Customer Service: A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way

customer service, wrong order, food industry

My wife doesn’t accept a bad customer experience. She’s going to get what she paid for, and if she believes she’s been deprived from the value she deserves in any way, shape, or form, somebody is going to hear about it.   This usually results in an uncomfortable conversation with someone at a service counter. Sometimes the person on the receiving end of my wife’s declaration of being wronged gives in immediately.   Sometimes they require a little more persuasion.

I’m not very good at uncomfortable conversations, so I’m more than happy to let her handle these situations. However, she tends use the brute force approach, and I sometimes I need to talk her down a few notches.


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We had just that kind of scenario play out recently with an order from Pizza Hut.

We called to order a three cheese stuffed crust pizza for pickup. I drove to the location and picked up the pizza, opening the box to examine the pizza before leaving the store. Once we got home we discovered a mistake with our order that we couldn’t have noticed until we bit into a slice of pizza.

They had made our pizza with the new bacon and cheese crust.

My son and I shrugged our shoulders and just kept eating. It wasn’t our favorite, but it was a late dinner as it was, and we didn’t want to wait for something else. My wife, however, just sat there and stared at the pizza.

“I’m calling and talking to a manager,” she said finally.

During the phone call that followed, my wife discovered that you could no longer call the store directly. Even if we called the number in the phone book, we were connected with a generic call center which they forwarded our order to the local store. She was assured a manager would call back shortly, but after ten minutes we were packing up the rest of the pizza and heading back to the store.

My wife gradually worked herself into a mild frenzy during the ride to the store.

“I can’t believe we can’t call the store directly. That’s stupid.”

“I can’t believe they didn’t call back.”

“They’re probably going to be jerks about it.”

“That pizza was GROSS.”

As we pulled into the parking lot, I calmly reminded her that people do make mistakes, and our goal is simply to get the pizza we ordered. It must have clicked, because her demeanor completely changed as she described to the manager what had happened, showing him the pizza. “I love bacon for breakfast, but not in my pizza,” she joked and even laughed a little bit.

The manager’s eyes snapped from examining the pizza, up to look at my wife as any tension that was in the air evaporated. He smiled, shook his head, and apologized repeatedly. He then asked if we wanted our money back, or a new pizza. We requested a new pizza, which was done in about 10 minutes. He also said we could keep the mistake if we wanted, and he instructed us to take a 2-liter of soda from the cooler for our trouble.

The second pizza was perfect.

While it is important to get what you pay for, it’s also important to remember that the people on the other side are…well, people. They have bad days, and they make mistakes. I’m all for fighting to get your money’s worth, but it’s also important to give someone the opportunity to make it right before getting all up in their grill.

Kill ‘em with kindness. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a great first step.

Do you have a “kill ‘em with kindness story? Has kindness ever not worked for you requiring you to step it up a notch?

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • When complaining, I try to have a compliment at the beginning to soften the criticism. Like, “you’ve always been so prompt with the delivery before. That’s why being an hour late is so disappointing to me.” Or something similar. And don’t have that angry kick-butt tone of voice unless they are hostile. You know…the old honey vs. vinegar thing.

  • I think I’ve told this here before, but I was scarred for life from it…..My MIL once ordered pizza for delivery and after it was delivered and paid for and the delivery man had received what she believed was a decent tip for delivery but I can assure you was not, and after she began to eat said pizza and decided it was not to her liking she proceeded to call the pizza place in question and scream at them that they most decidedly did not know how to prepare a pizza correctly. They sent a new pizza. I declined to partake.

  • Great job for your wife. Honestly, I’m not that brave enough like your wife, but my hubs is. When he found out that there’s something wrong in our order, he will hurriedly call or directly go back to the store and complain the mistakes.

  • I worked in customer service and I can attest that killing with kindness works. Whenever a customer would come to me and be polite and patient, I did everything in my power and sometimes more, to resolve the issue. But if someone came up to me yelling and screaming, it instantly had me put up my defenses and not want to help them as much. I still helped them, but it would have been a better experience for all if they had just been more calm.

  • The Pizza Hut up the street from our house did something similar by putting sausage on a whole pizza instead of half. My daughter would have still eaten it and I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but the cashier did a ‘pop the box’ inspection to make sure they were right and noticed.

    Ten minutes later I had a whole cheese pizza on the house for my daughter and seemingly sincere apologies for the wait. It gave us more leftovers for the next day and made me loyal to them for more than proximity to home.

    I made sure to drop an email and let corporate know about the great service provided. Hopefully they get a ‘good job’ or something out of it.

  • I worked in customer service for a number of years and always appreciated when someone approached me with a complaint in a calm manner. I remember (not so fondly) one customer calling me names that I cannot repeat here but I was shocked and he would have probably had a better resolution if he had not been so aggressive and rude.

  • @Cathie – My wife has the same fear….even with the workers at Pizza Hut being very nice, the first thing she said when we got into our car was, “I hope they didn’t do something to our pizza.” Having worked in a kitchen as a teenager, I never, ever saw anything like that happen.

  • @Kate – there always seems to be one person in each relationship that has the ability to have these kind of uncomfortable conversations…do you think it’s a requirement of some sort? LOL. Thanks for stopping by!

  • @Jon – good to hear from someone that’s worked in that position….I know that if I personally would be MUCH more inclined to want to make a reasonable, friendly person happy as a customer than someone who’s a real “bag.” Thanks for sharing!

  • @Dan – I wish more places did the “pop the box” test…or asked customers to ensure it was right before they left to restaurant. I usually do…but in this case there’s no way I would have seen the bacon until I bit into it. Good for you for making sure corporate knew about the good experience – I should do the same!

  • @May – yeah, name calling is just no necessary…and rude. Sometimes customers forget that people make mistakes – people should be given an opportunity to fix an honest mistake. Now, if the people on the other side of the counter are rude, well…then that’s a different story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, May!

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