Archived Letter – 869

Over and over again we are encouraged to “Shop Local.” I live in Minto and I seriously try to do so. I am beginning to realize that perhaps our local businesses need some serious reminders about good customer service.

We required large amounts of landscaping rocks a year ago for a renovation project. I visited the landscaping company in my own town 4 times and called 10 times and nobody ever got back to me with prices. We ended up getting our rocks from a company over 100 kilometres away.

Next we built a new barn. None of the 6 local contractors even returned our calls let alone offered a quote, and in the end we went with a contractor over 50 kilometres away.

The local roofers never got back to us either when we needed work done. Ditto for the concrete contractors. Pricing the latter now and of course, doing so with companies outside my local area. Most customers have long memories. Ignore me and I will never give you a second chance.

Just a reminder for all businesses – there is absolutely no excuse for this. You might be very busy, but it takes only seconds to call someone back even if it is only to tell them that you are extremely busy and cannot take additional work on at the moment (a nice problem to have). The day will come when you aren’t so busy and then the very customers you ignored may be the ones who don’t even bother to approach you again when they need work done. And you can be sure they are telling people of their poor experience with you.

Customer service is worth its weight in gold. Maybe some of our businesses need reminding about the simple 5 rules of good service:

1) Answer your phone. Hire someone to do this if you need to. And make sure someone is returning calls even if it is to say “Sorry, we are unable to assist you at present.” Better yet – suggest some other companies they might try.

2) Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Your word should be impeccable. That includes not scheduling appointments on days you know you have little chance of making them. And showing up to do work when you say you will or calling if something unforeseen crops up.

3) Listen to your customers. I can’t tell you how many times salespeople ask me something that I just finished telling them.

4) Deal with complaints. They will always come back to haunt you. Remember the old adage “A happy customer will tell a few friends. An unhappy one will tell a crowd.”

5) Be helpful even if you don’t think you will make the sale. The customer might not be ready now. But they might be later. And they will remember nice salespeople and return.

In the meantime, I will keep trying to shop local. Hoping the local businesses will shape up.

Sally Andrade