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    Mitchell Chamber Blog
    Mitchell Chamber Blog
    Sharing news, connecting businesses, and enhancing the business environment in Mitchell, SD.
    8:27 AM

    How to Increase Your Business' Referrals

    One of the easiest and cheapest marketing tactics today is building a referral network. If you concentrate on growing referrals and word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing you can cut your marketing budget. Not only does WOM marketing not cost you anything, it’s more believed by potential customers. A recent survey by PowerReviews of 800 retail customers reported 95% of respondents have consulted customer reviews in the past. But how do you grow that solid base of referrals and people willing to write reviews?

    Hire Right
    Begin at the beginning. If you employ people who are killing time in their position, you cannot expect them to provide mind-blowing customer service. Find people who are passionate about your product or service, or passionate about the industry.  When someone is passionate about what you provide, your customers will feel it.

    Treat Employees Right
    As John Jantsch says in the book The Referral Engine, “Employees will treat your customers the way you treat them.” An employee without passion for what you do, who is treated poorly will never wow and delight your customers. On the other hand, one who loves what they do and is empowered to do right by the customer will do so again and again.

    Do Something Special
    When the boys from the Time Bandit (as seen on Discovery Channel’s popular show Deadliest Catch) opened a store to sell branded items like tee shirts and jackets, they could’ve relied on their notoriety alone to sell mass quantities.

    What small business wouldn’t love having items modeled every week on an internationally-acclaimed TV show?

    Instead, people who ordered from them online were surprised by a special note in each package thanking them for the purchase and encouraging them to share a picture of themselves wearing it on social media. Not only did they make customers feel appreciated, they also continued their free advertising by asking people to post their items on social.

    Other great examples of delighting the customer are practiced by brick-and-mortar stores that add samples to customer bags without their knowledge or ones who wrap everyday items as if they were small treasures. These little things impress customers. Shoppers remember them and they tell their friends.

    Ask for Referrals
    Most people want to view themselves as helpful. If you delight your customers and provide them with a great product and exemplary service there is no reason why they wouldn’t refer people to you or write a review. No reason, except that people are busy, and good service is more apt to slip our minds than a bad experience. For this reason you have to ask for the referral or the review. Reviews rarely just happen out of some altruistic need for people to help businesses. Give them a reason to want to write a review and then ask them to.

    Referrals and reviews are the lifeblood of business these days. To improve your referrals hire right and empower your employees, delight your customers, and ask for them to share their experiences. It’s the easiest, most effective, marketing you’ll do for your business.

     Photo: © Graphic Stock

    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and Event Manager Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:27 AM

    Tips to Starting a Business

    “I want to go into business.”

    I hear that all the time, and I get excited when someone wants to invest in the community. So here’s my best advice on starting a business.

    Location, Location, Location
    First you need to consider location. I remember reading that the three most important things in opening a business are location, location and location.

    Make sure you do your homework and pick the best spot. Years ago, I was a part owner in a men’s store on Main Street, and it was a perfect location, plenty of foot traffic, high visibility, in the center of it all.

    Know Your Business (Plan)
    Next is a business plan. This is very important to being successful. With all the information available on the internet you should be able to get all the data that you need to put together a plan, or you can contact the Small Business Development Center at your local college or university. Most are happy to assist you in putting together a business plan.

    If your community has a small business or economic development organization, visit their website and check out their resources. Some offer classes as well.

    Choose Wisely
    Next, and I think this is the most important, is hiring the right people and teaching them great customer service.

    I talk a lot about taking care of your customers. There was a video store on Main Street that only hired people who smiled. That’s the right approach – pick people with a positive attitude, and they will make you successful.

    A Story of Outstanding Customer Service
    I love to tell stories because they’re memorable. This is one of my favorites. A business woman went into a restaurant in New York City, and a young male waiter waited on her. When he asked what she would like drink, she said, “I know you don’t have RC Cola, so I will just have a Pepsi or Coke.” She also ordered her meal at the same time. The young man went back to the kitchen and gave the order to the cook, and said he had to run out to the grocery store next to the restaurant and he would be right back. He proudly had the RC Cola on the tray with a glass of ice, and the customer was very surprised. She asked him where he had gotten it, and he told her the story. Every time she came back to the city, she went to that restaurant and asked for the young man to wait on her. A few months later, she was in New York again but her favorite waiter was gone – he had gotten his own restaurant! And you can be sure she became a patron of that one too.

    Good customer service makes you stand out. People want to do business with you and you can parlay that customer loyalty into a million different opportunities.

    Isn’t that a great story? Those are the kind of things you should be doing for your customers.

    Image via: morgueFile / flashbuddy

    Ron Orris is the Executive Director of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, where he has led the chamber in its adoption of social media and is a strong proponent for blogging as a way to reach your audience. Under his leadership membership has increased 40% over the past two years. He has also served as the city controller for the City of Bradford and as a store manager for Walmart, a position he values as teaching him a lot about customer service.

    9:16 AM

    Is Your Misconception of Good Customer Service Holding Your Business Back?

    Good customer service is not answering questions you should know the answer to. It’s also not finding out the answer if you don’t know it. Good customer service isn’t meeting someone with a hello and a smile when they walk into your store and good customer service is not giving them what they came in for, or handing over a correct order.

    These things are all basics. The average customer expects you to do these things. You should know your product and service. If you don’t, you should be willing to find the answer. You should say hello and smile. These people might be giving you money in a few minutes and even if they don’t, they came in to see you when they could’ve gone a hundred other places. When they ask for something they should get it, as they asked for it the first time.

    This isn’t good customer service these are the basics of running a business.   

    What is Good Customer Service?
    There’s a saying in the restaurant biz – a good meal won’t bring them back. Good is not impressive. It means you met their expectations and nobody gagged. That’s not a win for the business owner. A great meal is what affects decision making when considering where to go on any given evening.

    Customer service is the same way. It’s not enough to provide good customer service anymore. Good is adequate. No one will talk about you because of your “good” customer service. You need to wow your customers with great customer service.  

    What is Great Customer Service?
    Maintaining a Navigable Website
    It begins at your website. The very first experience people have with your business is most likely not a person, but your site. If your content is outdated, your navigation is unfriendly, and your website does not meet their needs, it’s the same as someone walking into your business and finding the first person they meet on a personal phone call with no interest in getting off. It sets a bad tone and makes the visitor feel undervalued.  

    Great customer service is evidenced by a user-friendly website that contains up-to-date helpful information. It functions as a receptionist welcoming people in and as your first line of sales. A great website makes a good first impression. Don’t turn away business through a bad site before your employees have a chance to meet the prospective customers.

    Also, don’t think you can avoid having a website because people interested in your type of business don’t go online. This is simply not true of any business, other than if you live in a town that is not serviced by the Internet. If that is the case, there may still be people outside of your town interested in your offerings.

    Anticipating a Need
    A great customer service person listens to what a customer is asking for and delves deeper asking appropriate questions and providing additional information. For instance, if someone comes in to buy pest control products, a great customer service team member will ask about pets and children, as well as whether the problem is indoors or out. All of those things factor into the product purchased.

    If a customer wants to buy a tent and admits they’ve never been camping before, a great customer service person will provide some tips and additional things that person may need. Don’t wait for someone to ask for the information, because in this case, they likely don’t know what to ask.

    Listening Better Than Their Family
    We all just want to be heard and appreciated. These days there are a large number of people that feel that way. If you can make them feel like they are the most important person who has ever walked into your store, you have a customer for life.

    Creating a Moment
    Delighting your customer is essential. Think back to your past experiences as a customer. What resonated with you? It might be special wrapping, a surprise note or goodie, or a compliment on the selection you made. Taking the time to make your customer feel appreciated in a way that your competition is not doing, will go a long way to ensuring they remember you and your business.

    Inviting Them Back
    It’s such a simple touch but very important. Invite your customers back. Do this verbally if they’re in your store or business and through things like newsletters and emails. If you have the technology to keep up with it, and you have a record of their purchase, personalize your approach to them. For instance, an email to a tea purchaser could go something like this, “We hope you’re enjoying your teas. This week we have a special on Breakfast Tea and a local chef will do demonstrations on cooking with tea for better health on Saturday at 3. We hope you can join us, Brenda.” This type of personalization feels more like an invitation than a sales effort.

    Good customer service just isn’t impressive anymore. It’s not enough. To achieve great customer service make each customer feel just as important as they are.

     Image via GraphicStock

    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager’s Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    9:24 AM

    How to Get More Reviews for Your Business

    There’s a joke in this title. The easiest way to get more reviews is to stink at what you do. People are always more apt to give a negative review than a positive one. Then there are the people who never review anything. You’ll often read, “I don’t usually write reviews but this experience was so amazing I had to…”

    The truth of the matter is a giant problem for businesses:

    ·         People tend to write negative reviews because they feel vindicated in doing so.

    ·         People don’t write reviews for good customer service. They (only) review what knocks their socks off.

    This means one bad customer interaction and there’s a post about you. Twenty good ones, and nothing. You had better hope there’s a shining moment in your interaction with a customer. Those kind of odds aren’t inspirational but there are things you can do to entice people to write reviews for you more often.

    Ask for Them
    This is the easiest approach out there. A local carpet cleaner made my carpets look amazing. At the end of their work, they asked me if there was anything more they could do for me, anything I wanted, needed, or was interested in knowing. They made it a point to make sure I understood the best cleaning methods to maintain the look. They certainly provided good customer service and a great product.

    They handed me a business card (which even contained the copy “Love us? Please review us.”), and said they’d love to earn my business again. Then the other person handed me a few more “in case you know someone.” Next they told me how competitive their business is. How everyone relies on reviews and without them, a brand new business like theirs was not competitive. They made me fully understand how a review is essential to their ability to grow.

    While they did impress me, and I would’ve certainly used them again, and referred them if any one I knew was asking for carpet cleaners, you know what would’ve likely happened had they not asked me for a review? We would’ve said our pleasantries as I walked them to the door. I would’ve looked at my watch, realized how far behind I was in my work, and promised myself to write a review that night after the kids went to bed. Sometime during the course of that 8-hour stretch, it would’ve slipped my mind.

    Instead, I thought about how nice they were, what they had done for me, and what I could do for them, which they had made quite clear – write a review. So before starting back up on my work, I went to YELP and wrote a review.

    If they hadn’t asked, they wouldn’t have received.

    Take the Time to Educate on Their Importance
    Not only did the carpet cleaners ask for reviews, they told me why they needed them. In the classic “Xerox” study published in the book Influence by Robert Cialdini, he showed that when people interrupted others in a long line to use the copier as long as the interrupter used the word “because” in explaining why they must interrupt, 93% of the people let the person cut even when the excuse was as weak as “May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies.”  Using “because” influences behavior to the point that the words following the “because” don’t seem to matter.

    In addition to giving a “because” to your request, create collaterals around why writing reviews on Yelp (and other sites) help businesses. Many people don’t take the time to think about the correlation between positive reviews and business growth.

    Answer Your Reviews
    If someone is deciding whether they want to do business with you or whether they want to leave you a review after doing business with you, they may skim your existing reviews. If they see a cantankerous person combatting those who leave mean reviews, arguing with them and belittling them, they may think twice about you and the kind of person you are. If however, you respond to all of your reviews – positive or negative – with helpful information, you will appear to be someone who cares. We do business with people we like.

    83 million people visit YELP (alone) each month. Isn’t it time you leverage those reviews into getting more business? Don’t just sit around and wait for reviews. Use these tips to make them happen.


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager’s Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:53 AM

    The 1 Change You Need to Make in Your Business in 2016

    At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, if you make just one change to your business in 2016 you’ll open up a new door to an even greater level of success. It’s a very simple concept. You don’t have to go get an MBA or Master’s in marketing.

    You simply have to refocus your offerings from you want to say to what your ideal customer wants. Help your customers get what they need.

    All marketers will tell you to reframe your sales approach from features to benefits, but that’s not enough. That’s only the beginning because you’re still seeing your business through your eyes.

    You need to think larger. Your customer wants what you offer (hopefully) but they don’t do that in a vacuum. Their wants and needs are larger than your service or product.

    Switching from You/Business-Centered to Customer-Centered
    If you think of your customers’ purchases in a narrow focus, you are missing opportunities to be of greater use to them. Let’s take the retail giant Walmart as an example. Granted Walmart sells a large selection of products but if you visit their website you’ll note a “Tips & Ideas” section. There they have a plethora of ideas on various topics like beauty, health, entertaining, and more.

    They are meeting customers’ larger needs by asking, “why do buyers purchase this product? What is it they really want?” and creating content that addresses those needs. For instance, why does anyone want to wear a pedometer? Because it’s stylish? No, generally they are trying to make a commitment to their health. If you sell pedometers, talking about features may be helpful if there’s a big differentiator between models, but most of the time there isn’t. If all you’re doing is providing the features of the item you sell, you are as unremarkable as your competition.

    However, if you provide resources on fitness, best practices, tips, and ways to meet your goals, you are giving your customers something they need above and beyond a product. This is how you become a resource for them and build loyalty. Customers also share what they find valuable with friends and family.

    Help Them Choose You
    No one wants to be sold to. Look at how the automobile industry has tried to adapt from their hard sell attitude to a “no-haggle” approach at many dealerships. Creating resources that help your customers find what they need leads them to you. If you’re creating that content it can also be done in a way that steers them to you in a subtle fashion. For example, a bank may create a resource that helps people select the best credit card for their needs at the same time they are running a special on their card. The content could tell people about conditions it’s important to look for and it just so happens their credit card meets those conditions. They’re already on your site so help them find what they want.

    Now Look Bigger
    Let’s get back to the pedometer example. You realized your customers looking for a pedometer just want to make healthier changes and let’s assume you created content that would give them tips on better health practices and goal setting. Now take it to the 30,000-foot view. How can you help them do more? Provide a list of professional resources in your area like gyms, fitness instructors, and weight loss clinics. Bring in someone to do a fitness or cooking demonstration. Work with these professionals to give discounts to your customers. Create a network that provides more business for everyone involved.

    Now your business sells more than pedometers. It becomes an invaluable resource for healthier living through providing what your customers are ultimately seeking.

    Make your customers’ lives easier and give them more of what they want. Extend offerings and you’ll draw in a larger crowd. People will begin talking about you and you will stand out from the competition.

    The one thing you can do in 2016 to grow your business is to stop looking at your customers’ buying decisions in a vacuum. Think larger. Understand that they have a life and the more you can be a part of it by providing the answers to their questions and meeting their needs, the more you can endear your business to them through utility and increase revenue.


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager’s Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    9:19 AM

    4 Tips to Make Your Business More Likeable

    People buy from people they know, like, and trust. While you might be in the right place at the right time when someone is up against it, and they may buy from you once without knowing, liking, or trusting you, for them to return, you’ll need more than luck.

    Know and trust generally come along when you establish yourself as a likeable business with a human behind it. It’s difficult for people to like you if they don’t trust you, unless you’re a villain and then being untrustworthy is your business. For most of us, that is not the case. You can’t like someone you don’t remember, so let’s get to work on establishing the like part of the sales equation.

    Share Your Reason
    Think of how filmmakers or storytellers get us to like the main character. One of the ways is that they place him on a quest, or up against a challenge, that we want him to succeed in. Often it’s one we identify with. Share your reason for doing what you do. There’s probably someone in your audience or potential audience who can identify with your convictions and story. Passion is contagious.  

    Find Commonalities
    In order to find commonalities, you need to share things about yourself outside of your business and how it came to be. Share your likes, be positive. Share what you love about your community or your love for bacon. Be genuine and people who see your social media posts or read your content, will begin to identify with what you’re sharing. They’ll jump in and say “me too” and you’re one step closer to getting them to like you.

    Ask Questions
    If they’re in your store or business ask them their opinion on something and really listen to their answer. On social media ask what they think or what their preferences are. Involve them in your rebranding by crowdsourcing some of your marketing decisions. People like being involved and if you really listen to, and then act on, their advice, they’ll remember it and like you more because they see you as someone who values what they think. That’s all a lot of us are looking for.  

    Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs
    As a business you are in a position to help, whether it’s helping someone look better, feel better, be entertained, or whatever it is you do for your customers. But you are also in a position to solve problems or answer questions. Use your content and social media to help customers with problems they face in their lives. If you run a boutique, you can create posts about unique gifts for the women in your life. If you are a CPA create helpful checklists of things people should track throughout the year for effortless taxes. Be helpful. Anticipate what your customers need and then give it to them. If they know they can count on you, they will return again and again.

    In today’s competitive market place it’s hard for your product alone to set you apart. Often it’s the things behind your product that will help you make a name for yourself. It’s the service, personality, and assistance you provide. These are the things that make people like you and they are also what keeps people coming back.

    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager’s Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    9:17 AM

    Johnny the Bagger: a Customer Service Story

    Several years ago when I was with Walmart I attended one of our conventions. A motivational speaker at the convention shared the story of “Johnny the Bagger.”

    The presenter was hired by a large supermarket chain to lead a customer service program, and she shared that experience with us.

    In her presentation to the employees of this supermarket she said, “Every one of you can make a difference,” and she challenged them to do something to make their customers feel special–create a memory that would make the customers come back.

    A month later she received a phone call from a 19-year-old grocery bagger named Johnny. He proudly informed her that he had Down syndrome and told his story.

    “I liked what you talked about,” he said, “but at first I didn’t think I could do anything special for our customers. After all, I’m just a bagger.”

    Then he told her of his idea. Every night after he came home from work, he would find a thought for the day. If he couldn’t find one, he made one up. His dad helped him set it up on the computer and print copies. Johnny would cut out the copies and sign his name on the back. Then he’d bring them to the store the next day.

    When he finished bagging someone’s groceries, he would put his thought for the day in the bag and say, “Thanks for shopping with us!”

    Johnny was providing a very unique experience for his customers.

    The Power of the Difference
    A month later the store manager called the speaker and said, “You won’t believe what has happened! Today I found a crowd of customers in the line where Johnny bags, and it was three times longer than anyone else’s.” The manager said he tried to get people into other lines and they replied, “No, it’s okay–we want to be in Johnny’s lane–we want his ‘Thought for the Day’.”

    The store manager was overwhelmed by watching Johnny make his customers happy. One of Johnny’s customers said, “I used to shop in your store once a week, but now I come in every time I go by to get Johnny’s ‘Thought for the Day’.”

    Difference Inspires Difference
    A few months later, the store manager called our speaker again, saying, “Johnny has transformed our store. When the floral department has a broken flower or unused corsage, they find an elderly customer or a little girl and pin it on them. Everyone is having fun creating memories!”

    “Surprising” and “delighting” the customer have become marketing buzz words but for businesses that are finding real ways to do this, they’re seeing some amazing results and creating raving fan customers.

    Examples like this don’t cost much. They’re practically free and so easy to do. But these little differences are the types of things your customers don’t forget.


    Ron Orris is the Executive Director of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, where he has led the chamber in its adoption of social media and is a strong proponent for blogging as a way to reach your audience. Under his leadership membership has increased 40% over the past two years. He has also served as the city controller for the City of Bradford and as a store manager for Walmart, a position he values as teaching him a lot about customer service.

    Photo by: (c) Can Stock Photo Inc./flashon

    9:28 AM

    6 Ways to Build Long Lasting Customer Relationships

    In this age of consumerism, there's a choice for every product. You alone do not hold a monopoly on your product so you must understand that the customer is king. For a business to be sustained and stay viable, the customer must always come first. Keeping them happy and returning for more is the ultimate goal for any business.

    Several studies have shown that repeat customers buy significantly more on their visit than first time customers and repeat customers are also more likely to recommend you to someone close to them. In our current environment of increasing competition, building relationships with customers has now been brought into the spotlight and businesses are focusing a lot more of their attention on the matter.

    Customers are real people with feelings and emotions, which can be tapped to establish a bond. Customers are not nameless faces on the Internet, nor are they faceless voices on the phone. For a business, each customer is a distinct individual who matters. As ad man extraordinaire David Ogily said, “The customer is not a moron. She is your wife.”

    Show Them Respect
    Customers are real people with real emotions. Each one is a distinct individual who matters; not one more than the other, but all of equal importance. You must establish a bond from the outset. Customers are crucial to the survival of your business and they deserve the best possible behavior.

    In order for them to warm to you, you must show sincerity and be respectful to them and their needs. Carrying yourself in a mannerly and professional fashion will help you win their respect. This is the first step to thawing the ice.

    Share Your Knowledge
    Customers appreciate informative advice so if you are able to display your knowledge and expertise in your field, there is every chance they will warm to you. Staying professional in approach and demeanor are essential to success. The most widespread channel for knowledge sharing is the Internet. This is the biggest platform to show your customers that you are an expert in your chosen field.

    Respond to Customer Queries
    A customer’s query immediately answered builds goodwill and increases the chances of his returning for a purchase. Have a process in place to collect customer feedback and a way to log not only complaints, but also how you and your company respond to issues as they are reported so this can be replicated if the issue ever arises again.

    This is not only the case for negative feedback. Businesses should also pay close attention to positive feedback. Not only do positive comments help tell a company what they are doing right but they also encourage others to take notice of them.

    Reward Them
    Customers feel rewarded when an exclusive offer is made to them, or to a select group of frequent customers. Not only does a loyalty program provide a practical, hard reason for continuing to buy (the accumulation of points towards a reward, or higher level of service) but it also provides information about the customers that allows their needs to be met more efficiently and effectively.

    Rewarding existing customers for their continued loyalty will not only increase retention, but also increase the number of new customers your business brings in. This will occur through positive feedback from existing customers and also eye-catching loyalty deals, which will draw them in. Example of reward programs include loyalty programs, offering discounts on selected lines, point rewards, and also giving away free items with multiple purchases.  

    Be Active on Social Media
    There is a new tool available called social customer relationship management or CRM. This tool has become one of the most important marketing tools for many businesses. It lets you make the most of your social media interactions by tying them in with a database and allowing you to manage the data easier.

    Social networks are a great way to stay in touch with customers and build relationships. Through social media we get a front row seat into the latest developments of our customers’ lives and in doing so can begin to measure their needs. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular tools for business to interact through social media, so “Likes” and “Follows” are the first steps in building a customer relationship.

    Comments on your business, or mentions in the industry you are in, can be used as valuable feedback and will determine how best to move forward. Frequently update your social media sites to try and garner some feedback and interaction from customers.

    Always respond to criticism, don’t simply ignore it. You must show the world you are going to find a solution and are taking steps to eradicate the fault.  

    A successful networker knows that it is not just what s/he receives from others but what s/he gives that determines whether the networker is building solid relationships. The entire purpose of networking is to build solid, trusting relationships–business relationships that are of value to everyone involved.

    You want your customers to feel that they are going to obtain something of value from your service. Networking will grow your business, attract long-lasting business associates, and develop a solid referral base for your business.


    Brian Cleary is the Chief Executive of County Tipperary Chamber of Commerce. He’s also the past director of Chambers Ireland. He writes for a number of online publications and is a regular co-presenter of the 'Small Business Show' a syndicated radio program broadcast on a number of stations throughout Ireland and available as a podcast. You can find him on Twitter @ChamberBrian.

    *Photo from © Can Stock Photo Inc. / happystock

    9:30 AM

    The Customer is Always Right!

    We are in the middle of tourist season and I thought it would be good to have a reminder about always providing excellent customer service! This is your chance to make an impression on EVERYBODY walking through your door and have them go home and tell their friends how awesome YOUR STORE is! Today's post comes from an expert on customer service. In what ways can you improve customer service in your business?

    Good customer service is easy once you change your attention from business-driven to customer-focused. The ironic thing about this premise is that with better customer service, your business profits too. Here are a couple of stories about good customer service:

    Stew Leonard owns farm dairy stores in Connecticut.

    He once had a customer who brought back a container of egg nog and told Stew that it was sour.  

    Stew immediately became very defensive and said, “That is impossible. Our egg nog is fresh every day!” 

    He went home and told his wife Mary Ann what happened.  After he told the story, Mary Ann said, “Why would you do that? The customer is always right. Do you know what we as customers do when we are treated that way? We quit shopping at that store!” 

    That was a wake-up call for Stew, and he had a large stone engraved in front of his store that read:

    “Rule 1, the customer is always right.

    Rule 2, if the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 1.”

    He said several weeks later at Thanksgiving time, a customer brought back the carcass of a turkey and said, “This turkey wasn’t any good.” 

    Stew replied, “No problem I can give you another turkey or your money back.”


    A couple of years after I had been with Walmart, I found a video with a message from Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.  In the video Mr. Walton said,

    “I don’t  think we are doing enough for our customers, so today if a customer comes in and buys a fishing rod, and he goes fishing, and he falls and breaks that rod on a rock and brings it back, I want you to give him a new fishing rod.” 

    When I joined Walmart in Olean, New York, we had a terrible customer service score. The store manager turned the issue over to me. 

    I told him about Stew’s story, and his response was, “Do whatever you have to do to get that score up.”

    I met with our Service Desk associates, and I told them my job was to help them get a better score, and we would no longer question any returns.  Now you can imagine their reaction, especially coming from the new guy. Several asked to talk to the store manager, and his response was, “Ron is in charge of the Service Desk.” 

    After they calmed down, I asked them:

    “What percentage of returns do you think are people taking advantage of us?” 

    “One percent.”

    “Why would we risk antagonizing 99% of our customers because of that 1%?” 

    I told them the story from Stew Leonard. The next month our customer service numbers were excellent, and there was less stress at the service desk.  

    Plus our sales went up!

    Customer service is the most important thing in a business, if your customer service is bad, you will fail. 

    Customer service isn’t just for retail, it is for all businesses. Make the customer happy and they’ll return with their friends. Let them down and the whole world will hear about it.

    Ron Orris is the Executive Director of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, where he has led the chamber in its adoption of social media and is a strong proponent for blogging as a way to reach your audience. Under his leadership membership has increased 40% over the past two years. He has also served as the city controller for the City of Bradford and as a store manager for Walmart, a position he values as teaching him a lot about customer service.

    **Photo credit to © Can Stock Photo Inc. / kbuntu