Running your own business is hard. Unfortunately, many business owners make it even harder on themselves with a lack of standards for themselves and their business.
I live in a small town, which includes a small Main Street and a small shopping center on the main road. Since we are a small town, there are only two pizzerias that serve us. Being a blustery Friday evening in October, our family decided to order pizza. Friday nights are great for pizza and a movie.
Guess what happened? We ended up having tacos and perogis from the local bar and grill because both of our local pizzerias failed us miserably on what is usually the busiest pizza night of the week. They both failed for two totally different reasons, but both are equally embarrassing and shameful for a small business owner.
(I'm leaving out names as I want to use this as a learning lesson, not to slam anyone)
This one has by far the better tasting pizza out of the two. Its priced considerably higher, but being born and raised in NYC, I don't mind paying more for pizza that can at least come reasonably close to authentic, thin crust NYC pizza.
So what's their problem? Inconsistency.
When I called them at 8PM on a Friday night, they were closed. The voicemail message said to call back, I did that. Got the voicemail again. As I passed by on my way home, I saw that they were indeed closed, no note on the door or explanation on the voicemail message.
Unfortunately this is the norm for this business. The owner(s) never keep consistant hours. On their front door and in their brochures, they are open daily until 10PM. As soon as things slow down even a little bit, or they just don't feel like staying any longer, they close.
They have no idea how much business they have lost with this inconsistency. A customer will only call or stop by a few times to find you closed (when you are supposed to be open) before they stop trusting you as a business, and bring their business elsewhere.
As a business you have to keep your promises, no matter how small they are in your eyes. If you say you will be open during certain hours, be open. If you say you offer something, then offer it. There are few things that irritate a customer more than an inconsistent experience. You want to build trust with your customers and it's very hard to do when you you can't deliver on even your smallest promises.
This place has mediocre pizza. Not too bad, but not very good either. I'd rank it at or slightly below your typical franchise pizza chain like Pappa John's or Little Ceasars. This pizzeria is located on our little Main Street and is actually right around the corner from us. We rarely order from here (my wife thinks its aweful), but I have a thing about supporting Main Street businesses, they are a dying breed.
So what's their problem? Poor Operations and Customer Service
Once again, I called them at 8pm on a Friday night. At least they were open! A girl answered the phone and asked what I would like.
I asked for a large pizza for pickup.
Her response. “hold on”
She then proceeded to have a full on conversation with another employee with the phone apparently still by her mouth as I heard the entire conversation. It went like this;
Girl: “We're out of dough and this dude wants a pizza, what do you want me to tell him?”
Other employee:” I don't know, take the order and we'll make more dough in a little while”
Girl: “We still have four more orders we need to make before this one and we have no dough, how long will it take you to make more dough?”
Other employee: “about an hour”
Girl: “What should I tell this dude then?”
Other employee: “Just take the order”
The girl then proceeded to speak to me again, apparently unfazed that I was listening to the whole conversation and said “what would you like?”
Me: “Uh, how long is an order going to take?”
Girl: “A little while”
Me: “The other guy just said an hour to make the dough, then you have to cook it, that's going to take alot longer than a little while”
Me: “I think that's going to be too long for me”
Girl: “take care” She then hung up.
So where should we start? The total lack of customer service training, the apathetic attitude towards the customer or the fact that you ran out of your only product (pizza dough) a few hours into your busiest night of the week?
Customer service. Every business, unless you have a business without customers (if you do, please let me know the business model!) is in the customer service business. Whether you sell products or service, online or offline, you are in the customer service business. The businesses that understand this thrive and the one who don't, die a slow death.
Take customer service seriously. Train and demonstrate to your employees what great customer service looks like. Create a customer service standard for your business and show all of your employees how to hold themselves to it. I don't blame the girl for the very poor customer service, I place all of the blame on the business owner. Little things like this, added up, result in a poorly regarded business.
Poor operations. You don't have enough dough? It's not like it was Super Bowl Sunday and you were over run with hungry (and thirsty) football fans, in which case you may be justified for running out (maybe). But a regular Friday night? That's just a result of poor planning. Once again, this is not the first time this has happened. Several times I have gone here and they were out of toppings, drinks and one other time, pizza.
How do you consistently run out of everything? Poor planning. Just like with the first pizzeria, inconsistencies like this will drive away many of your customers as they can no longer trust that you can deliver on your promise, in this case pizza.
Do the Fundamentals
Running your own business is hard, don't make it harder on yourself. Learn to do the fundamentals really well and do them consistently. Build trust with your customers, give them a great customer service experience and watch them turn into loyal fans of your business.
In the coming months there is a new commercial strip being built in our town, word is that a pizza franchise will be opening up there. If these two pizzerias don't step up their game they are going to lose out to this chain pizzeria. Why? Because despite not having the greatest product, franchises offer something that keep people coming back again and again, a consistent experience each and every time. Next time i'm on a pizza binge, i'll go for the sure thing.
Image: Grimaldi's Pizza, Brooklyn, NY