This week, I experienced my first completely horrible experience with ordering takeout during the pandemic.
I won’t bore you with the details, which are not especially unique; everyone has a story about horrendous customer service, even in non-pandemic times.
The real breakdown revolved around one simple issue: Lack of communication. I and dozens of others who went to this particular restaurant to get our food probably won’t go back for a long time, or maybe ever again.
I completely understand this restaurant was caught off guard by a stampede of customers (triggered after they offered a discount). I get 100% that they are not used to operating that way. I get that they were probably understaffed given the circumstances.
However, what was apparent to all their angry customers was that their staff tried to ignore everyone as they scrambled to fill orders, most of which were backed up for 1-2+ hours.
Communications remains the key ingredient for overcoming crisis moments. You can’t pretend the S is not hitting the fan. You have to own up and show up and speak up.
They could have said, “We’re sorry.” They could have said, “What is your name, and can I check on your order?” Simple things. They could have recruited some customers to help triage the mess and come up with a plan on the spot to keep everyone in the loop, and keep the bags of food moving off the line instead of getting cold.
Now is the time to anticipate new norms and operating procedures for your business…and communicate exactly what you’re doing, even if you are flailing. Customers will understand and forgive, but not if they aren’t acknowledged in the first place. And definitely not if they’re completely ignored.