Why (Not What) Are Your Hours?

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Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

What days is your business open? More importantly, what hours is your business open? Who decided what hours you open and close your business, and why? Do you keep your hours for your convenience or the convenience of your customers?

I don’t think it is an accident that the more popular dry cleaners are open early and stay open relatively late to allow customers to drop off or pick up laundry on their way to or from work. The same can be said for auto repair shops, bakeries, and coffee shops. They strive to open the hours their customers find it convenient to do business with them. Keep in mind, for example, that the auto dealer’s service center is usually open early so people can drop their cars off on the way to work, while the showroom opens much later and stays open later since that’s when people have the time to actually purchase a vehicle. Let’s bring this back to the optical business.

I’ve noticed over the years a number of my website customers calling me to change the hours on their website for their stores. In many cases, those who have more than one store often keep different hours for different stores. That makes perfect sense as your location will strongly dictate traffic flow. Many downtowns, for example, empty out after normal office hours, making the need for those stores to stay open much later than the business community has gone home a waste of time. Other city centers have a viable and growing residential community and are therefore vibrant well into the evening. The primary key here is knowing your neighborhood and the needs of that neighborhood for your products and services. Once you’ve identified those needs you can set the proper hours to service that need. The key, however, is consistency.

Why is consistency so important? Ask yourself what hours is your neighborhood dry cleaner open? What hours is your neighborhood hardware store open? What hours is your favorite lunch place open? What hours is your favorite convenience story open? Most businesses set up two, maybe three sets of hours, weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays (for those open 7 days a week). I know for example that the store I purchased my tires from is  open 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on weekdays, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays, and closed Sundays. That’s a pretty easy schedule for a customer to remember. When I need to get my tires rotated I know I need to leave my office early so I can get there long before they close, since I am usually in my office long before they ever open. I am not forced to call them or double check their website every time I want to visit. What they don’t do that I’ve noticed a number of ECPs do, is wildly vary their schedules.

While as a business owner you might notice that Mondays and Tuesdays are a bit slower than Wednesdays and Thursdays, changing your hours every day to accommodate that traffic flow will more than likely kill your late traffic altogether. Let’s say I picked up my last pair of eyeglasses from you on my way home from the office on a Wednesday because you were open until 6:00 PM. A few months later, I notice that the frames don’t fit me as nicely as they did when they were dispensed, so I head your way on a Tuesday on my way home only to discover that you close on Tuesdays at 5:00 PM. I am going to be very disappointed I made a trip for nothing, especially since I know I was there not long ago well after 5:00 PM. Are you open to 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM? Even worse are the stores and practices who seem to work overtime to complicate things even more with hours like this:

Monday 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Tuesday 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Wednesday 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Thursday 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Friday 10 AM to 7:00 PM
Every other Saturday 10 AM -2:00 PM
Closed Sundays

The only consistency here is that this store is closed on Sundays. Again, who is this schedule convenient for? It’s not convenient to your customers. It is not convenient to your employees either. Whoever sets hours like this is no doubt trying to be efficient with payroll. They are at the same time being extremely inefficient with their marketing. They are broadcasting that anything after 5:00 PM is a maybe and will over time prove that when people stop coming by after 5:00 PM. Why would anyone risk the store being closed after being spurned on a previous visit?

This is not to say it’s a bad idea to have one weekday you stay open late, just that having wildly varying hours does nothing to service your customer and in fact, will more than likely give them a reason to shop elsewhere. It’s hard enough to earn customer loyalty in this day and age, why do we want to make a guessing game of your hours complicate and quite possibly be the reason you lose that loyalty?

Pick a set of hours that maximizes your customer traffic flow and make it consistent. There will be mornings or afternoons you are slower than other mornings or afternoons. That’s called being in business. There is plenty to do when business is slow besides holding down counters. You and your staff can always use those slower times to write thank you cards, make calls about eyewear ready for dispensing, cleaning and updating displays, and so on.

Will your hours be perfect? No. They will be easily memorable though.

To translate the Voltaire quote at the introduction, “In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of the good”

 

 

 

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