What Credit Unions Can Learn From Pizza Hut

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 29 June, 2010
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It has become a tradition now for the Madison-based CUNAverse team to have regular meetings at a neighborhood Pizza Hut for their lunch buffet. It started out by the other team members agreeing to go there to humor me – I talked more than once about eating at one a lot during high school and not going there since.

Then we ate there and were WOWed. So much so that we actually said “Wow” out loud a few times to each other. It’s not that the food is amazing – it’s good not great – but the experience is what makes it amazing. We have a regular table now.

Wait, how is a franchised lunch buffet relevant to credit unions you ask?

Provide Great Service. The first time we went there, the server asked us what kind of pizza we liked and if we didn’t see it on the buffet…they would make it. And they did make it. And then they brought it to the table to give us the first slices to ensure we got it. They did that more than once and in a way that didn’t seem like it was out of character or annoying. Wow. Also, none of us ever had to ask for drink refills because the server seemed to anticipate our every need. We felt special.

Consistency is Important. This great service must be instilled at a higher level because every server we’ve had since we started going there has been fantastic. We’ve started talking about it to others even (heck, I’m blogging about it right now!). But one time recently I did meet my family there for lunch to show them how great it is…and the restaurant failed me. The service was good, not great like the pizza. We had to ask for things and weren’t asked if we wanted anything not on the buffet. If you set high standards, every staff person needs to meet them.

Go Beyond Expectations. The first time we went there, we weren’t expecting much. It’s a lunch buffet right? The whole point is to not serve you and let you fend for yourself. Our server ended up taking care of us better than most do when you are eating a non-buffet meal! They anticipated our needs, met them and went one little step further.

Think about this: to consumers, people generally don’t expect much from their financial institution. It’s a chore that has to get done. It should be easy to WOW them.

Set a small goal for yourself this week – what’s one little thing you and/or your credit union can do to go beyond your members’ expectations?

18 Responses to “What Credit Unions Can Learn From Pizza Hut”

  1. Thank you Chris! This is the second blog entry I am sharing with the credit unions in Hawaii. I appreciate your insight and hope our credit unions will benefit from your articles.

  2. Awesome – thanks for the feedback Laurie and for sharing with others!

  3. I agree… “Think about this: to consumers, people generally don’t expect much from their financial institution. It’s a chore that has to get done. It should be easy to WOW them”

    However, this is a double edged sword. They may not expect much in the order of great customer service, but if you provide sub-par customer service they will certainly notice. I love the idea of having high standards for the staff. This is crucial. Make sure to measure service levels as well with mystery shopper programs and performance management tracking tools.

  4. Great points Chad. Maintaining high standards is hard, but worth the effort.

    Also, mystery shopping is great. I’ve been with CU staff as they ventured into CUs, competitors and payday lenders and it was eye-opening (for them…and for me!)

  5. Thanks for the post, Chris. Experience marketing will make or break brands in the future. Businesses (and credit unions!) will live or die not by the attributes they promise but by the experiences they offer. Credit unions are now competing as retailers. We must think like a retailer.

  6. So so true Mark – as always, your insights are spot on!

  7. Angela Prestil

    Christopher, you’ve nailed one of the things we all struggle with. . . consistency! When you develop great service, you’ve got to be sure that every member has the same great experience every time from every delivery channel. The Creating Member Loyalty team would be delighted to talk with any credit union working to develop a consistent, outstanding member experience and a consistent, outstanding employee experience. Feel free to contact me for additional information. aprestil at cuna.com

  8. Great post Chris. It is always about the experience and the ability to deliver it consistently, i.e, every customer, every time. I am curious if you called the less than spectacular experience to the attention of anyone, and if so, what they said or did? Sometimes service recovery, i.e., the way we make up for what went wrong ends up having more impact than anything else we can do…it creates powerful stories that get shared and that lead to more referral business.

    For example, last year my wife and I dined at a local restaurant we visit about once a month and I ordered my usual meal…a specialty of the house called Shrimp on Grits. The dish was simply not up to its usual high standards. The next day I e-mailed the owner (his address is listed on the company website) and shared my experience. He replied within minutes, apologized, and told me that I would be hearing from his manager who wanted to personally address my concerns. The manager called, apologized, and asked for my address so he could sent me something. Two days later I received a gift card that more than covered the cost of our dinner with a handwritten note that apologized for my disappointing dish and said “I hope that you will give us another chance and have enclosed a gift card so that your next meal will be my treat.”

    It’s probably not surprising that we now go there a bit more often, I tell that story regularly, and I refer people to the restaurant whenever I can. Their WOW efforts at service recovery made me a raving fan!

  9. Super post! I do have to say, in my inaugural meeting with the CUNA*verse team, I was blown away by the service at ‘The Hut’. For a bit, I thought it might just be a form VIP status (having a regular ‘table’, getting personalized pizza ordered for the buffet, and getting SERVED that pizza before the masses) – but in watching our server make rounds we were, in fact, not the only ‘very important people’!
    That’s where we can all step up our service to our members – and to each other. When you can make someone feel like a VIP, they’ll keep coming back.

  10. @Angela – Thanks so much for your comment and you guys do great work!

    @Michael – Good point. Sometimes you can turn things around where an unhappy member can become an evangalist! And yes, I did send this post to Pizza Hut yesterday and haven’t heard anything back from them yet.

    @Brianne – Actually, this whole post is a ruse. We are really Pizza Hut VIPs…kidding! You are right on though, Zappos does really well by treating all customers like VIPs.

  11. Dennis DeGroodt

    Hi Christopher! The article about Pizza Hut caught my eye because we can all learn how to improve our operations by watching others who conduct their business with consistency and sensitivity to customer’s needs. These attributes are embodied in the criteria supporting the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and I encourage all credit unions to take a look at the criteria. For more info go to http://www.nist.gov/baldrige.

    Missouri Corporate won the Missouri Quality Award in 2006 (using the same criteria contained in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award). Credit unions are missing a bet by not embracing the criteria. It’s difficult, but over time it works wonders in an organization. The criteria asks some very pointed questions about how the organization conducts its business. If adopted, it breaks down silos, provides organizational discipline and focuses the organization on learning about what customers (members) want. The Baldrige folks can direct credit unions to quality programs in their own states if they desire local contact (my recommendation is to start with the state-level programs).

    Check it out!

    Dennis DeGroodt
    President/CEO
    Missouri Corporate Credit Union

  12. Theresa

    Great article – and exactly on point with the consistancy…Chick-Fil-A here on the East Coast almost lost me with a bad mystery shop I did on them at a mall location. Good thing they made it up at another location (and have fabulous sammiches!)

  13. Thanks Dennis for passing that information along (and stopping by!) Definitely sounds like something CUs should look into.

  14. @Theresa – yes, having a good product helps a little too :)

  15. Terry Costin

    Christopher, you articulated “the” recipe for success. If the “Hut” has discovered it, we all can and should copy this into what we do at the individual and organizational level. Thanks for sharing what is such a common sense approach.

  16. Thanks Terry! That’s what I like the most – it’s a common sense approach, yet all too rare.

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