and me trying to make ends meet rather than weird morality issues occurring around money (one word: Bhopal).