The restaurant and hospitality business has been hit hard by this pandemic. As restaurants begin to open up with restrictions based on social distancing, and staff wearing masks, I heard a comment made by a restaurant owner who said, “sadly, we are not able to give our customers the kind of friendly service they’ve come to expect from us.” She was commenting on the full experience: smiling servers, great ambiance, a hum of activity, laughter in the air, and people buzzing with discussion. She was lamenting on having to keep cleaning menus, booths, using plastic utensils, and so on.
Her comment was one of fear and skepticism that the customer would regret being there or thinking the service wasn’t what it should be, or once was.
But what she didn’t notice or understand was that in this “new normal” there is emerging a “new customer” as well.
Here are the marks of the New Customer:
- Joy in the midst of caution
- Understanding and compassion
- A bond that can only happen in the midst of tragedy
On Oct 1, 2017, a deranged gunman in Las Vegas sprayed bullets upon an outdoor concert, killing over 50 people and wounding over 400. This tragedy drew the humanity in Las Vegas together, creating a motto called “Vegas Strong” reminding everyone of the resiliency of human nature and creating a bond created by a common experience and sadness. Those in New Orleans who came through Katrina know it. Those that experienced the devastating fires in California know it. Tragedy has a way of pulling people together.
Now, this pandemic, this tragedy, is being experienced by the world. We all know it because we all are experiencing it. Out of this tragedy is coming a bond. A bond we all have with each other because we’re all in this together.
Since we are all human beings that purchase something, we are all customers. We are human customers who are all in it together with every business owner, every restaurant, every hotel, every retail store, every one.
That bond gives us a great deal of understanding and compassion. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who have said that they have “ordered out” from their favorite restaurants, not just for their pleasure, but to “give them some business.” People want to do their part and support their local businesses the best they can in the midst of difficult circumstances. We all understand what the loss of income is doing for businesses. We understand because we not only run those businesses but work there as well.
The New Customer experiences joy in the midst of caution. I don’t know about you, but I never thought the highlight of my week would be going to the grocery store! But even though most of us were wearing masks, and following social distancing requirements, just being around people again felt good. As retail establishments open up, even with restrictions, people find joy in shopping. Not in the shopaholic sense, but in the sense of engaging in commerce, looking for needs, thinking of the future, being creative, and letting your mind wonder. Shopping is not always about purchasing as it is about discovery. It is also about planning for future events: birthdays, holidays, special days for special people, and that brings us joy.
Considering these factors, the New Customer is grateful. As you open up your establishments, there is a new sense of gratefulness. We never appreciate things more than when they are taken away from us. And so, for once in our lives we have been forced to slow down, to count our blessings, and to think about the normal, every day things we used to take for granted. We now appreciate the small act of going out to dinner, or shopping at a retail store.
And in addition, the New Customer, is grateful for you. Grateful for the grocery store workers, grateful for those that serve us in retail, and grateful for those who serve us in restaurants. Yes, we are more grateful than ever for healthcare workers, and first responders. But we are also grateful for those who we’ve taken for granted along the way. Whatever you do, however you work and engage with others, we appreciate and are grateful for Y-O-U!
As you go back to work, go back to serving at a restaurant or retail store, or whatever, and you are tempted to think for one minute that your customer is not satisfied with your service or disappointed that are not getting what they “used to get” remember, the New Customer doesn’t think that way, because the New Customer is YOU.