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Refund Isn't a Four Letter Word: The Case for Customer Feedback

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It's a tale as old as time. I recently had my husband pick up dinner from a popular fried chicken restaurant on his way home from work. The food that made it home was nowhere near what we had ordered. If you have ever had a hangry spouse waiting for dinner at home after an exhausting day, you realize what a problem this creates.

Returning to the restaurant involved sitting in 20 minutes of traffic. The manager demanded to see a receipt. I would have liked a "sorry about that", and honestly just wanted to ask for my money back after the whole ordeal, but I swapped out the orders and made the trek back home. 

I also know that these things happen to the best of them (thanks to many years in the quick service restaurant biz), especially in the summer when the workforce is flooded with teenagers and college kids not always paying attention to the order queue. 

Recently, Dodo pizza in Oxford, MS offered a 100% cash back guarantee to all customers unsatisfied with their order for any reason. Nothing ground breaking in the world of customer service, right? The concept was simple - invite feedback in the hopes of winning customers and improving your business. 

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Dodo's experiment cost their pizzeria a whopping total of $86.36 in refunds from complaints they received. In fact, they found that many customers didn't even want refunds, they just appreciated the chance to share their feedback

Opportunity Cost

Rather than getting hung up on how much refunds would cost, Dodo viewed them as an investment in their product.Instead,"Thanks to the complaints, we could identify patterns, improve our workflow, and make sure that nothing like this would happen again". In the restaurant business, it's impossible to be perfect. Even the most lauded chains aren't 100%, but when a mistake happens, what is the customer's experience?

You will find that many customers are much less upset over a mistake happening and more so about how you handle it. 

Use your Unhappy Customers to Help you Improve

Here's the catch: not every customer will complain when you make a mistake, people are busy (or yes, hangry enough to eat whatever they end up with). What's worse than a complaint that takes you a few minutes and dollars to turn around?

How about losing that customer for life. 

Many customers will just not say anything and stop visiting your restaurant altogether, even for a minor mistake. If unhappy customers are talking to you, you have a chance to convert them to loyal guests and prevent mistakes from being repeated in the future.

"Refund" Isn't in my Budget

If the thought of offering a bunch of refunds raises your blood pressure - good news! There are things you can do to keep customers happy, even when they accidentally get a pineapple pizza delivered that tastes nothing like a meat lover's.

  • Invest in technology - a restaurant POS solution can fine tune the customer experience, streamlining the order taking process and preventing human mistakes
  • Leverage your email marketing - it's 2017 so you should definitely be using email to reach your customers and grow your business. Try building an "I'm Sorry" template to send out when you have messed up offering an incentive for them to return, like a freebie or discount. 
  • Empower your employees - no need for the "can I please speak to a manager?" for the small stuff. Create a policy that works for your restaurant and empower your employees to fix the things that don't involve cash changing hands via a refund. 
  • I was once offered 10 free pizzas from a large pizza chain that delivered me the wrong order twice after 4 hours of waiting for the right one. 

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Kady White

Written by Kady White

Lover of all things digital marketing. Always order the cheesy bread. While it may be controversial, I don't believe pineapple belongs on a pizza.