I left a message with a business the other day. I planned to spend about $2,000 or so there and I know they’re busy. So I left a message. You know, after dialing my way through their phone tree while on my cell phone. I hate phone trees.
That evening, it occurred to me that they hadn’t called back. I called and left a message the following morning. You know, after dialing my way through their phone tree while on my cell phone. I still hate phone trees, especially with a small business.
Funny thing - sometime in the middle of the afternoon they hadn’t called back. So I went on my phone to dial them. Again. Another round of pushing this and that. But I happened to have the Amazon app open. So that’s where I bought the items. And took over $2,000 out of our community.
That makes me sad but at what point do you just give up on a local business and go elsewhere? How long do you give a local provider before you just go to a national chain or Amazon or some other company?
The opportunity for local businesses is rarely a better price on things. The sheer volume of stuff that large companies buy makes it possible for them to buy at a lower price than most local providers can get. This is pretty obvious. So what’s the differentiator?
Customer service. Whoever is on the other side of the counter or the other side of the phone needs to know that the customer has a choice. And with the huge national ad budgets of the chain stores and their lower price, brand awareness and pricing are likely why you’re shopping at the local store. It’s because you might know the owner or someone who works there. You perceive that they’re offering you more. More service. More standing behind the product. More positive attitude.
So if you have one distinct advantage, that’s the area to focus on and refine and drill into your team and continue to improve upon. Service is your advantage. But it can also be your achilles heel if you’re not doing it right. And then we can just see what we want on our phones and take our $2,000 elsewhere.
I think everyone who follows this blog is aware of the impact that shopping local has on a community. If you buy lumber from the locally-owned hardware store the owner can put her kids through school here and take her husband out to our restaurants and buy a car at the local dealership. That local owner can keep the money in the community where it benefits you, too, at some point.
If you buy that same lumber at Home Depot the money goes to Atlanta, Georgia which is fine if you live there, and then gets distributed to stockholders. That big orange store does almost nothing for your local community from a larger standpoint.
The advantage for we local business owners is in offering greater personalized service. I can aimlessly walk the labyrinth that is Home Depot or I can walk into the local hardware store where Wendy or one of her team helps me to the point where I didn’t need those screws, I need a number 10 whatchamacallit instead.
I’m not much of a hardware guy. But somebody’s also got to write these blogs, doggone it.
I wrote last week of how good the digital experience was with Louson drums, so it is possible for a small company to provide a great digital experience. We have a local company, The Soap Shack, who is knocking it out of the park digitally but also provides a great in-person experience.
Local business is the cornerstone of the economy but bad service is what keeps many people away. There is also a perception that a small business has higher pricing and that inventory is constrained which is probably reinforced by the person behind the counter saying, “naw, we ain’t got them” instead of seeing how quickly you can get what the customer is asking for.
What’s your trigger point? At what point do you finally just give up on a local business and move on?
Is there a way to turn you around if you’ve moved on?
Incidentally with the big purchase I started this with my question wasn’t so much about pricing, but rather whether they even had any of the items I wanted to buy in stock. Finally four days later they did call me back and, it turns out, they did have them in stock. Thanks to not calling me back, that’s still true.