The Inconstancy Sickness: How Trust is Gained by Sticking to a Schedule
Inconsistency: the state of being inconsistent.
Inconstancy: changeability, not sticking to the predetermined course.
There may be hours posted on the door to a small business, but we all know that chances are good that the employees don't stick them 100% of the time. In fact, the smaller the town, the more likely a kind passerby is able to inform a waiting patron that Joe Schmo usually heads out for lunch around the corner at 12:30 and probably won't be back until after 2.
There is a definite charm to this kind of scheduling, but also a larger than normal amount of frustration. Because you're not only dealing with the actual hours in question: you are dealing with the overall mental image of a business as being reliable, trustworthy, and deserving of your hard-earned funds. And the more times you go out of your way to connect with that business and have nothing but empty hands and a "try again next time" to show for it, the more likely you are in the future to shrug and just admit that you'd like to go partake in the revelries beyond those doors, but the customer service experience purely of getting that far has left a bad taste in your mouth.
As consumers, we constantly weigh many factors in our decisions to spend our money. One of the many is ease of procurement and use (customer service, consistency of hours), often weighed against overall product fulfillment of our needs. If we have to crawl to the ends of the Earth for a product but we simply cannot live without said product, then the difficulty of procurement versus overall fulfillment is going to measure out. But if we could give or take it at no detriment to our everyday lives, it better be relatively easy to lay our hands on, or we're going to stop paying you money.
Let's look at the example of extracurricular children's activities. Usually led by a well-meaning but human teacher and overseen by a nonprofit organization, a business or a public school, there is a large gap between the consumers (parents and sponsors) and the business, since they are paying for their offspring, not for themselves. Due to this gap, it can be particularly difficult to relay information, and the business cannot trust the consumer to meet them halfway when it comes to getting the full story. Therefore any changes the business makes in schedule, in instructor, in content or in class must be made very clear and communicated effectively and consistently across numerous platforms. It is up to the business to establish clear, concise and consistent communication, and it is up to the business to ensure that all relevant details are given across all platforms and in an appropriate time frame.
None of this is mandate, of course. You can, as a business, choose NOT to do any of this. But the result is that when gaps in schedule occur, or changes are made without warning or announcement, there is a story there which explains the changes and, when not told, the consumer will create it. And when the consumer creates a story which, by indifference or by design, glorifies inconsistency and lack of organization, or wherein the consumer does not come first or, heaven forbid, doesn't even factor in to the equation, there is no reason to keep patronizing that business.
Loyalty isn't enough to keep unhappy people coming back. Do not fall victim to the inconstancy sickness; communicate concisely and thoroughly, keep records of your changes and, whenever possible, stick completely to the original schedule. Unless literal health is at stake, it simply is not worth the downtick in customer satisfaction to make changes to an already set schedule. Consistency is a key tenet of loyalty: proving yourself consistent tells your consumers that you are organized, thoughtful, and you care about them and their needs. Be easy to love and patronize by sticking to your schedule, communicating effectively and putting your consumers first.