For many years I patronized these three businesses. I liked that they were locally-owned, that they knew my name, that they were one-of-a-kind. Then one day the tailor shop wasn’t open when it should have been, when I needed to pick up something important. And I noticed that the floors were worn, and the work room was a mess. The counter clerk at the cleaner’s didn’t know any more English than she did 10 years ago. She never smiled and took a long time to find my orders. The groomer’s shop was also a mess. They only accepted cash and lectured me about cleaning the dog’s ears.
So I shopped around. I found Sylvia’s Cleaners: Bright and clean with smiling counter clerks. I found Catherine’s Pet Parlor, also bright and clean, charging the same price as the other and letting me pay with a check. I heard two friends talking about their tailor and that’s where I’ll go next time I need alterations.
Have you stopped noticing the problems at your business? The dirty windows, the surly receptionist, the burned out light bulb? One of these days your customers will START caring and one, by one, they’ll disappear. Oh, and by the way, do you capture your customers’ contact information, either directly or through social media? If you don’t, you’ll never be able to ask them why they left or let them know you’ve changed for the better.
When I started my public relations business, I wanted to patronize a local office services store. In my first visit to the one down the street, I was greeted by a lobby full of political posters supporting causes and candidates with which I disagreed. I never went back. I hope the satisfaction of sharing their views made up for losing half their potential customers.
Lest you think that small local businesses are the only right choice, I offer you this New York Times article: Small local businesses aren’t the only ones committed to good service.