Recently, I was at a restaurant for the first time in over three months. As I entered the establishment I surveyed the surroundings, watching other patrons to make sure I could maintain appropriate physical distance. The person I was meeting with indicated that this was his second time at a restaurant in the same time period. We were both nervous, which surprised me.
Things that I never noticed before suddenly became very important, like whether the door was propped open so I did not have to grab the handle to open it, or if there was sufficient “space” in the building. I noted that staff were wearing PPE, the location and availability of hand sanitizer, and the process through which patrons were served and tables cleared. I also found myself watching if different people were doing various tasks interacting with multiple tables or focused on a small section to limit exposure.
While I paid attention to everything around me, the individual I was with seemed similarly absorbed in our surroundings and then he broke our silent observation by saying, “They sure do things differently than the last place I was at.” “How so?” I queried.
He then explained his experience at the other restaurant and how those staff had explicitly explained the restaurant’s processes to their patrons in order to make them feel safe.
Then it hit me. The moment of truth for me in this experience was – do I feel safe?
We proceeded with our meeting. The individual I was with asked the server about the restaurant’s modified safety processes, pointing out the difference between this experience and his last. The server was dismissive, indicating they did not have enough staff to implement processes he described—another missed moment of truth.
With the meeting complete, we promptly left. The service was good, the atmosphere was pleasant, the food was okay, but we were uneasy and although we never stated it, we both knew we would not go back to that establishment.
Then three days later the restaurant closed due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19. Luckily, as per disclosed timing, we were not exposed.
Reflecting on this experience, I realized that although I have been to several public places during this health crisis, I had not felt uneasy until then. And, due to this experience, I will not return to that restaurant. It failed the new moment of truth. It acted in the way it had to due to legislation instead of a way it could or should have.
Sometimes things become evident by their absence; other locations I visited in the past three months have made a point of over-communicating their safety processes to their customers and staff. The lack of this over-communication at this particular business stuck out.
My advice to all brands is to consider their level and frequency of communication about safety process at this time. In my experience over-communicating provides awareness, which in turn makes me, as a customer, feel safe and comfortable. SafeX is the first and foremost new moment of truth.
Safety is a basic need in Maslow’s pyramid for a reason.
Steve Whittington is Managing Director of a boutique digital agency, Graphic Intuitions. He has also served for a over a decade as a member of the Executive Team of Flaman Group of Companies an award winning organization and has over 25 years of executive experience. Steve’s current board work includes serving as Chair of the board for Flaman Fitness Canada, a national retailer; President of Glenora Child Care Society; and Co-Chair of the Marketing Program Advisory Committee for NAIT’s JR Shaw School of Business. Previous notable board work included, a Director for a meal prep internet Startup Mealife and Chair of Lethbridge Housing authority, the third largest Social housing NGO in Alberta.
Academically, Steve was an instructor of Project Management at Lethbridge College for seven years. Steve holds a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree; he is a Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Marketing Specialist (CMS) and (CCXP) Certified Customer Experience Professional.
Steve’s first book Thriving in the Customer Age – 8 Key Metrics to Transform your Business Results teaches about the customer journey and provides a guiding framework spanning all stages of the customer experience. The book explains how every metric impacts an organization and how leaders can best utilize each metric to provide a stellar customer experience. Everyone knows the customer is the most important part of a business. This book provides the tools to improve an organization’s customer experience and drastically transform business results.
Recently Steve’s Blog has been profiled as one of the Top 75 Customer Experience blogs