This April, we promised to return money paid for any order that left our customers unsatisfied. Late delivery? Missing drink? Cold pizza? Just a pizza you didn’t like? Doesn’t matter. We encouraged our unhappy customers to call or leave a message on Facebook, tell us what the issue was, and get all their money back.
Guess what happened next.
Our post was seen by 7730 people. A dozen comments left by our followers proved that we don’t mess with our orders too often—not a single comment was a complaint. People only seized the opportunity to support us.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we got a dozen complaints, mostly by phone. Surprisingly, many unhappy customers didn’t want refunds, they only wished to speak up and give us their honest feedback and help us get better. Still, we returned payments for seven orders that cost the pizzeria $86.36.
We wired money back even for an order made half a year before—not as a rule, but as an exception (usually, we expect people to speak up as soon as they receive their order).
All this money we paid wasn’t a loss—it was an investment in our product. Thanks to the complaints, we could identify patterns, improve our workflow, and make sure that nothing like this would happen again.
How our unhappy customers helped us improve
Some unhappy customers did get a cold pizza even though the deliveries were made in time. We investigated all the cases in question and learned that the problem popped up when our drivers put too many boxes in their bags. The bag couldn’t be closed properly, and warm air leaked out.
We’ve introduced a new rule that forbids putting more than three boxes in one bag. While solving the cold pizza problem, we also started returning money for deliveries made in more than 30 minutes—even if the customer didn’t ask for it.
A few people notified us that they just couldn’t get a pizza for carryout. They showed up at the pizzeria, but there was nobody at the counter (yes, I burn with shame when I write this). Having waited for a few moments, they left.
This could happen during a slow time, when the only people on the shift would go to do chores in the back of the kitchen. Now we have a rule that the shift manager has to make sure that somebody is keeping an eye on the counter.
If a customer walks in and no member of the team is there to say “Hello,” it is a serious oversight that will reduce the shift manager’s monthly bonus.
Nobody is perfect. But not every client will go through the trouble of lodging a complaint—people are busy living their lives.
Many will say nothing and just stop buying from you. So even a minor mistake can cost the business a customer. That’s why it’s crucial to inspire negative feedback despite all the headaches, discomfort, and pain you suffer when learning how much you screwed up.
If unhappy customers are talking to you, you have a chance to convert them to your most loyal stalwarts and make up for your mistakes.
When we introduced our 100% money back guarantee, a few people thought that some customers or even members of our crew could take advantage of our policies.
Having faith in both our people and our customers, we weighed the risks and decided to proceed with the rule.
So far, nothing bad has happened to us.
Our main takeaways from the experiment:
1. Negative feedback is AWESOME. Want to build a connection with your customers and improve your product and service? Encourage complaints.
2. You’ll get the best results if you not only rectify your mistakes but also make improvements in your workflow that will prevent the same flops in the future.
3. The risks of becoming a target of dishonest customers are overrated. You limit them when you don’t heavily advertise your policies and carefully choose your media channel for delivering your message (we use Facebook, which allows us to reach our loyal customers).
Don’t trust our opinion? Trust an expert
In case you missed it, there is a classic book on the topic written by Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller. It has a self-explanatory title: A Complaint Is a Gift: Recovering Customer Loyalty When Things Go Wrong. Check it out if you haven’t yet!
Join us on our fantastic journey
We have one pizza delivery in Oxford, MS. But, like many of our fellow restaurateurs, we aim higher. Our team wants to build a small chain of about 5–7 pizza shops and make a real difference in the community. Join us on this fantastic adventure and learn with us how to grow your business! Subscribe to our newsletter to get our blog’s most useful and inspiring posts.