What is the one thing that most often disappoints consumers at retail stores, restaurants, and hotlines? In my opinion, it’s often customer service. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been completely unsatisfied with the customer service I’ve received, more often than not, at big box stores. Now, the discussion of big box companies and their role in local economy is a separate discussion, so I won’t get into it here. The one thing I’ve noticed that I will bring up, however, is the disconnect that is often present between employees and any feeling they might have of investment or desire for a shared prosperity within a large company. This detachment easily creates a lack of desire to foster an atmosphere of superior customer service. What does the baseline employee working a cash register gain from offering good customer service? Or, what do they lose from not offering that genuine hello or basic inter-personal politeness? With little stake in the well-being of a large company, common courtesy and the now seemingly outdated philosophy of “the customer is always right” is often lost.
What then should we as consumers do when we find ourselves continually annoyed by bad customer relations? One solution I’ve found is to place a greater emphasis on supporting small, local businesses. Small, local businesses oftentimes employ a smaller staff. The owner is often present in more day to day decisions, or in the least has delegated trusted managerial staff with this task. There are fewer degrees of separation between the employee with whom the customer interacts directly and the owner who has the most to lose when customers become disgruntled. Employees often have a greater stake in the well-being of a smaller business, or in the least, more directly feel the impact of a business that is not succeeding in customer service and promotion of good business etiquette.
There are a number of important reasons as to why consumers should support local, small business, the promotion of good customer service is just one of them. In a recent publication, The National League of Cities explores some of the ways in which local government can support small business development. Local government involvement in small business expands beyond seeking good customer service, of course, but identifying why the average consumer should consider supporting small business is another piece in the puzzle of exploring ways in which the entire community can and should get involved in supporting their local entrepreneurs and economy.
What are the ways in which local government can support small business? The National League of Cities writes, “To encourage entrepreneurs, local governments need to examine how they can contribute to an entrepreneurial eco system by tackling efforts within city hall and partnering and connecting with external stakeholders.” Check out the tool kit they divided into four sections outlining activities for cities leaders.
Through community cooperation and local government support, we can support small business growth and development in our local economies.
Content contributed by Melissa Houston, AKSourceLink.
AKSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.