Crazy customer of the day

If those are the customers that you’re letting slip through your fingers, and by your own reckoning those customers are on the rise, then the logical conclusion is that as the number of difficult customers goes up, up, and up, your sales will go down, down, and down. It’s simple math. Think about it.

The alternative is to find ways to meet the needs of those customers. It’s really not as hard as you’re making it out to be.

Here are a few marketing statistics to think about:

A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related – Bain & Company.

70% of purchasing decisions are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey.

A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5%– 95% – Bain & Company.

A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy.

Giving good service doesn’t take any more effort than giving bad service, but giving bad service can be very, very expensive – OSV

The OP was about a customer who walked up to the counter. He wasn’t outside of a delivery range. He was in the building, standing right in front of the cash register. His money was right there for the taking.

Nobody said anything about going outside of delivery ranges.

Your example is of an entirely different nature, and your response is only good business sense.

What you’re talking about is not letting go of the bird in hand to go after the bird in the bush. It’s never a good business practice, especially if the bush is outside of your delivery range.

The priority is always the bird in hand.

We are in complete agreement here. If the choice is between:

A) giving mediocre service (long service time, soggy luke-warm pizza, etc) to a customer outside of your established delivery range at the expense of possibly several customers within your delivery range,
B) giving top-notch service to the customers within your delivery range,

the choice is obvious. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

I would take this a step farther and say that even during low-volume periods where there are no other delivery orders and you could easily accommodate the customer, it would still be a mistake to take a delivery outside of your established delivery range. To do so would be creating an expectation for future deliveries, and when the future request can’t be accommodated, the customer will be twice as angry, and this time rightfully so. I’ve seen this happen more than a few times, and the results are never good in the long run. You did your research and mapped out the range in which you could effectively provide delivery service. You did it for good reason. Stick with it.

That being said, I still wouldn’t reject the customer.

One of the things I’m noticing in these situations is that operators are only seeing two choices in a given situation: “grovel at the feet of a customer and bend to unreasonable requests”, or “send them out the door”.
This is a very limiting perspective, and only leads to frustration, resentment and anger on both sides.
This is a lose-lose proposition.

My best advice in this case would be to find the third option.

I think the best response is to let the customer know that they’re outside of your delivery range, but you’d be very happy to make a pizza for them to pick up.

This may seem to be a subtle difference on the surface, since the customer is not likely to place a carryout order, but it’s actually a very powerful distinction.

Among other things, it heads them off at the pass on the “aw, come on- it’s not that far” argument- suddenly, this argument works against them, not you.If it’s not that far, coming to pick up the pizza won’t be much of an inconvenience, right?

More importantly, rather than to flatly turn down the order, you’ve given them what can only be seen as a fair and reasonable option. The choice is theirs. You’ve shifted the locus of responsibility from yourself to the customer, and they can no longer be angry with you, since it was their choice. You did your best to accommodate them. Your own response can’t be faulted.

There’s also the possibility (a slim possibility, granted) that they will place the order for pickup. I’ve had this situation come up more than a few times where the customer has hung up the phone, saying that they’ll call somewhere else, only to call back five minutes later and place the order for pickup.

Perhaps they don’t have means of transportation, are incapacitated, or otherwise can’t leave the house. They’re not going to order carryout from you tonight. By pissing them off, you’re only guaranteeing that they won’t be ordering from you next week, when their car gets out of the shop and they can come and pick it up.

Rather than to slam the door in their face, why not leave the door open for future purchases? What’s the harm?

Once again, an entirely different situation. Telling a customer that you can have them out the door in 10 minutes (allowing 5 minutes to get to the theater, get tickets and find seats) when you obviously can’t is not going to end well. Neither is telling them that there are other customers ahead of them. No good will come of that, and there’s no reason to say it. It would only be inflammatory. Just quote a realistic service time and leave it at that.

Seating them or serving them ahead of the people who have been waiting is not an option. You’ll only anger more customers.

Once again, my best advice would be to find the third option.

Often popular films have staggered screenings, so if they can’t make that screening, there may very well be another screening 45 minutes later, which would give them plenty of time to enjoy their dinner.

If I were handling that situation, I would let the customer know that if they’d like to stay for dinner, we could have their food out to them in about 20 minutes (or whatever the current service time is), and in the mean time, I could use the back-of-house computer to see if there’s a later screening of the film. It’s a win-win solution.

If they are intent on seeing the film at that particular time, there’s no way they’re going to be able to eat first, so I would let them know that if they’d like to come back after the film, the rush will have died down and we should be able to seat them right away. If I had something like an extra bag of breadsticks handy, I might give them the bread and some dipping sauce to take with them, on the house, to “hold them over” until after the show.

I would also let them know (assuming you have the infrastructure to accommodate call-ahead dine-ins) that if they’re pressed for time in the future, they can call an order in ahead of time and we can have it fresh out of the oven and ready to eat when they get here. Give them a copy of the carryout menu with the phone number on it.


Let’s face it: there are two kinds of restaurants: Quick food and Slower food. If you stop badmouthing us slower food people for not having quick food, we won’t badmouth Quick food people for serving low quality food.

OSV, I would like to add a couple things to your original post. When the owner comes out with the sandwich for this poor fellow, he should also have given him the keys to his car, his wallet, and asked if he wanted to have sex with his wife. Any idiot who thinks it’s a good idea to drive 10 minutes both ways to a pizza shop to have a 6 minute lunch is setting himself up for failure. Everyone of us understands the importance of customer service, this guy was just an idiot.

Whoa. Slow down. I never meant to bad-mouth anyone. I have re-read my posts and don’t see anything in them that could be seen as bad-mouthing anyone, quick or slow.

The only hostility I’ve seen in this thread is directed towards customers, and towards me for trying to point out some constructive alternatives to losing those customers.

If there’s something you perceived as “badmouthing”, perhaps you could point it out and you will have my deepest and most sincere apology. That was never my intent. Everything I’ve posted is intended to be constructive, not destructive.

There are many types of restaurants, both quick and slow. I’ve run both. Right or wrong, pizza is generally considered to fall under the “quick” category.

To imply that quick food has to be low quality is just not right. As an example, I can ladle some soup into a cup or bowl, garnish it and have it out in a matter of seconds. It doesn’t get much quicker than that. I use nothing but the highest quality ingredients in my soups and the stocks I build them from, and am told by many customers that it’s the best soup they’ve ever had.

Quick does not have to mean low quality.

What is the food cost on a sandwich? don’t you think you’re being just a little extreme here?

Although my post was fictitious, the example that I gave was from real-life experience. I have been in this business for 35 years, both in running my own stores and in consulting and helping others to maximize their own sales and profits. In that 35 years, I have never given away product where it hasn’t paid for itself many, many times over. Not once.

The information I have posted is intended to provide alternatives to losing a customer. These options have proved very successful for me and for others, time after time. If there’s any information in my posts that may be useful to you in your business, you are welcome to use it as you see fit. If none of the information I’ve posted is useful to you, that’s fine too.

I’m sorry that you feel that way.

I think the original reason for this thread was to vent. You can’t ever expect to be all things to all people. I think we all on occasion make poor business decisions in that moment of frustration when people are asking for what seems unreasonable. It is easy to armchair quarterback these situations but not so easy to keep all situations at the best case scenario. I am sure that, given time to think about each situation we face on a daily basis, we could find a better way to handle things.

I often refuse customer request because I know the limits of my operation. To some theses decisions may seem illogical or irrational. Many would say I am driving away customers.
NO, I am not 2for1.
NO, I don’t do ANY discounts or coupons.
NO, I don’t sell “hot and ready”.
NO, I don’t sell by the slice.
NO, I don’t sell fries.
NO, I don’t make donairs.
NO, I don’t have shrimp.
NO, I don’t deliver there.
NO, I can’t deliver in 20 minutes.
NO, I won’t make the customer who planned ahead wait because you didn’t.[/INDENT]

Am I pushing customers to the competition? Probably.

Am I going to change any of these NOs? Not a chance.

Drunk customers are always challenging to deal with. More times than not, once they get into a belligerent mood, there’s just no reasoning with them. Many times, any attempt to cool things down only seems to escalate the situation.

I think the best strategy in that situation is to try to minimize any interaction with them and not let yourself get pulled into a confrontation (easier said than done, I know…).

Here are some good ideas on handling the situation. I wish I had a better answer for you. Maybe some other forum members will weigh in with some good advice on this one. I know I’m all ears on the subject.

I’m not sure if you’re asking about turning off your adrenaline or the customer’s- I’m assuming you mean your own, since we work in a fast paced, often hectic environment, but I’ll try to answer both to the best of my ability in a future post (I have too many things going on right now to be able to give the question the thought and attention it deserves).

Understood, and I can sure relate to that!

I couldn’t agree more. Better to do a few things right than to do many things badly. I’ve seen restaurants fail by trying to do too much.

There’s an old bumper sticker that reads something along the lines of “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement”. let’s just say that I have lots of “experience”.

I’ve made my share of bad decisions, and I’m sure I’ll make more in the future. I’ve learned from those bad decisions. They’ve helped me to become a better leader.

I also believe that if I can learn and grow from other people’s experience, and others can learn and grow from my experience, that puts us all that much ahead of the game. It makes us all stronger. It’s in that spirit that I share my experiences with others and hope that they would share theirs with me. That’s what I had in mind when I joined this forum, in order to become stronger and better myself, and hopefully help others to become stronger and better along the way. Learning and growing is an on-going process, and I try to learn better and more refined ways of doing things every day.

Whether or not we make poor business decisions is not a measure of who we are. We all make the occasional poor decision. It’s how we choose to deal with those decisions that makes us who we are.

When I handle a situation badly, my crew knows that as soon as the rush dies down, I’m going to ask them how they think I handled the situation. They know I will also ask them how I could’ve handled the situation better. They’ve gotten quite good at it. By doing this, I am brainstorming better solutions from multiple perspectives, but I am also teaching the team that it’s okay to make mistakes, and teaching them how to learn from those mistakes.

Brainstorming the situation is also allowing them to learn from my mistakes so that if and when they are faced with a similar situation, they will be able to handle it better than I did.

They know that I don’t expect them to be as good as me, I expect them to be better (and they are).

I work with customers every single day, including difficult customers, and have for 35 years. To suggest that I’m “armchair quarterbacking” is not fair.

The important thing is that we do find that time to think about those situations we face on a daily basis and find better ways to handle them. That’s how we grow as businesses, as leaders, and as individuals. As we integrate and practice these better ways of handling the difficult situations, the problems may still arise, but by being better equipped to deal with them, they can become less difficult.

If others have faced similar situations and found better ways of handling them, I would hope that they’d show me the respect of sharing those ways with me so that I can learn and grow. The solutions that they have found may or may not be the best solutions for me in my particular situation, but at bare minimum it gives me more choices, and different perspective that may help me to find other possible solutions that are better suited to my own needs.

I agree whole-heartedly on all these points (except the donair thing- I don’t know what that is). I’ve already addressed several of these points in previous posts (seating customers before others, outside of delivery range, unrealistic service times). Nowhere have I suggested changing any of those NOs. What I’ve suggested is exactly the opposite. I’ve suggested reinforcing the NOs.

I don’t think that any of these things are driving away customers or pushing them to the competition.

In fact, I feel strongly that these situations provide us with opportunities to grow our businesses.

In the original topic of this thread, the customer wanted to buy slices, and the operator doesn’t sell slices. I never suggested that the answer was for the operator to start selling slices. Far from it. I don’t sell slices either.

The possible solution that I presented was to 1) address the customer’s immediate need, which was to get some food before having to return to work, and 2) let the customer know that since ready-to-go slices are not an option, he can still have food ready to eat as soon as he arrives by calling ahead and placing an order, while handing him a carryout menu with the phone number on it.

I’m not suggesting changing any of the NOs. I’m suggesting that the NO be presented in a way that opens the door to new business and increased sales, rather that slamming the door shut on those future sales. There’s a big difference.

At any rate, it has become painfully clear that my thoughts, ideas and opinions are not welcome here, and will only be met with hostility. That being the case, posting those thoughts is clearly not doing anyone any good. Going forward, I suppose the best course of action is to keep them to myself. Once again, my apologies if my posts have somehow offended anyone. That was not the intent.

OSV not everyone wants every post to be a “learning experience” sometimes people need an outlet to vent without someone critiquing what they did wrong. You have pointed out several ways to to handle it differently but that is not why this thread was started. No doubt you are an experienced operator with the ideas you have offered but sometimes a guy just needs to vent for the sake of venting. Not every thread needs to be a teaching opportunity.

Yup, understood completely. Although that was never my intent, I can totally understand how that could rub someone the wrong way. In the big picture, we all deal with difficult customers, and having an outlet to vent is what allows us to blow off steam in a forum away from the customer, where others who have had similar experiences can sympathize and commiserate, so we can go back and face the challenges of the day.

I can see that my attempts to be helpful only served to salt the wound, and I apologize. Lesson learned.

The title of this thread should be renamed: Crazy Poster of the day.

I don’t think you have rubbed anyone the wrong way by giving alternatives or the “third option”
Every store has some same and different scenarios and deal with them as they deem fits their operation. (ala Daddio’s lists of No’s)
It seems today that more and more customers are becoming “it’s all about me” and blow their top if they can’t get what they want.
We all do many of the options you suggest but in the end of the day there is always going to be that obnoxious person that will not take no, this or that option or whatever we try. They only want their outcome and nothing else. Losing them is not losing anything as, as I said before, you can’t be everything to everyone. Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and ride out the storm and concentrate on being the best to the customers we have, who in turn will recommend others to us.
The beauty of a forum as this is that it gives us the avenue to vent as was the initial post of Freddy_Krugerand.
We then joined in with our own vents, stories, comments or advise. We are lucky to have the democratic right of freedom to express our thoughts. Lucky e don’t live elsewhere we this is not the case - we may be told to give this jerk his slices or suffer the consequences :eek:

OSV ! I suggest you start your own thread, perhaps titled “Missed opportunities” or some such. Then you won’t get flamed for posting “teaching moments” on a vent thread. :slight_smile:

Maybe my mistake was thinking that 8 minutes was a long time to wait to get food. McDonalds usually takes about 3 minutes. So it take 5 more minutes for a fresh made pizza than it does for a pink slime burger.
In addition I have told people our pizza takes 8 minutes to come out. Customer says they don’t’ have time and are going to drive to “X” pizza spot that is at least 10 minutes away. You don’t have 8 minutes for a pizza but you have 15 minutes to drive to another pizza place and order a slice. Speechless.

Every once in a while i get customers like this (we do lunch buffet). I just say Have a nice day with a smile and let them leave. They always come back in acouple days.

To make matters worse, he’s probably going to drive the 10 minutes away, only to be told if he wants to order a pizza, it’ll take about eight minutes…