Shopping Local Is A Two-Way Street

by Bruce W. Hall

You read about it from time-to-time in the letters to the editor section of any newspaper. Shop locally because doing so provides revenue to fund programs. You hear about it from the merchants themselves. Support our local businesses because it creates jobs and services and contributes to the overall well being of our community.

We know these things to be true. We also realize our locally owned and operated businesses build strong neighborhoods, reduce automobile usage, and add character to the community. Furthermore, owners often sit on local boards, get involved in community action groups and merchants associations, and make significant donations. They frequently buy from one another, and while a single one of their shops may carry a smaller selection, combined they offer a much wider range of products than many “Big Box” stores.

However, just as small, family run businesses are the lifeblood of a community; long-term loyal customers are the lifeblood of business. In fact, as a core group, without their repeated support, itís unlikely enough new business exists for anyone to remain profitable for long. Thatís why, in spite of great locations, easy shopping, competitive prices, and terrific selection, customer service can never be taken for granted. Thatís why shopping local is a two-way street.

Ask any merchant in town how they view customer service. They wonít deny its importance. They know it instinctively. They understand what still works best for a local business is word-of-mouth advertising. They realize a positive review from a satisfied customer carries more weight than any advertising or incentive program. Unfortunately, itís easy sometimes to forget that the reverse is equally true.

Studies show poor customer service can have devastating long-term consequences. The local business owner who will scoot away a life-long customer because itís time to close at 3:00 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, runs the risk of never seeing him or her again. The employee who will ignore a customer simply to chat on the phone, read a newspaper, or fail to greet and smile, hardly instills the credibility a business owner wishes to convey. Any salesperson making poor interpersonal decisions with a customer can seriously jeopardize their employers standing in the community. The moment a customer is taken for granted, however slight or unintended, business is lost that no amount of advertising can replace.

Price, location, selection; none are so vital to success in business as customer appreciation. In fact, the number one reason why customers return to shop in the same stores over and over again is because they feel appreciated for who they are. Vigilant storeowners with reliable employees who embrace this premise understand its long-term consequences. Merchants that actively demonstrate similar thinking will seldom if ever have to remind their community how important it is to shop local, even in times of economic slowdown.

Copyright © 2008, by Bruce W. Hall. All rights reserved.

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