customer service

By Rieva Lesonsky

As a small business owner today, it’s easy to get caught up in technology, and so worried about social media, mobile tools and how to stay abreast of the latest smartphone developments that you forget your biggest advantage as a small business: you and your staff. I was reminded of this recently when I spent a getaway weekend in a small, rural community that relies heavily on tourists in addition to farming as its main industries.

It’s the nature of this type of place that most of the businesses are independently owned small shops. Since I always love patronizing small businesses (not to mention shopping in general), my significant other and I spent a lot of time browsing, shopping and eating in restaurants on our trip. The weekend reminded me of something that small business owners often forget: the power of getting personal.

Here are just a few examples:

  • I visited every jewelry store in town looking for a certain type of silver piece I had in mind. At some stores, no one even greeted me or if they looked up, they looked at me like I was an interruption in their day. At others, I was warmly welcomed. At the store I ended up buying from, the owners took the time to show me several pieces, discuss what I wanted and even offer to custom design the item I had in mind (and ship it to my house). It didn’t hurt to learn that one of the owners grew up in my hometown! We had a nice chat about mutual acquaintances. I ended up choosing a beautiful piece that the owner modified to fit my needs. I came away with a nice souvenir and a memory of a pleasant interaction.
  • My significant other loves craft beer so we stopped in at a local store that sells a huge range of craft beers, hosts beer tastings and has a small eating area and bar. From the bartender to the retail clerks, everyone was friendly, engaged with us and happily answered all our questions. Not only that, but they went above and beyond to discuss the beer my companion was enjoying and where and how it’s made. Needless to say, we made several return visits to the shop in the short time we were there.
  • We ate several meals out and although all of the food was delicious, what made the difference in the experiences was the attitude of the staff. At some restaurants, we got attentive service from wait staff who took the time to talk to us, ask where we were from and generally make us feel welcome. They also told us where the food we were eating came from locally and suggested places to visit in the area. At other restaurants, we had to flag down wait staff to get any help, which was given grudgingly with minimal interaction and the sense that the person couldn’t get rid of us fast enough.

What’s my point? In today’s technological-oriented society, consumers are starved for some simple human interaction. No wonder artisanal, homemade and unique products and foods are so popular. Treating your customers like people, talking to them on a human level and showing them you enjoy interacting with them are the qualities that will have customers coming back again and again.