Customer Service

I thought it was so simple. I moved out of my central town flat in a pedestrianized area almost 18 months ago (!) and within a few months realized (thanks to fab fellow expat Kat–hi Kat!) that I could now get pizza delivered by my local Domino’s pizza franchise. AND I could order pizza over the internet, thus ensuring that I did not have to talk on the telephone, something which I really do not like doing, especially when ordering things is involved. I was always under the delusion that ordering things over the internet was far superior, because nothing could ever go wrong with the details as they were typed in instead of relayed by voice, with all the trouble this could bring given my foreign accent. How wrong I was.

Now, we must have a slight diversion to discuss the excellence that is the UK post code system. While the US zip codes are 5 digits long and divided between 300 million people, in the UK the post codes are 6 (or more) digits and divided between a mere 60 million people. And they involve letters in addition to numbers, which gives us even more fine division in the UK post code system compared with 5 digit numerical US zip codes. I live on a small street, with two other buildings of flats and less than a dozen semidetached houses. The fact that the post codes are so finely divided is thus quite interesting: the houses on my street have a post code that differs from mine in the last (alphanumeric) digit. This means that my 6-digit post code is only for the 12 flats in my building. Which I happen to know, because I have accidentally received mail/post in recent months for the house at number X, Our Street, whereas my address is X, Building Name, Our Street, with a different post code. So the system is not perfect in execution, but in design, it is quite good.

So when I order pizza online, as I often have in the past, and as with many UK websites, I put in my post code, and a drop-down list appears with the 12 addresses of the flats in my building, in the form X, Building Name, Our Street, and I select my house number and expect the pizza to come to my house. Most of the time, this works. A few weeks before Christmas, however, I encountered a failure of this system. I ordered pizza, and about 40 minutes later, got a mobile phone call from a Domino’s driver who claimed that he could not find my flat. (Even though, if you put my post code into Google Maps you end up in my tiny street because this post code is ONLY FOR MY BUILDING!) I gave him directions. He called back ten minutes later. I gave him directions again. My pizza eventually arrived, and it was cold. I was not happy.

This brings us to tonight. I ordered pizza, with the confirmation from the Domino’s UK website coming through at 7:43 pm. My phone was inadvertently set to vibrate, so I did not notice when someone called at 8:22 pm, and again, and again a few minutes later. At 8:38 pm, I had retrieved my phone and realized I had been getting phone calls from an unknown mobile number, so when a local number rang through I answered it. It was someone at my local Domino’s franchise, wondering why I had not answered my phone. I pointed out that it had only rung nearly 40 minutes after the pizza was ordered, at which point the pizza would have been cold, and that by now the pizza was most certainly cold. The person at Domino’s claimed that my address had not come through the system, and that they did not have my full address details, including my street name. Now this is where I get angry, because, as was pointed out earlier, my post code is for my building only, and if there were any questions about the street name, it could be obtained via Google Maps. Not to mention the fact that I only selected my address from a drop-down box on their website after entering my post code, such that the information was all clearly in their system. And oh, do the drivers not have phones with Google Maps?

This is where it gets a bit ugly, and I get into a yelling argument with my local Domino’s franchise person, who wanted me to give him directions to my house at this point, for delivery of a pizza that had now been ordered an hour ago. The pizza person insisted that the pizza would still be hot if delivered, and I suggested that without touching it, they could not be sure. I asked, in what seemed to me to be a reasonable request, that a new pizza be made for me and delivered. This required quite a lot of discussion and me raising my voice yet again. And in the end, the Domino’s guy agreed to send me a new pizza and then hung up on me. The good news is that the pizza did arrive, at 9:02 pm and thus nearly 80 minutes after being ordered. But I am not such a fan of the Domino’s UK customer service at this point. And I can’t imagine such a scenario playing out in the US, where Domino’s delivers within 30 minutes and has for years, even from before the age of Google Maps. I just cannot figure out how the local franchise made pizza delivery so difficult. If it’s your job to deliver hot food, don’t you look to see where you are going?

I’ll stop whining now. I got my pizza, and it was good. If late. And I got to experience yet another “Wow, customer service in the UK is still not what I expect” moment, which reinforces all of my American prejudices, not that I actually wanted that to happen (now that I am quite happily ensconced here in the UK and mostly adapted).

On a less rant-y note, Happy New Year and here's hoping for a 2012 that is great for us all.

8 responses to “Customer Service

  1. This is interesting…..similar experience happened to me..I live in italy therfore send flowers to my mother who lives in the south of UK via Interflora, twice flowers were deliverd to the wrong address, I eventually decided to change florist, since then the service has been faultless.

  2. Customer service can be an issue here, but I agree about the postcode system. Once I enter my address I get a pulldown of about 10 houses on our road.

  3. Slightly off topic but the zip code thing in the States amuses me. As you said, it’s a five (or 9, but no-one ever seems to use all 9 digits) digit affair, thus covering millions upon millions of people. The mail carriers need to know where the streets are because they can’t possibly be guided to your house via the zip code alone. Yet – if you ever put the wrong number on the very end of a zip code, (even when it’s mailed from within same zip code) it wings its way back to you about two months later. So infuriating when the zip code is actually of little help in the first place, and especially when you don’t have Acacia Avenue, Street and Place all in the same area. There will usually only be one version of Acacia. Sigh. (And it’s now past 3pm and I still haven’t had a mail delivery.)

  4. Huh. Not my experience at all with Dominos in Norwich. Ours always arrives really quickly and super hot. The only thing I’ve found is that I have to order extra sauce and cheese to ensure it is like a US version, but they’re really good. Paul worked for them for a couple of years and if they had any complaint, they always made up a new pizza. Maybe it is a regional thing — some might be good and some not? I’d say out of all the pizza joints in Norwich, Dominos is the only one that has delivered consistently good/hot/fast pizza to us, so it’s the only one I use. Bummer!

  5. We have a completely different problem with Dominos. Right after we moved here we ordered two, since the coupon that came in the mail made them the cheapest meal around these parts. And they were awful. Not even as good as the ones in the States, which aren’t anything to blog about.

    We now order pizza from the local Italian restaurant, which makes one without cheese for me. They’re much, much better, and the people who work there are super friendly.

  6. Not a fan of Dominos pizza, never have been!

    However I am a fan of the post code system. Except that as with you and Jen, there are about 15 hourses on my post code. I live in a former pub so it’s easy to describe to drivers or to add to order form details though.

  7. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. This must be the post code extension to Kate Fox’s Moat and Drawbridge Rule about the English wanting their homes to be difficult to find.
    On another note, add tweet buttons to your posts, please.

  8. re: US zip codes: Your letter gets sent back if you get the zip code wrong even if the rest of the address is correct because the OCRs read the code first and sort on that immediately before the rest of the address is read. So the zip is essential, even if it seems imprecise, because it’s the starting point. Then they work their way backward to your specific address. It takes a long time to get a lost letter back because it requires time-consuming human pondering to figure out what you meant to write.

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