Written by: Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work
It’s a weekday lunch hour and my Russian friend Natasha and I, dart to Subway for our repas. Deviating from our regular sandwich choice, we go for the Pizza.
Now, time to build our pizza and the clerk asks us what we would like. I look at the choices and say: “Olives and peppers, please.” Natasha follows me but adds “pickles.” “Pickles?” the clerk asks. “Yes, pickles” my friend replies. With an odd look on her face the clerk replies: “No, we can’t do that!” “Why?” my friend asks. “You have lots of pickles!” The clerk said: “I’m sorry we don’t serve pickles on pizza.” While all of this was happening I was chuckling and my friend did not know why. I did not realize that perhaps I was being insensitive. But I was analyzing this experience from a cultural and a customer service lens.
A pizza consists of many ingredients we often find in sandwiches. Bread, meat, cheese and sometimes vegetables. In a way it is an open-faced sandwich (I’m sure my Italian readers will hate me for this!). And Slavs like pickles especially on their sandwiches. So if you analyze it from this perspective it makes a lot of sense about why Natasha would want pickles on her pizza! However, I was trying to tell my friend that perhaps one of the reasons why the clerk was not allowed to give her pickles on her pizza was because it would interfere with the profit margin. Probably the pizza had been priced based with only a few toppings?
In any case, this left a bad impression. What would you have done? I would have given her the pickles even if it costed more. Each customer experience should have a happy ending.
Is there a pickle problem in your customer service delivery? Are you creating unnecessary barriers or being too inflexible and thus missing out on much needed ethnic and niche market sales? It could be a simple fix that could make a difference between acquiring a whole new group of customers or turning them off. Having various feedback mechanisms in place to see what is working and what needs improvement is a good place to start.