01 Feb Pizza and Dogs: A Lesson in How to Not Lose a Customer
The other night I was sitting in a small pizza place waiting for my take-out order to be finished, when this scenario went down:
Customer: “Can I get a large peperoni pizza to go?”
Business Owner: “Sure. But, you can’t have that in here.”
Customer: “Even if I am holding it?”
Business Owner: “Nope. You have to leave.”
Customer: “Forget the pizza. I’m out of here.”
Afterwards, I asked the business owner what that was about. Apparently, the man was holding a small dog.
“I love dogs just as much as the next guy, but we can’t have them in here – even if you’re holding it. I mean, one call to the health department and I am out of business. You don’t see my pit bulls in here, do you? He’s a regular, too.”
The business owner continued to complain to the pizza maker about the customer with the dog for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the customer stormed off across the street.
This scenario is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about pet-friendly business consulting. Although, I did mention to the business owner what I do for a living, he didn’t ask for my advice or engage in my attempt at a conversation. If he did, this is what I would have told him:
“While you are correct that the dog cannot be in here, and it stinks that a regular customer put you in that scenario, there might have been a more productive way to have handled it. Politely explain the health code rules, and that he couldn’t stay inside with the dog, however, if he waited outside with the dog, you would go out and get him when the pizza was ready. In addition, you could offer to take the payment out there, too and just run right back inside to get his change or run his credit card.”
In the scenario I lay out, the business owner and the customer not only both get what they want, but neither are on the defensive. Will it work every time? Maybe, or maybe not. But, at least it’s not a completely negative interaction and the other people in the establishment also witness a more positive situation.
When I work with businesses on pet-friendly problems, a lot of what we talk about is alternative approaches and different ways of looking at a situation. It is about making sure they, and their staff, are prepared in moments like this, and have thought through solutions if presented with a difficult situation.