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More CEOs Should Be Like Him
I have a few new favorite sites, and is among them. I read an email posted there, written by John Pepper, the ceo of Boloco restaurants, who leads the way in showing businesses how to respond to ticked off customers. As Consumerist wrote, "The tone of the email is so foreign. It’s almost like Mr. Pepper is speaking to… a human." Here's an excerpt:

——-Original Message——- From: John Pepper [] Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 8:31 PM To: Ben Subject: RE: customer response


First of all, thanks for your note. We always appreciate hearing from customers… even if we’ve done something that doesn’t make them happy, it helps us a great deal.

We worried a lot about Roasted Veggies and what the reaction would be. The reason they disappeared in the first place is because so few people actually ordered them, and the amount of prep time and waste (because they’d sit too long and we’d have to throw them out) stopped justifying keeping them on the menu years ago… but because of the few, and outspoken, customers who lived on them, we kept them in place. You are now the 7th person that has written about this loss since we took them off three months ago (not including a handful of our employees who are also quite upset).

From a purely business standpoint, it didn’t make any sense to keep the Roasted Veggies. From a customer loyalty standpoint, however, your note (and the others like it) makes me want to get them back on the menu tomorrow! The challenge we always have is balancing the two… you would be amazed at the number of requests we get on a weekly basis from our customers - obviously, we can’t accommodate everyone, but we do listen to everyone, and consider what they say carefully.

I don’t know how this will turn out in the months to come. I know I can’t promise they will return unless we start hearing overwhelming feedback that they must. We’ve taken items off in the past and had no choice but to bring them back (ie. Buffalo chicken is best example where it felt like a riot was about to take place)… so far, this hasn’t been one of those items.

I hate to even suggest trying the tofu, if you are in fact a vegetarian. My wife is, and that’s what she gets religiously. It’s not your standard tofu, it has spice, flavor, and people love it!

...I am sorry I don’t have the answer you are looking for. To try and make up for this, and to give you a few visits on us to possibly find something else that gets you excited, send me the 16 digit code on the back of your Boloco card (you can pick one up if you don’t have one, and send it to me then) and I’ll add some Burrito Bucks on there for you to use. It’s the least we can do, and maybe you’ll find something that works. If not, we will hope that something we do in the future brings you back to our restaurants - we have sincerely appreciated your business and hope we’ll find a way to earn it back soon.



Now, a lot of people who read my "interventions" on businesses who throw their advertising costs on the consumer via junk phoning and faxing might think I'm just a cranky (rhymes with "witch"). But, what I really am is a what I call "a disappointed optimist." So, reading stuff like this letter, warms the cockles of my heart, whatever cockles might be. And you can't just write when people do nasty stuff, and not say something when they do the right thing, so I wrote to this CEO:

From: [] Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 11:37 PM To: Subject: more CEOs should be like you

That's how I run my business, and how everyone should. There's too little humanity out there, and too many recorded messages passing for customer service. Kudos to you for the way you responded to your customer. (Saw it on Best, -Amy Alkon, syndicated columnist

To my surprise, especially because it was about 9pm PST (FYI, my AOL stamp is EST, non-daylight-savings) , Mr. Pepper wrote right back:

In a message dated 1/25/06 8:44:39 PM, writes:


That’s amazing. I just went to the website and read what you are talking about. That was a customer who wrote to us within the last 24 hours.

It’s funny: I’ve been personally writing our customers for nearly 9 years now, always wondering if it really mattered. I’m glad that today it did.

Thanks for your note. It made my evening.


John Pepper | CEO and Co-Founder |
Stellar Restaurant Group | Boloco (formerly The Wrap)

My reply to his reply:

You're most welcome. I'm one of those who complains about a lack of civility in business or life, so it's only fair I speak out when somebody does something right. Ethics are the behavior you have when you think nobody's looking. It's clear you truly care about your customers, and that's becoming all-too-rare. Best wishes, -Amy

I promise to go back to my snarly old self as soon as possible.

Posted by aalkon at January 26, 2006 9:59 AM

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Thanks Amy for posting this.

I have been to there website and have scouted out the locations list for something I might be able to get to. A little bit of a trip for me in Michigan, but I have seen that they do have one in Charlotte NC. I will be there in May for my daughters graduation. He will get at least two sales at that time just because companies run by gentleman like this deserve my business. I have to imagine he is one hell of a boss to work for as well.

Posted by: Bret at January 26, 2006 5:24 PM

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