By Friday night, I am tired of cooking for the crew. So, I usually ask my husband to swing by the local pizzeria on the way home. I like their antipasto salad; the guys go for the pizza. This small business is quite popular.
So much so that my husband tells me he usually has to wait – even though I’ve phoned in the order. And he describes the scene as “organized, but hectic.” Some Fridays, there are numerous tables filled and pizzas ready-to-go are piled high over the ovens as the delivery boys run in, collect their orders, and head back out into the neighborhood.
Recently, my husband observed an interaction between the owner – who happens to be THE pizzamaker – and a husband, wife, and teenage son, who were there to place an order – for an upcoming event. Clearly, they knew each other and the following was good-natured, but…
Wife: “We’d like to order food for Johnny’s graduation party. Is this a good time?” (This small business caters as well.)
Owner: “No, this is not a good time! We’re really busy right now, and I’m backed up on orders.”
Husband: “When can we talk?”
Owner: “Can you come back on Monday?”
Here’s the “but…” The family wandered in at 7 p.m. on the busiest night of the week expecting to be treated as if they were the only customers in town. A dilemma to be sure, but could the owner have handled this differently? How would you, as a small business owner, have reacted?
Some options may have been for the owner to suggest the family stops in later that evening. (Not convenient, but more timely.) Or perhaps the owner could have offered to call them back later that evening or even the following morning. To put the onus on the customer to come back later, may lead to a lost sale. And possibly to word-of-mouth that this business does not accommodate special orders.
If your business caters – food, flowers, desserts – do you have someone dedicated to handling requests even when you are extremely busy? What about a part-timer specific to that role? Or you could point your customer to your website to place the order there and leave questions that you could answer in a timely fashion.
The family that was told to come back Monday now had three days to find someone else who could possibly be more accommodating. Is your small business so big that you can afford to see someone walk out the door?
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