Pizza Hut’s Paul Brandt on Delivering a Feeling, One Pie at a Time

By Emily Cowan posted 12-10-2019 09:47 AM

Not everyone gets to grow up and take a job they love with a brand that gave them the warm fuzzies as a child. By that standard @Paul Brandt, who joined Pizza Hut as VP of Customer Experience in April 2019, is one lucky guy. In this interview, he explains how the brand’s employee-first approach helps ensure that all of their customers and team members feel “happy, valued, and cared for.”

Execs In The Know: Over the course of your career you have consistently approached customer experience through the lens of employee engagement. In your new role at Pizza Hut, how do you understand the power of putting EX front and center?

Paul Brandt: A lot of that has to do with our internal culture at Pizza Hut and our focus on delivering an extraordinary team member experience. We have a saying here that, “The customer experience will never exceed that of the team member.” We know that ultimately our customers’ experience depends on our team members, so we do everything possible to deliver a great team member experience and that will translate into a great customer experience.

It all starts with the team members. If you get everything right you’ll have team members who are highly engaged, exceedingly motivated, and love what they do. They’re going to go above and beyond for the customer. They’re going to sweat the small stuff. And our customers know it. That’s what drives brand loyalty.

EITK: Can you give a specific example of that dynamic in action?

Paul: We had a customer write us a really nice letter recently to describe an experience she had with one of our drivers. Our driver delivered an order to her home and she passed the food to one of her kids to bring inside the house. And...the child dropped it. No fault of the driver, but she felt so bad that she offered to take care of it. The customer said thank you but no, they’d go ahead and make the best of it.

Well, the driver felt so bad that she immediately went back to the restaurant, had the food remade, and drove it back to the house. The customer had no idea! She was so blown away that the driver took it upon herself to fix this, even though it was no fault of the driver or the store. The care the driver showed in making sure they had a great experience really touched her. I hear examples of that level of service all the time at Pizza Hut thanks to comments we receive through social media, surveys, and other forms of customer feedback.
EITK: How do you empower your team members to take that kind of initiative?

Paul: One of the things we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about as a company is, what do we want our customers to feel? We want them to feel “happy, valued, and cared for.” When customers feel happy, valued, and cared for they come back more often, they tell their friends and family, and they spend more on their orders. So we’ve worked hard to put programs in place aimed at creating those feelings.

From the team member perspective, it’s not just about empowerment but also accountability. If a team member sees that a customer is not feeling happy, valued, and cared for, we trust them to do whatever they can do to turn the situation around.  This all ties back to our franchisees…we’re very fortunate to have franchisees that truly love this brand and are fully engaged in delivering the best possible customer and team member experience. 
EITK: What drew you to your current role at Pizza Hut?

Paul: There are three reasons. Number one, it’s just an iconic brand. Everyone has a Pizza Hut story, and I’m no different. When I was a kid we had birthday parties at Pizza Hut, we celebrated Little League wins at Pizza Hut. It holds a special place in my heart. That’s true of a lot of other people as well, not just in the U.S. but worldwide.

The second critical piece is culture. It’s one thing to talk about your company culture but it’s another to truly live it out every day. Before I took the job I asked a friend of mine who was working for Pizza Hut whether the company was really “walking the talk.” And the answer was - and is - yes. I see it every day in the way we support our team members and our franchisees.

Third, pizza is fun. It’s about celebrating events with friends and family and bringing them together. It’s so much more than dough, sauce, and cheese. It’s about bringing people together over a hot meal.
EITK: What would you say is your biggest challenge right now, and how are you planning to tackle it?

Paul: We have a lot of communication with our customers - what they like, what they don’t like, what we can enhance or improve or do differently. It’s coming from in-person interactions in our stores, over the phone when they call our toll free number, and via customer surveys, social media, third-party review sites like Yelp. Our biggest challenge is we don’t have a good way of bringing all of that information together. But it’s also our biggest opportunity. So that’s what we’re working on right now - one integrated view, like a dashboard, of what the customer is telling us today.
EITK: What makes you excited to get to work each day?

Paul: If you’re not passionate about what you do, and love what you do, and enjoy the people you work with, you’re not going to be excited to go to work in the morning. I love working with our team members, our franchisees, and the cross-functional teams here at Pizza hut. We have a strong focus on making sure that customers and team members alike feel “happy, valued, and cared for.”

And that aligns with my personal values system as well. That’s what really keeps me energized.