We went to do some Christmas gift shopping at the Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg. I’m always conscious of keeping my parking tickets in my top pocket because I know that these shopping centres smack you with a heavy penalty if you lose your parking ticket. We shopped at several stores and when we headed towards the parking pay stations, I reached into my top pocket and found my parking ticket was no longer there. Continue reading “How shopping centres give a sour taste with lost parking card penalties”
I was talking to a business owner the other day and she gave an example of laughable customer service at an outlet of a behemoth chain of retail stores. A prospective customer at the retail outlet had asked for an item but the manager said that they don’t stock it. When the small business owner heard this she took the customer and the manager to the top shelf and showed the manager where it was stocked in his store. The small business owner just shook her head and said it was fantastic for a small business competing in the same field. Continue reading “Laughable customer service provides opportunity for small business owners”
It’s amazing to see how many small businesses that have a physical presence are still not promoting their business online. Some small businesses don’t yet have their own website and others who may have a website merely use it as a listing of their products and services and provide their contact information.
Perhaps these small businesses can’t find someone to do their website design for them or they believe that hosting a website costs too much money. Yet a website for your small business doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. With WordPress you are able to come up with a website that looks professional and can handle online queries. There may be reasons why some small businesses don’t want to stick their necks out on the Internet but that’s another story. Continue reading “Are you still not promoting your small business online?”
Some time back in the early morning I wanted to buy magazines at a stationery and assorted non-foods and gifts store in a large shopping centre. It was 9 AM and the store was still closed. I waited together with a small group of other potential customers for the doors of the store to open. Staff were in the store as well as security but there was no sign that anyone was going to open the shop. After about 15 minutes I gave up as did almost all the other potential customers.
This flagrant disregard of customers was a worrying sign. The same chain of stores had a few years back gone into near bankruptcy and fortunately had been pulled back from the brink of disaster. Now one wondered what was going to happen next. Continue reading “Is your small business dying? One dead giveaway that you’ve got it all wrong”
The other day I was listening to an entrepreneur who was saying that in her company they give different customers separate and distinct levels of service. Is this a good approach? Can it work for a small business?
If you walk into a retail shop, restaurant or even barber, you’re probably going to get the same level of service that all customers receive. In a restaurant, for example, you are probably only going to get politeness, personalisation and maybe promptness. The same applies to a retail supermarket or discount appliances or computer store. In the larger chains you will be lucky if anyone helps you or if they do their level of product knowledge will often be absent. Continue reading “Do you give all customers the same level of service?”
A wine merchant from Somerset West in the Western Cape called me enquiring whether I would like to buy wine from their boutiques wine service. It was a cold call. I didn’t know about the wine merchant and felt that the prices were too high.
Three months later the same wine merchant called me again asking whether I would like to buy their wine. I was again reluctant to buy from them but after I was presented with a special Pinotage I thought I would give them a go. I ordered six bottles of the Pinotage rather than a case of 12 bottles to halve my risk.
The wine merchant told me that they used a small courier company that was excellent and provided personal service. The wine would be delivered three days after I put the full value of the wine and delivery cost in their banking account. Three days went by and the wine wasn’t delivered. To cut the story short, the wine was delivered only three weeks later.
It turns out that this small entrepreneurial wine merchant didn’t have a follow-up system in place to check with me and the courier that the wine had been delivered. After sending a final email in desperation, thinking that I had been ripped off and would lose my money, a representative of the courier company called me to apologise and told me that my wine would be delivered the next day.
When I asked the courier company what had gone wrong, the representative said they had no excuses and the reason had been “negligence” on their part. I was floored by such an honest answer and decided to wait for the wine to arrive the following day.
The wine was delivered the next day but that is not the end of the story. The owner of the boutique wine merchant business called me to apologise after the wine had been delivered, blaming the courier company. It was frustrating to hear from this owner after she had not been available beforehand and had not followed up even after the first three days to find out whether I had received my order.
This whole incident of buying wine from a wine merchant has left a sour taste in my mouth. I won’t be buying from any wine merchant whether online or by telephone in a hurry. Once bitten, twice shy.
Yet the poor service from this small business does highlight an important lesson for other start-ups and small businesses. Customer service is not only about the interface that you have with a small business but also, more importantly, about the whole experience you have.
To deliver that experience, a small business owner needs to ensure not only that their staff or salespeople are friendly but that there are systems in the business that assist fast and cost-effective delivery of product or services. Customers, like myself, want to be helped in the buying process. They want to be informed if deliveries are late. They want to know the reasons why there are problems. And they don’t want hollow apologies and reassurances.
The opportunity that I see in this pathetic customer service from this wine merchant is that it always pays to buy from companies and test their service levels. Competitors in the Western Cape wine merchant marketplace can benefit from weak operators like this by jacking up their own service delivery system.
How could you test your competitors service and gain valuable information and experience from what they do?
Do this, and it might make an important contribution to your sales in this tight market.
Are you challenged to come up with new business ideas or want to start your own small business?
Will It Fly?
Look here before you take the leap.
A little while back I stopped in front of our local Chinese restaurant but didn’t get out of my car because there was a commotion going on in front of the restaurant. Lucy, the Chinese’s co-owner with her husband Leo, was holding her one-year old daughter Jessie in her arms and was shouting at a customer who was sitting at the open area of the restaurant alongside. Lucy was furious. She was shouting at someone who had come into the shop and had complained. She continued shouting until the centre manager had to come along to calm her down and tell her to get back into her shop.
Lucy takes great pride in her restaurant and the Chinese cuisine that she serves to customers. Perhaps she is young and hot headed but she has a good heart. To get her into this state of frustration she must have been provoked by extreme rudeness on the part of the customer. Continue reading “A simple “thank you” goes a long way”
A customer stormed out of a local Italian franchise restaurant on Sunday evening before 8 o’clock. He was shouting “you’ve lost a customer”, “you’ve lost a customer”, “you’ve lost a customer”. No one from the restaurant rushed out to calm him down or give him assurances.
The problem with this restaurant is that the manager had not informed this customer and others that the closing time had been changed on Sundays from 9 o’clock in the evening to 8 o’clock. No notices, no informing customers personally, nothing. Continue reading “How can some small businesses afford to play fast and loose like this?”
While visiting a small town in the heart of the citrus growing district of the Gamtoos Valley we had to drive about 10 km from the farm to the nearest supermarket. Although this was a country Spar supermarket it was a pleasure to go shopping there because of the friendly, helpful service. Being in a store with an unfamiliar layout, we were pleased that even the cashiers would get up and go show us where the products were located. We were surprised that they enquired where we were from and how we were enjoying our stay in the village of Patensie.
Friendly, efficient and fast service goes down well no matter whether you are buying goods in the city or the countryside. It makes you want to come back. You also have your identity reaffirmed because you feel less of a number. But the most compelling reason for superior customer service is the impact that it makes on your small businesses bottom line. Continue reading “If you don’t have this ingredient in your small business, you could be repelling many potential customers”
You hear and read it everywhere. Customers complaining about banks and insurance companies with long and drawn-out horror stories of frustration and personal loss.
This is where there is an opportunity for small business owners to outshine their larger business counterparts but many small businesses miss out because they don’t give it enough attention, have a system in place and train their staff adequately.