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Jul 11, 201910:54 AMThe Gray Area

with Donna Gray

Never-ending customer service

We live and work in an age of almost instant gratification. Customers are in a hurry. They want something more and they want it NOW! It’s a boom time for creating new ways to do business. Customers have the ability to shop around without leaving home, so they’re shopping smarter. They’re no longer just comparing prices, they’re comparing service, as well. According to recent trends, customers want convenience and are willing to pay more for it, and the customer experience has become a priority.

Most online companies now offer fast service and delivery. Brick-and-mortar companies will have to follow suit in order to please today’s buyers. Recent surveys show that speed will be king going forward, since customers are becoming more and more comfortable with doing things online. They expect businesses they interact with to have an online presence, and they expect answers and information to be given as fast as possible. However, automated systems can’t replace a live customer service person who can give real-time answers — as long as they can be understood.

Social media also continues to be important in the selling toolbox. Most businesses are investing time and expertise in building a social presence that helps to field customer inquiries and also shows off their products and services. According to a report in Value Walk, social media has grown so much that 90 percent of users have used this to communicate with a brand and 63 percent of buyers expect businesses to offer customer care in this way.

While speedy ordering and delivery are important, they don’t match providing products that are of the same quality — and color, pattern, etc. — of what’s shown online. Trying to get satisfaction from a large online operation after receiving a shoddy order can be a nightmare when it’s commonplace to be transferred several times and put on hold in “voicemail jail.”

Brick-and-mortar businesses give our communities flavor. They have an advantage in building personal relationships with their clients. People who shop locally can actually see, touch, and feel the products they’re getting. Local business owners invest their time and interest in improving the local economy and in working toward their community’s long-term health. Many source their products locally so that money circulates within the central market region. Research on spending locally shows that 63 percent of every dollar spent with a local company stays within the community.

While e-commerce companies may make things more challenging, local retailers are showing that they have competitive pricing and product strategies. They answer their phones. Many have their own online stores. They provide speed and convenience, and many offer same-day delivery. They go the extra mile to help people find what they need and will provide never-ending customer service.

Local businesses also sponsor youth sports teams and they give generously to community nonprofits and other organizations.

Business is a social act. Relationships count. Buy local.

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