A blog about reputation, marketing and employee morale.

Dear Domino’s: I told you so

Posted by Janet Smith on April 20, 2009

Dear Domino’s: I hate to say I told you so…but…I told you so.

I’ll explain in a moment. But first, let’s recap. One week ago today, on April 13, a video was posted on YouTube showing a few Domino’s employees doing some really disgusting things with food, as they appeared to be preparing it for customers. The video has since been taken down, so I don’t know how many people ultimately viewed it-but I read that on April 15, it had been viewed 562,627 times by 8 a.m., 728,816 times by 3 p.m., and 930,390 times by 9:30 p.m. A stellar example of social media’s viral nature.

The employees have been fired and face felony charges. And Domino’s is now fighting for its reputation. A two-minute video created by the Domino’s organization, featuring an apology by Patrick Doyle, president of Domino’s USA, was posted on YouTube on April 15. I just checked, and it has received 540,896 views in five days-not bad, but certainly no comparison to the number of views the damaging video received just in one day.

So here’s why I’m feeling just a teensy bit smug. A year ago-on April 16, 2008-I wrote a blog post titled, “The Domino’s effect.” I detailed an experience of mine with the big pizza chain-or more specifically, with an extremely apathetic Domino’s employee. It had to do with being charged $16.00 for two medium pizzas, although three mediums cost $15.00.

The point of my post wasn’t that the employee was a bad person or even a bad employee. My point was that Domino’s clearly did not empower its employees to make even the smallest decisions in order to make customers happy. I wrote, “Somewhere up the line, a manager at Domino’s decided that this low-paid, hourly worker was not important to the success of the company. Someone made the decision that he didn’t need to understand the goals of the company and that he didn’t need to understand how he contributed to the achievement of those goals. And it’s clear that no one thought he should be empowered to give the customer a good experience. Who can blame the kid for not caring?”

Unempowered employees become apathetic employees. It’s the only way they can really survive that kind of work environment. If they continue to care, but can’t do anything about it, they’ll be miserable, frustrated, and angry. Stop caring—and it’s much easier to get through your shift.

As far as I can tell, Domino’s still doesn’t get it, even in the face of this supreme (go ahead and groan!) reputation nightmare. In the video, Doyle says, “Nothing is more important or sacred to us than our customers’ trust.”

That way of thinking is faulty, Mr. Doyle. There is something more important than the trust of your customers. It’s the commitment and loyalty of your employees, which only happens when they are empowered, respected, communicated with, valued, thanked, and made to feel that they are an important part of the company’s success.

Doyal also says, “We are re-examining our hiring practices.” Well-that’s never a bad idea. But I suggest, Patrick, that you re-examine the way employees are treated, too.  Even the best employees become negative and apathetic if they are not empowered, respected, communicated with, valued, thanked, and made to feel that they are an important part of the company’s success.

“It sickens me that the actions of two individuals could impact our great system,” Doyle says in the video.

It’s tragic that any well-intentioned organization should have its reputation threatened by the sickening actions of two employees. I have genuine compassion for everyone affiliated with Domino’s and sincerely hope they weather this storm.

But Mr. Doyle, as you evaluate the cause of this crisis and implement policies to prevent anything like this from happening again, please don’t miss a very important lesson.  It can be found in the three words I used to end the blog entry I posted almost one year ago to the day before the corporate giant’s image went south: “Employee morale and reputation go hand in hand. Domino’s got eight bucks from me that day. But my opinion of the company tanked. Every employee matters.”

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