Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.

Sting sang those words quite a while ago.

While the official line on the song is that it was about the breakup of his marriage, it’s also something that you should be doing with your staff.

Not so much to be a spy or Big Brother, but to help them perform their jobs with more efficiency and productivity. Secret shopping is one way to do it, but for some odd reason, business owners just don’t like having people do it.

Every time I just sit and watch a business work, I come away with a yellow pad full of notes. And no one else seems to be paying attention.

Not long ago, I ordered a take out pizza from a local shop. I walked in to place my order, one other guy was waiting – and he had entered only seconds before I did.

No one acknowledged our entrance. A couple of minutes later, someone in the kitchen – which has a clear view of the counter – turned and said they’d be with us in a few minutes “we’re trying to catch up”.

I had plenty of time, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it sent the message that it didn’t matter whether I was in a hurry or not – something the pizza staff had no way to know.

I spoke about this the other day in my post about Wal-Mart trying to go more upscale with their service and noted that until you are either trained to recognize the situations and act on them, it’s not likely that you’ll know when and what outstanding service is.

This is why Pizza Hut hammers the “Ten Points of Customer Service” into EVERYONE. The cooks, the wait staff, the guy at the drive-in window. More on that later.

Meanwhile, of the 4 people I can see at this place, two are busy making pizzas, one is pulling pizza from the oven and “managing stuff” and the other is walking around in a daze. Finally, the manager asked the Dazed One if they were done doing whatever it was. “Yes”, came the reply.

“Go take their order”, instructed the manager.

Interesting that taking the order required explicit instruction, but it did. The Dazed One took my order and told me 30 minutes, which worked out fine because I had an errand to run.

25 minutes later, I walk back in and I’m told that it’ll be another 10 minutes. I hear one of the cooks say “We haven’t made it yet” as his long hair flutters and swings around over the pizza he’s making. A few summers at Pizza Hut is enough to know that 10 minutes is a no-brainer. Most of them are in the oven for about seven minutes. So I go outside to wait.

My car is parked right in front of the door. I get in and sit there (there are 2 seats to wait at this place, but they were taken with someone’s coat and laptop – an employee’s?).

10 minutes later, despite sitting in full view of the door and having the staff watch me get in my car, I come back into the store. The pizza is already in a box, and on top of the oven. Never crossed anyone’s mind to just bring it out, since I was waiting for it.  Pizza guy hands it to me, barely makes eye contact and DOESN’T SAY A WORD as he turns back to the make table (what we pizza guys call the place where the pizza is assembled).

Off we go, to take our pizza home. The pizza, by the way, is almost always good at this place. The service, well, that’s another story.

So let’s talk about what should have happened.

When I arrived, I should have been greeted immediately – even if only to acknowledge that I was there, that they knew it and to perhaps tell me that they’d be there shortly.  I don’t need to be told that they are catching up, implying that they are one or more of behind, understaffed, rushed, mis-managed, or simply short-handed for good reason in the middle of a rush.  It is, after all, Friday at 6:30pm. Prime time in the pizza business.

At 6:30pm in the pizza biz on a Friday, you should expect to be hammered. If you aren’t, take a good long look in the mirror.

During the greeting/acknowledgment that they saw me, I should have been asked if I was picking up a pizza or ordering (there are only two choices at this place).

If I was picking up, taking two minutes to get my pizza, take my money and send me on my way does several things. It gets me my pizza as fresh as I can get it, it gets me on my way and it gets me OUT of the store so I’m not hanging around and making the possible impression of a line forming – the kind of thing that makes other potential customers leave.

The Dazed One is dazed because she wasn’t properly trained. That is primarily management’s fault, though common sense should have told her to attend to the front counter rather than stand around doing nothing and staring at us as if we were a plasma screen.

She did a fine job of taking my order, but didn’t ask if I needed anything else, additional purchases, frequent buyer card (which I don’t believe they have – sinful), drinks, salads, etc. If McD’s thinks it’s worth asking if you want fries, at 99 cents a bag…is it worth it to the pizza joint? Yes.

Another angle on this: I’m an old guy at the end of a long work week. What my wife says sometimes goes in one ear and out the other – maybe I’ve forgotten something. Asking for the upsell just might save me an earful, or a return trip. One convenience store I go to around here has one guy who always asks if I want something extra with my Diet Coke. He never seems to ask the same thing. Donut, Snickers, newspaper, corn dog, lotto ticket, you name it. He’s just asking and he makes eye contact and smiles when he does it. And he does it to *everyone*.

The Dazed One should have been trained to do this.

When I arrive back for my pizza (5 minutes early…), telling me that it hasn’t been made yet is fine, even though they did so inadvertently (I overhead them).

Imagine if he had said “Sir, I’m just about ready to put it in the oven, but it’ll only take 7 minutes to cook so I’ll have you on your way home in no time. Can I get you a drink while you wait? If you want to wait in your car, I’ll be happy to bring it out to you.  Do you want forks, napkins, peppers or cheese with it when I bring it out? (and he writes my request on the box just in case).

IE: Setting expectations. Making it clear that I’ll have the pizza in just a few minutes, fresh and hot.

Ideally, he would also be dressed in uniform, have his hair under control (I don’t care if it’s long, but I don’t want it on my pizza). Management/training issue.

When the pizza comes out to my car, he says “Here you go, I made it just for you guys. It’s really hot and fresh so be careful. Here’s the cheese and napkins you asked for (in a little bag or zip lock baggie so they don’t end up all over the car). Can I get you anything else? Ok, drive safely, we want you to come back next week.”

What a difference in the experience that would have been … from a take out place – and none of that cost a dime more than what was provided in reality. Which place would you rather go to?

Ok, I promised I’d get back to the Pizza Hut thing. The “Ten Points of Customer Service” is taught to every employee at every Pizza Hut in the Southwest Missouri/Southeast Kansas area. I have no idea why it isn’t a corporate thing, because it is a great intro to proper customer service for someone taking their first job in a customer-facing environment.

What are you doing to make sure your young employees get the proper training in customer service?

5 replies on “Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”

  1. Outstanding post, Mark. Should be required reading for all retail and hospitality employees and their bosses.


  2. Thanks Glenn:) The amazing thing about customer service stuff like this is that its so simple, so inexpensive, yet hardly anyone does it.


  3. I enjoyed this article and have experienced disappointing “shops”. I wish every mystery shop I have ever performed would follow the second scenario. Good customer service is so important for repeat business. As a mystery shopper, I am elated to give an excellent rating. I do feel if more companies hired “mystery shopper” companies, they would learn where their deficiencies lie and learn how to remedy them.

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