A Thanksgiving lesson in the customer experience: Why you must be transparent with your business hours during holiday periods

thanksgiving customer experience lesson

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in the United States that Americans observe surrounded by family, food and football in honor of the harvest celebration that the Pilgrims held in Plymouth.

But as an Australian in the United States, I found myself working that Thursday and searching desperately for restaurants and cafes that were open so I could grab a bite to eat.

How annoying is it when you drive all the way to your favorite restaurant or shop only to find it closed?

Luckily, I knew I couldn’t presume all restaurants would be open for lunch and coffee, so I planned ahead and researched online to find the opening hours for a couple of places nearby.

Through my research, I was amazed at how many big-name restaurants didn’t have any information about their Thanksgiving hours on their websites or voicemail recordings.

In this Thanksgiving-inspired article, I want to highlight how a little thing like being transparent about your business hours is super important to creating a consistently good customer experience.

Although I’ll be bringing in examples of restaurants, the lessons in this article can be applied to all types of businesses. It’s important to be transparent about business hours during holiday periods or risk upsetting customers and creating a poor experience.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s was my first choice because it was the closest to my home. When looking on the company’s website, there was no notification on their home page and no opening hours to be seen. All they had was in small print, “Holiday Hours may vary.”

That’s not very helpful, is it?

I usually avoid calling ahead, but I wanted to double check. I called my local Wendy’s and it rang out. No voicemail or anything. How hard would it have been to leave a 30- second message to customers on their voicemail to let them know they were closed?

Wendy’s let me down because they weren’t transparent and proactive about their opening hours. Although this may seem like something trivial, it leaves a lasting impression. The next time I fancy a burger on a public holiday, will I bother checking if Wendy’s is open? Probably not.

McDonald’s

Next cab off the ranks was McDonald’s – a trusty option because, seriously, when are they ever closed?

I browsed the McDonalds website and scrolled through to the local restaurant page – nothing. No updates about Thanksgiving opening hours. In a world where customers demand self-service support, most customers wouldn’t phone in, but this time I didn’t want to risk driving 15 minutes to be let down.

I called the number and to my surprise, someone answered. Hurray! They were open. Well done, McDonalds, but again – how many calls do you think they received on Thanksgiving asking whether they were open?

All that time spent answering the phone would have impacted productivity. To save time and make the experience better, they could have had a notification on their website or even an automated voicemail.

Chick-fil-A

By this time, I figured I might try my luck with some more preferable restaurants and use McDonalds as a backup option. I jumped online again to see if Chick-fil-A was open.

No updates on their website. Nothing to be seen but a standard message, “Please call for hours.” So I called to double check and it rang out.

Similar experience to Wendy’s – this leaves a lasting impression so next holiday I won’t be checking if Chick-fil-A is open.

Think about this when it comes to your business. Imagine if one of your customers needed to reach you on a holiday and all they got was the phone ringing out. You might have customers who are located interstate or overseas that might not be aware of your holiday. How might they feel if they don’t know why you’re not at work?

The point here is to be transparent about your business hours. I’m not advocating you need to work public holidays – you shouldn’t – but you need to be proactive about informing your customers when you are out of the office.

Outback Steakhouse

Continuing on my journey to find a place to eat, I tried my old favorite – Outback Steakhouse.

To my surprise, Outback was very transparent about their opening hours on Thanksgiving. The restaurant had a big banner on their website home page and the individual store locator page clearly outlined their opening hours. This was quick and easy – I found the information I needed myself without having to call them.

Starbucks

Feeling a little more confident, I tried my luck with Starbucks. Starbucks had their opening hours clearly listed on their website – easy to find and no need to phone in. I knew they were open for lunch, so I popped over and grabbed a meal and a coffee.

Although this may seem small with respect to the greater customer experience, Starbucks’ approach to listing their opening hours demonstrates their commitment to their customers. The company has a customer-centric DNA that is committed to creating an experience customers love. Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee – they sell an experience where you can come in, catch up with friends or do some work on your laptop in a comfortable environment.

Staying true to that experience, I bet they’ve been updating their Thanksgiving opening hours for years. Heck, this year they even sent out a press releases to the media to let everyone know they were open.

The business lesson

No… I didn’t want to spend 10 minutes telling you what was open and what wasn’t open on Thanksgiving.

I want to highlight the importance of how a little thing like business hours can have significant affects on your customers’ experience and on how your customers perceive your brand.

When you are away from the office or closed during holiday periods, you need to let your customers know. Here are four ways you can proactively inform your customers about your business hours during holiday periods:

  • Post an update on your website home page: Make it easy for customers to find your opening hours by listing them on your home page.
  • Set up a voicemail: This is no brainer – on the night before you’re closed, set up a quick voicemail that concisely explains when you are closed and when you are next open.
  • Communicate opening and/or work hours via social media: Your customers are engaging with your company on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They will turn to these platforms to check if you are open or not.
  • Set up an email responder: Something so simple yet always underutilized. If you’re going away for a few days or don’t have access to email, set up an auto-responder to let anyone that emails you know about your work hours.

Take a page from Starbucks’ book and be transparent about your business hours. With the Christmas holidays only a month away, I challenge you to apply some of the ideas in this article to let your customers know what days and hours you’ll be open.

Tagged: Customer Experience, Customer Service

About Ross Beard

Ross Beard was on the marketing team at Client Heartbeat, the simple customer feedback tool. Learn how Client Heartbeat makes improving customer satisfaction easy.



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