Great customer service stories show employees how to do their jobs with excellence, and can be great PR for the company. Don't let them go to waste like this squandered story from a national pizza restaurant.
- Back in the early 1980s, Sterling Price worked as a cook at a pizza restaurant Springdale, Arkansas, and this is before there were any national sandwich chains in town like Subways or a Quiznos. Well, as Sterling tells the story, a lady came in one day and asked if we had meatball sandwiches. Well, when I told her I didn't, she got very upset, like on the verge of tears. So, I told her that even though we didn't have it on the menu, we did have sandwich rolls and meatballs, tomato sauce, and even mozzarella cheese. So, since we had all the ingredients, I told her I could make it for her and just ring it up as one of the other sandwiches on the menu.
Well, she thanked me several times and then explained that her husband was really sick and had lost his appetite. Now, she was desperate to get him to eat something, and she'd asked him if there was anything that sounded good. Well, he told her that he might be able to eat some of a meatball sandwich, and she'd been to several restaurants already and no one could help her. In fact, we were the last stop she was going to make before going home empty-handed. So, she took the sandwich home and I didn't really think much more about it until a couple of days later when she called the restaurant and asked for me by name.
Now, she told me that her husband had eaten as much of the sandwich as he could and was very grateful that she was able to get it for him. You know, it was actually the most complete and enjoyable meal that he'd had in days, and then she explained a bit more about her husband's condition. It turns out he'd been diagnosed with stage four cancer a few months earlier, so his loss of appetite was really the least of his unpleasant symptoms, but it was the only one that she could provide any comfort for. So, it meant a lot to her that Sterling had been so flexible with the menu.
And then she told him that he'd passed away during the night, and that sandwich was his last meal. And she was so grateful that she was able to provide him that one last comfort. Well, as you can imagine, by that point she's crying and Sterling's crying on the phone. But here's the travesty in all this, other than, of course, that this man lost his life, the leadership travesty here is that while that happened 30 years ago, the first time that story was ever told outside the four walls of that restaurant in Springdale, Arkansas was six years ago when I published it in my first book.
Think about that. For almost 25 years, that story went untold. Just imagine all the ways it could've been used. Inside the company, it could help teach other employees what stellar customer service looks like. Outside the company, it could be part of an incredible public relations or advertising campaign. But unfortunately, for this national pizza chain with thousands of restaurants all around the world, as far as Sterling can tell, none of that happened.
And why? Because nobody wrote it down. After all, it was just a story, just a pleasant, heartwarming story for Sterling to share with his coworkers and maybe his shift manager. Alright, there's no such thing as just a story. That story was a priceless company asset, and the leadership of that restaurant squandered it. Alright, don't let that happen where you work. I'm convinced stories like this happen all the time. Good leaders recognize a great story when they see one.
When you see or hear about one, capture it and use it, just like you would any other valuable company asset.
- Leading change
- Creativity and innovation
- Getting results
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Managing during crisis
- Giving and receiving performance feedback
- Increasing engagement