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Customer service and the small business: Thoughts from Almonte

By Apartment613 on October 23, 2014

Post by Emily Arbour, owner of Hello Yellow, a shop located in downtown Almonte. This is part of our Support Local series focusing on local folk. Don’t forget to head out to Almonte for Support Local day on October 25! Bus shuttle tickets available here.

Originally I pitched this article as “The Small Town Difference”, but once I began writing, I quickly came to realize that what I want to talk about here has less to do with how large or small one’s town is, and so much more to do with how large or small a business’ ego is.

The thing about having a shop in a small town (that is perhaps more clear to us than those in higher traffic markets) is that we are acutely aware of how important our customers are.

In fact, they’re everything. No matter how cool we think we are as businesses, we can never pretend that we’re too cool or too important or too busy to take care of our customers.

In my brief 35 years, I’ve owned two retail business. Both in the small town of Almonte. Both entirely reliant on the very same thing for success: customers.

Let me tell you a secret about customers. They’re getting pretty used to receiving a low level of service. Think about it. How thrilling is it when a sales clerk chooses to continue helping you despite a ringing telephone in the background? (Man, that’s enough to make a girl feel special.) How awesome is it when a busy barista looks up from her long line up of orders to let you know she’ll “be right with you” with a smile? Crazy awesome right? Noteworthy, even. Because it happens so infrequently.

And therein lies our unique opportunity as small business operators. Let’s do this thing differently than the big guys. Let’s ditch the ego and offer fantastic customer service.

We are living at a point in time when people are beginning to care more about value than they do about cost. Value in the products they’re purchasing, certainly, but also value in their overall experience. Make a customer feel like a friend and they’ll be one. Take returns, laugh off a broken dish, stay open 10 minutes later because someone needs you to, be flexible in your policies, and check that ego at the door.

Every dollar that comes into my shop is from the pocket of a customer. They keep the dream alive. Let’s keep them coming through our doors.