Positive workers bring back customers

score Question:
On of the concerns I have in running my retail business is, how do I ensure that people [my customers] keep coming back to my shop? Are there things that I should be doing?

Probably the best way for me to answer this question is to give you the results of a survey made by the Florida International University about a year ago.

A nationwide survey of small businesses asked the following question: "What keeps people coming back to do business with you?": A corollary question was directed to a large sample of customers: "Why do you continue to buy from this business?"

The answers may surprise you a little.

Most owners thought people bought from them because they had competitive prices and a good product selection. However, the customers didn't see it that way. They said the main reason was that they liked doing business with the people in business. Here are some of the written statements that the respondents made:

  • "I like the way I'm treated. They take time out to help me out."
  • "I can rely on the personnel. They're knowledgeable and courteous."
  • "They're interested in me first and profit second."

These comments point out something that is again beginning to become an important competitive edge: Good service.

Oh, sure many companies talk about providing better service, but recent articles, including one in the New York Times a couple of months ago, reveal that more and more firms are focusing their attention on efficiency measure designed to lower prices. In the process, service is getting less and less attention. Perhaps you saw this when you went shopping last holiday season or tried to return items in the after-Christmas period?

What should you do?

  • Hire people with a positive attitude. You need employees who can relate to the customer and make that person feel that the company is going to take any reasonable steps it can to meet their needs.

    Customers in the survey reported that when the employee had a positive attitude, they also found themselves feeling better - and were more likely to spend more money. As one of them put it, "I'd rather spend my money with friends then with strangers."

  • Focus on reducing customers' waiting time. One of the bigger complaints was waiting too long for service. Sure, the employees are all working feverishly, but that's not the point. If people are standing around waiting for service, the business need to hire more people.

    You can't drive up sales and service by simply working the staff harder. And even if you could, you'd eventually burn them out and they'd begin limiting the amount of service they're giving because they would know they couldn't possibly keep up.

Again, the two points are: hire people with a positive attitude and cut customer waiting time. Both are within your control.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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