Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Pizza Customer Woes

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 15, 2007

pizza.jpgPhil Gerbyshak and I have a lot in common.  We both try to blog from a positive perspective.  We both believe in the cool “underground” culture that is blogging.  And we are both frustrated with the pizza chain Papa John’sPhil’s post from yesterday describes his bad experience on Valentine’s Day, which ended up with cold pizza left on his front porch.  Check it out, including the comments because Phil asked for suggestions on how Papa John’s can “Make it Great!”  Yes, this is a departure from the usual positive thinking, but let this be a lesson to all: enough frustration can cause anyone to crack.

Here is my pizza story, along with some tips for Papa John’s. 

The Online Experience

I love it when the online and offline experiences work together.  They didn’t work together for me with Papa John’s.  When I first heard of this chain, I was very excited about being able to order pizza online and have it delivered.  Why?  I don’t have to leave my computer, I don’t have to talk to the teens people hired to work there, and I love using the Internet to make my life simpler.

My first order went fine — pizza ordered online, I could add or remove toppings to half of a pizza at a time, and I could pay cash at the door when it arrived.  Cool!

My second order left something to be desired.  I had some coupons from my first order; they had been glued to the top of the pizza box.  I grabbed the coupon sheet and logged on to the Papa John’s website.  I customized my two pizzas (Family Special: buy one specialty pizza at regular price, get a large with two toppings for $x) and went to the check-out screen.  I looked for a place to indicate my coupon.  There were places to input a “promotion code”, but the coupon didn’t list any codes.  The Family Special was listed, but it was priced $4 higher then my coupon.  As a result, I had to either pay a higher price or abandon my online order; I did the latter (major bummer – this is why I used Papa John’s!).  Where is my phone?

Marketing Tip #1: If you are including a coupon with your pizza, be sure to enable it to work with all of your order-taking systems, including online.

The Phone Experience

I picked up the phone and dialed the local Papa John’s (after looking in the phone book for the number, as it was NOT printed on the coupon). 

Marketing Tip #2: If you are including a coupon with your pizza, be sure to include the local number so someone can easily call you to redeem the coupon.

After momentarily being put on hold, a young-sounding man answers and says, “Papa John’s, would you like to buy our Family Special for $x+2?”  (Translation: $2 higher than the price on my coupon.)  Boy, am I feeling jerked around!  How many versions of this special do they have, and am I getting the best one?

Marketing Tip #3: Coordinate your communications to have the same information (in this case, the same price) in all places you touch the customer: online, phone, print.

I tell him I have a coupon for the same special but for $x.  He tells me to wait, and I can  hear him talking to a manager.  He says OK, but I have to give them the coupon when they get there.  Fine.  He asks for my phone number, and I give it to him.  He looks up my street address in their computer and asks if this is the right address for me – and is my name Becky?  I say yes to both.  Cool, at least they kept my info. 

Then I hear him turn to his boss again and ask whether they will deliver to my street address.  Hello?  You have been here before; how else do you have my address?

Customer Service Tip #1: If you are going to have a conversation about me, at least put me on hold so I don’t have to hear it.

Customer Service Tip #2: Be sure to train your customer service people on great customer service.  Yes, there is a cost involved, but it may keep you from losing customers.

To finish the story, he takes the coupon price (under duress), they deliver the pizzas, my kids are happy, and we eat pizza for dinner.

Final observation:

Think for a moment about my customer needs.  I am ordering online because it is convenient for me.  Papa John’s seems like they are geared towards Internet purchasing of pizza.  Great idea, poor to fair execution.   If the customer has an online “promotion code” from an email offer, then they are set.  If the customer has a paper coupon, they are hosed.  The inconvenience of having to pick up the phone and dial after spending time to order online is maddening.  Papa John’s cross-channel strategy is not working.  Papa John’s has to do more than just offer a web presence in order to be successful on the web; they have to meet the needs of those online customers.

Their website does have a place for “customer feedback”, which they apparently use for both customers and employees.  I will send a link to this post when I fill out their feedback form and see what they have to say. 

Phil, give it a try, and let’s see what we get!


13 Responses to “Pizza Customer Woes”

  1. I left a message on their corporate website, and I was notified by a spammy looking e-mail that my e-mail will get routed to the local store. I’m hopeful someone gets it and helps me feel better and this story has a happy ending!

  2. Same thing happened to me, Phil. There were misspelled words all over it, so mine looked kind of spammy, too!

    Good luck with yours; will keep you posted if anything develops.

  3. […] CSE of the Week is a story of more pizza and resto. Unlike Phil’s, or Becky’s and Maria’s, Soccer Dad’s experience was good. All his customer service faux pas […]

  4. I have 2 teenagers. First job jitters can be tough. Even if you’ve been “trained”… it’s easy to get rattled when the phone is ringing, people are waiting and you’re a “noob” (newby) and don’t know the specials.

    I say give ’em a break.

  5. Chris,

    Thanks for the reminder that people are people and need to be given every chance to be successful! We all know how that first job feels. I have a teenager as well, not quite old enough to work yet, but the day is fast approaching.

    I am always polite to anyone in customer service; if someone is frustrated, often my attitude helps to change theirs. Customer service can be a thankless job!

    Pizza places are usually noisy environments, and there is a lot of other activity going on as you pointed out. As a result, the phone orders are often a little difficult to get right. This is why I was using Papa John’s: I can do it all from my computer.

    Thanks again for reminding us of the human element, Chris! 🙂

  6. […] delivery experiences. I read about one the other day at Phil’s blog, Make it Great. Meikah, Becky, and Maria all wrote about Phil’s experience and I’ll also add my two […]

  7. Lynn Rodgers said

    I had the exact same experience. I went into the store with a coupon that said “Buy 1 large, get a medium free”. It specifically said “Internet Only” on it. The girl at the counter said, “We can’t take that; it’s internet only”. I said, “Then could someone please show me HOW TO USE THE COUPON on the internet. There is not promotional code on it.” She said she didn’t know. I made her call over the manager. He didn’t know. He said, “You just log on and use it” very condescendingly. I said that there had to be a promo code to input or it wouldn’t work, and he said he didn’t know anything about it. They refused to honor the coupon even though I was standing there with it. I emailed the headquarters and gave specifics of the problem. No answer to my question, and that was over a month ago.

  8. Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for joining in the conversation. It is too bad they didn’t take your coupon in-store, especially when it isn’t usable online! It is pretty apparent to me that their employees are not cross-trained on other customer touchpoints.

    That would be my customer service tip #3: Be sure your customer-facing employees know how to navigate all customer touchpoints, as they might have to help customers through it.

    Let us know if you get a response. Phil and I got one, but it was generic; plus, it won’t help you to go back to the “local store” with the issue.

  9. Judy Nichols said


    I am your local Papa John’s franchise owner. Thanks for the forward. Sorry the online ordering experience wasn’t all you had hoped for. There are a myriad of reasons for why we (Papa John’s) are less than you would want when ordering online. Primarily I would point to the newness of the technology. One of the best things about online is we are the first to fully provide the service, One of the worst things about online is we are the first to fully provide the service. Very few of us operationally order a pizza online, we get pizza at work. This also prevents us from being fully versed with the technology. It currently is 7.3% of my customer base, not the biggest area of demand.

    As far as the internet goes, I am almost a total noob. I use email and play a game online with my daughter and that is it. I have been to the online ordering area once but after nearly 30 years in this business, the last thing I want brought to my house is a pizza. Needless to say, I did not complete an order. Same for most of my team.

    Online is a great tool for us however because as many of you have noted, most of our team is young 1st & 2nd jobbers. They are far from great at providing pure customer service. As consumers, you want it that way because everyone wants a discount and is unwilling to pay $30 for a pizza so that I can hire and pay professional ordertakers. That is simply a fact of the business model.

    I often hear “training” as the answer to all ills as well. Again, without higher prices, I can not make the investment in teaching every team member every fact they need to be proficient before they hit the floor. They must learn from you as they go because they must be paid for classroom training which is non-productive. The consumer does not want to pay for that training with higher prices. It is all I can do to teach them the bare minimum needed to function as adults in the workplace. They certainly do not come to me with that knowledge. You all may have 1 or 2 teenagers. I have 65. They look to me for guidance every bit as much as they look to you and often my 60+ hour work week is spent on developing them as people as well as employees.

    As far as the coupon not having the online code, I looked at all of my ads out right now and they all say under the word FREE “enter the coupon code freemedium”. If your coupon does not have that on there, I apologize. I would need to know more about where you got your coupon to understand why the code wasn’t listed. The main reason I have different specials and coupons instore compared to online is that I recognize the consumer is doing some of our work by going online and so I offer lower priced specials there to share the cost savings of not paying a team member to take that order.

    As I noted, this is all still quite new to us and we are in a learning curve as to what is consumer friendly and what is not. We are still much “Better” I believe than our competition online and with your help and feedback, we should continue to stay that way.

  10. Hi Judy,

    Thank you so much for responding, and so quickly after seeing it out here! It is indeed very enlightening to hear your side of things. We all know there are many areas needing to be balanced in a business; thanks for sharing some of yours.

    I just really appreciate that you are listening and have opened up a dialogue with your customers here. Thanks for being willing to continue to learn also. That will make all the difference as your business moves forward.

    I will make sure Lynn sees your response. I hope your candor and open mind are also reflected in the other local franchise owners where Phil and I also struggled with similar issues.

    Thanks again, Judy!

  11. “Be sure to train your customer service people on great customer service. Yes, there is a cost involved, but it may keep you from losing customers.”

    Which is why the company needs to ask itself ‘Which costs more, training workers to give superior customer service, or not training them, and losing customers that you piss off?’

    Great customer service MORE than pays for itself.

  12. Judy what you are doing right here by joining the conversation is probably the most important single thing you can do to grow your business. Many of us are also consultants, and we CONSTANTLY stress the need for companies to read and react to what is being written about them online. So few companies grok this. Your coming here not only helps you from the standpoint of getting a better idea of what your customers think about your business, but it also tells US that you give a damn. And that makes us much more likely to give your business another shot.

    Thanks again for stopping by Judy, keep doing what you are doing!

  13. Thanks for adding in your thoughts, Mack. As always, you have cut right to the heart of things. It is critical that great customer service is delivered.

    I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the opportunity cost associated with a lack of customer service? It would be an eye-opening study, I am sure, and perhaps the hard figures that some companies seem to need before they will invest in customer service.

    Thank you also for your applause for Judy. I am so impressed that she is braving new territory to come out to the blog and find out what is being said about her business!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: