“The pizza place incident”

This post highlights what I’ve come to call, “The Pizza Place Incident”.  In reality, it was nowhere near as exciting as the title implies.  Or was it?  (Cue dramatic chipmunk)

Here’s how it going to work.  I’ll share the story first.  After each section, we will discuss the key points the restaurant missed and how you can avoid them at your credit union (yes, pizza and credit unions relate).

It was a rainy evening in south Florida. Which, for those not from here, means, “between July and November”. My family sought shelter and sustenance at our favorite local pizza shop. Braving the tropical squalls in our trusty four-wheel-drive while SiriusXM played songs of sun and sand, we safely arrived, our only sufferance the delay of a few red lights. Upon sitting at the lone remaining table, we steal a glance at the menu we know so well. Only it’s different. Prices crept higher. Some choices gained a dollar or so, others more. One in particular changed in an odd way. Of course it happened to be my mom’s favorite meal. Instead of just raising the price, the core items were now extras. Like broccoli.  On a dish previously called, “Pasta With Broccoli and Garlic”. How much? $4. The same, I should mention, as the cost for shrimp or chicken. Yes, chicken, shrimp, and broccoli all carried the same up-charge. When we asked the owner about it, their response was equally perplexing. “Yeah, that’s the way it is.”

Did she end up getting the dish? Yes. With the broccoli. But she was less happy about it. Which brings us to our first lesson break. Make sure to stand up and stretch. It’s important to remain active throughout the day.

If you’re going to raise prices, you must add value, perceived or otherwise, that is worth more than the increase. Otherwise, customers get angry and may leave negative reviews or seek out a competitor. In this case, charging the same for broccoli as shrimp made it even more frustrating.

This wasn’t the only issue faced that night. Another item we ordered was a large pizza. Theirs happens to reheat especially well, making it great for future meals. After taking far longer than it should, we asked our waitress on the status of the pie. She begins to profusely apologize, as she served it to another table (who, oddly enough, didn’t turn it down). They had ordered a small, and it was just coming out of the oven. We could have it in lieu of waiting for a fresh one to be prepared. Sure, pizza is pizza, despite fewer leftovers. Our waitress, who raced around the restaurant the entire evening, managed to stop running long enough to explain it was her first night. “They just don’t do things the same at this location.” (The owner has a few shops around the area). Ah, ha! Another lesson point to be made. Let your slice cool for a moment while we do some learning!

When your processes are unpredictable or nonexistent, you make it challenging for anyone else to create a consistent experience. I watched as the owner micro-managed every action of the kitchen staff, the front register, our waitress, the delivery guy, and the baker. Worse, she gave conflicting instructions depending on when she walked by. It was obvious no processes were in place, and, as a result, mistakes were made.

Consistency is essential. There’s a reason every Big Mac, across the planet, comes out identically. And, for those who eat such things, that is part of the appeal. You know what you’re going to get. It doesn’t matter if Jan or Steve is out that day. Anyone can follow the process to prepare the same burger.

Despite the issues, we still had a delicious dinner. Even the weather cooperated on the drive home. But it was a night of lessons.

  1. Pricing: Your members want to pay less and get more. That’s normal. So brainstorm how you can deliver value throughout their relationship to rationalize any costs. It could be a value-add fee checking account that helps protect members’ identities and more*, or inclusive services paid though outside relationships. Consider what you can do to grow ROA (or return more to members and your community) without imposing NSF or other punitive fees.
  2. Processes: Too often, I’ve been interacting with a credit union (client or otherwise) and their reason for a random delay is, “Bob handles that and he’s really the only one who knows how to do it.” Worse is, “Beth ran that, but she transferred to another credit union, and we’re not sure where she left things.”

Avoid “The Credit Union Incident” by following this guidance. Beth’s replacement will thank you.

*Disclosure: My company offers such a service and produced a white paper to help credit unions determine if it or a similar solution might be a fit for their institution.

Joe Winn

Joe Winn

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