We have been running a poll on our blog asking people what prevents them from shopping with local merchants. Though it was a fairly small sampling, the results are still interesting. Here were the choices:
- Less Convenient
- High Price
- Low Product Quality
- Poor Customer Service
- Not Aware of Local Businesses
The top votes were for high prices (7 votes), followed by poor customer service (4 votes.) This is no surprise; I often hear people say that prices are higher at a local store. I have also been told frequently that customer service can be particularly poor, which is really unfortunate.
What I found more surprising is that just one person said that they weren’t aware of local businesses that could meet their needs. In our travels around the High Desert, we constantly run into people who say “there are no good __________ up here.” We then give them a list of ________ as well as a few other local businesses they might want to check out and they are usually amazed. “I had no idea that was available!” is usually the response.
My conclusion is that people don’t know what they don’t know and stick with the familiar. That is one goal of RelyLocal – to help build awareness of the great locally-owned businesses we do have up here.
As to the very valid concerns about price and customer service:
– Prices at locally owned businesses may be slightly higher at local businesses, but they often are not! The only way to know is to actually visit those merchants. And the big box stores that do offer cut rate, rock bottom prices do so by pressuring vendors to cut their wholesale prices or risk being blacklisted. They also draw customers in with promises of low prices, but cut only those “loss leaders” that catch our eye and make up the cost on the twelve other things in our basket. The “cost” of a product includes a lot more than the price you pay at the register. The price you pay at a local, independent register can have a host of positive effects for the long-term health of our community by keeping a higher percentage circulating locally.
– Customer service is a non-negotiable in my book. If a business treats me poorly, I won’t return or refer them. This is an opportunity for high quality local businesses to be professional and take market share from those who are not professional. And if the poor customer service comes from floor employees, it might be helpful to let the owner or manager know so they can train staff more effectively. It is easy to say, without anger or negativity, “I wanted you to know that you have lost my business today because three sales people were more interested in their conversation/texting/personal phone call/hair twirling than in helping me find what I needed.” Customer service can also vary – everyone is capable of having a bad day, unfortunately.
So what do YOU think are the biggest stumbling blocks to shopping with locally-owned stores and services here, where you live?
If you’re a local business owner, how do you respond to these comments from potential customers?