5 customer service lessons from local businesses that have me hooked

Posted: 11/22/2016

When a business owner has a clear passion for their business and a genuine appreciation for every customer that walks through the door – that’s the foundation for customer service excellence that you tend to see manifested best in small, locally owned businesses.

Celebrate Small Business Saturday this weekend (and every weekend thereafter) by shopping at your favorite locally owned retailers and restaurants.

I’m a small business owner, too, and even though I’m in a b-to-b industry I strive to treat my clients with some of the same personal touches that I experience at my favorite local businesses. For example …

The Daily Grind, Boardman – The husband-wife owners always greet me by name and express their gratitude for my visit. Further, I might only spend $1.99 on a coffee and kill a couple hours at a table getting some work done, but they treat me with the same respect and enthusiasm as a family of four who ordered a full lunch and dessert.

MVR, Youngstown – I shake my head in dismay when I see crowded parking lots and hour-long waits at Italian-themed chain restaurants in the Mahoning Valley when places like the MVR exist. MVR gives you something more than any chain can offer: consistent quality, unique takes on traditional menu items (Tressel Tortellini, hellooooo!), generous portions, fresh ingredients and who doesn’t like the authentic local sports décor. It’s a fast-paced environment, and in the midst of it all is the owner taking on any role needed – busboy, hostess, chef, bartender, drink refiller – to ensure everyone is taken care of.

Catullo Prime Meats, Boardman and Badurik’s Butcher Block, Mineral Ridge – Here’s two places where the owners are not only highly visible, but their respective staffs take on their positive, high-energy personas to create a unique customer experience. The service at both of these butcher shops is so personal and genuine, and the product quality is clearly better than the “easy way out” at the big grocery chains.

850 Blues, Boardman – High-end women’s fashion boutiques can be intimidating places for men to enter, but the owner and her staff here always make me feel welcome. They eliminate the stress and offer me options at various price points. They don’t pressure me to overspend because they realize it’s as much about the next sale as it is the current one. And every transaction ends on a high note with an offer to gift wrap my purchase (which I always accept).

Valsi Cleaners, Niles – You know you’ve built loyalty when a customer sticks with you even after a negative experience. I like the convenience, service, quality and pricing of this dry cleaner so much that I forgave them after my favorite store clerk mistakenly caused a fraud alert shutdown of my debit card when she rang up my $11.71 purchase as $11,710. That’s a lotta shirts!

I’ve learned through these local businesses that a positive customer experience starts at the top, and not only flows through the entire organization, but throughout the whole purchasing cycle.

And ending a transaction on a positive note is like getting a birdie on the 18th hole. It’ll always keep you coming back.