Customer Service from a Sandwich Perspective

Bell peppers don’t belong on a meatball sandwich.

No, don’t bother arguing. This is non-negotiable.

A meatball sandwich–a proper meatball sandwich–has but four components: a solid roll (and no, not Dutch Crunch) that can absorb liquid without falling apart, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and meatballs.

Anything else distracts from pure appreciation of the star of the dish; a well-spiced meatball is a thing of purity and beauty. And bell peppers are a wishy-washy, waxy substitute for food, barely a step up from lettuce on the “why would you want to eat that on a sandwich” ladder.

Not that I’m trying to convince you about any of this. It’s not the point. Today.

I bring up the subject of the meatball sandwich because it was recently the catalyst for a lesson in customer service done both poorly and well.

There’s a localish pizza chain around here, Me-n-Ed’s, that does a quite good meatball sandwich*. They use well-toasted focaccia, the meatballs have flavor, and the sauce-to-cheese-to-meat ratio is darn near perfect. And then they spoil the sandwich by adding those darn peppers.

* They do add onions, but I can live with that. Onions, unlike bell peppers, are actual food. Interestingly, now that I look at the online menu, it appears that not all the locations have the meatball sandwich. Nice that they allow some local variations instead of enforcing a single menu across all locations.

Fortunately, experience has shown that they’re quite willing to let you customize your order; omitting the peppers doesn’t even cost extra.

We usually phone in our order, then drive over and pick it up. This weekend, with all the rain, we thought we’d try ordering online for delivery. It didn’t go well.

The online order system is provided by something called intouchposonline.com. Intouch is, to put it bluntly, out of touch.

First, the site doesn’t work in Firefox. Windows close without saving data–including the registration window closing if you try to select anything other than “Mobile” as the type of phone. Granted, Firefox is only the fourth most popular browser out there, but why would you do so little testing that you prevent 5% of your potential customers from becoming actual customers?

So I switched to Chrome, registered, and signed in.

Strike One: I registered using the same phone number I’ve given them in the past when making a phone order, but there was no indication that I had a history with them. No saved credit card information, no previous orders, nothing to show there’s any communication between the online and offline systems.

Strike Two: Each sandwich has an “Add to cart” and a “Customize” button. But clicking either one takes you to a page where you select whether you’re making a delivery, take out, or dine in order. If that choice needs to be made before you can order, maybe ask for it before you display the menu? Otherwise you’re yanking your customers from one mental workflow to another.

Strike Three: Once I was able to customize my sandwiches–NO PEPPERS!–and add them to the cart, they displayed as non-customized. Clicking the Edit button showed the customization, but by that point, I’d lost faith that my order would be processed properly.

Contrast with the telephone order process:

“Hi, I’d like to place an order for pick up.”

“Can I have your phone number, please?”

I gave my number, he asked if I was Casey, and when I said yes, he said “Last time you ordered two meatball sandwiches, no bell peppers. Would you like the same thing?”

I confirmed that that was what I wanted, and he said they’d be ready in twenty minutes.

Took less than a minute from when I picked up the phone to when I put it down, and I had complete faith that I’d get the food the way I wanted it.

As I said, there’s a lesson there.

Clearly, whoever designed the phone order system was thinking about it from the customer’s perspective: “How do we make this fast and easy?”

By contrast, whoever designed the online system approached it from the perspective of intouchposonline.com and the developers: “How do we deploy the system quickly and start making money?”

I know which system I’ll be using in the future. And saving the online order surcharge means I can give the guys at the store a bigger tip. That’s the real win of a properly designed, customer focused system.

2 thoughts on “Customer Service from a Sandwich Perspective

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