Good customer service

Smoky River Regional Economic Development

Dan Dibbelt

It is no secret I am a big fan of shopping local.

Many of my articles talk about the value of keeping our local businesses busy, the jobs that are created, and the donations from industry to our various not-for-profits and of course the fact that businesses pay property taxes that keep our communities viable. While all that is true, there is still an onus on local businesses to earn shopper loyalty. I am a stickler for good customer service.

I like it when the staff/owner is friendly, polite and knowledgeable. I like it when my waitress (or waiter) dresses appropriately, meaning no belly shirts. I like it when the business I am in, makes me feel like a valuable customer. The reality is that every customer is a valuable customer.

It’s a tough job running a business. You have to take care of the books, keep the store and washrooms clean, manage inventory, manage staff and always be friendly and happy when a customer walks. That’s not always easy, but it is necessary.

Customers shop locally for a number of reasons, the most common being necessity. If you run out of milk or eggs, coffee or cigarettes, you will run to one of the local stores to pick up your goods because it is convenient and saves time.

People also shop for long-term items, whether that is for next month’s groceries, new winter tires or a dress for a special occasion. These purchases are usually planned and based on local availability and cost. That’s why many people drive to big centers to buy bulk and save some money. People also shop impulsively; they see an ad in a magazine or on television and they want it now. Shopping is also an emotional experience for many people, it makes them feel good, either in the process of purchasing, consuming or displaying their purchase.

Regardless of what people are shopping for, one of the biggest influencers on where people shop is trust. I think we all have our favourite shops for specific things. I have used the same tire shop for years. I don’t check competitor’s prices, I don’t check out other flyers, I don’t really ever give it a second thought. I trust my tire shop. They treat me with respect, they know my name, and I believe they give me good value.

There are a few other items that I do the same thing with. They have earned my loyalty. Building customer loyalty is more important now than ever before. There are many ways to do that and for every customer it may be something different.

I had a call from a reader saying he liked the columns on supporting local but wanted to impress upon me that it was important that businesses also support local, not just in what they buy, but in who they hire.

Many of us have seen out-of-towners working at many of the oil and gas jobs in the area and many of us have wondered if there wasn’t someone local that could have filled that position.

Certainly there are some positions that require a specific skill set, and if that skill is available locally it needs to be brought in. But certainly hiring local, builds loyalty. When you employ a local person, you gain that person’s family and friend base as potential customers. Businesses that shop local, earn other businesses and their employees as potential customers. When businesses support local events and not-for-profits, they earn those groups as potential customers. I hope.

Keeping our local business community vibrant is a two-way street. People should shop local and businesses need to build a loyal customer base. The slow down in our economy is the time we need to work together to keep our business community vibrant and to keep all the conveniences we have in our backyard here.

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