The 7 Most Common Weaknesses of Local Shops
And what we’re all going to do about them.
As we head into the busy holiday shopping season, we’ll see lots of Shop Local messages working to get customers to think about shifting their shopping more to local stores. I want to add another layer, and get rural business owners to think about making Better Local Shopping to hold on to those customers.
This is part 2 of a seven week series on the weaknesses and what we can do about them.
If you’re a local business, you can take these to heart. Make an honest effort to improve in each of these areas over these 7 weeks. That takes us up to Thanksgiving holiday in the US, Shop Small Saturday, and the final few weeks of holiday shopping everywhere.
If you’re with a Chamber of Commerce or other business organization, you can gather a small group of merchants who want to work on these together. Meet, go over the weakness, brainstorm some ideas, and maybe find ways to share resources and turn them into strengths.
- Weakness 1: Limited Business Hours
- Weakness 2. Poor Customer Service
- Weakness 3. Limited Selection
- Weakness 4: High Prices
- Weakness 5: Dated Appearance or Ugly Buildings
- Weakness 6. Not Marketing
- Weakness 7. Failing the Showrooming Test
Weakness 2. Poor Customer Service
Solution: Return to our small town customer service roots.
Small town stores define the best in customer service: friendly, personal, knowledgeable, helpful, and willing to go above and beyond.
“Can I help you?” – in a Halifax store, a genuine offer of assistance. In Toronto – something you say to a suspected shoplifter.
— Darrin Rose (@darrinrose) May 7, 2013
Now if all our businesses lived up to this, we wouldn’t need to even mention customer service.
What defines good service?
Each customer has their own definition of good service, but here are some common, easy things to start with:
- Welcome every single person in your door as soon as they come in. Every time.
- Know your product and answer customer questions in person, by phone, and online.
- Be fast. You’re up against next day shipping, so 2 week turnaround isn’t competitive.
- Fix problems personally and quickly.
You can make good use of this manifesto for customer service from Barry Moltz and Mary Jane Grinstead.
Find local training in customer service.
Check with your local technical center, community college, and extension service. They may already have a customer service training to offer.
Most of all, build relationships.
This is your secret small town advantage. Be friendly, personal, and work deliberately to connect with your customers like they are people, because they are.
What are you doing about it?
If your town or business is doing something with this series to improve local businesses, I’d love to hear about it.
- About the Author
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.