By Tom Sponsel, CPA/ABV, CFF
Among other things, COVID has made us realize what we take for granted. One example is going out for dinner or drinks. We’re used to walking in to a restaurant or bar and finding a seat right away. Now, restaurants are so short-staffed that you may find yourself waiting an hour or more for a table even if the dining room is half empty.
The best way for restaurant owners to keep customers coming back is to be transparent about their limitations. They warn customers of wait times rather than pretending they’re operating normally. They even post a note on the door if they must close because they have no staff to work that day. You’ll be surprised at how forgiving customers can be if you’re open and honest with them — transparency is the key!
All business owners should take a cue from the food service industry right now. With supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, you have to drop your poker face and be realistic with your customers. Let them know your business isn’t what you’d like it to be right now, but you will do your best to keep them satisfied despite any delays. Give them a reason to return at another time, perhaps a discount coupon for their next visit. Be proactive in communicating with them and resetting their expectations based on the level of service you’re currently able to provide. Don’t shy away from the harsh reality of that current level of service. People respect honesty. That’s what makes them loyal customers in the end.
When a business isn’t running smoothly, there’s an understandable temptation for owners to ignore customers or give them the silent treatment. This is the wrong way to go. You may not have good news to report, but reporting something — such as a delay or a shipment failure — is better than nothing. Responsiveness is crucial in times like these. Always think of your customer first, no matter how “bad” your day is going. Timely communication and respect for one another are critical.
Sometimes, admitting weakness is the strongest thing you can do. You may lose prospective customers along the way, but if they respect your forthright nature and sincerity in upholding your desired level of service, they will come back.