I arrived a few minutes later, nobody, nothing. What? The sign on the door displayed a 6 hour span of business hours, not opening until the lunch hour. What? Then I looked over to the sewing store, "Closed", read the sign with no business hours posted, well, I must admit, I didn't really care to notice, I did take a photo of their closed sign and it could have been in the photograph, I didn't want to look at it anymore to see. Too depressing. Is it just me or do mom&pop business wonder why they are doing under or not making money? Don't answer that. It's not totally the fault of big box stores. I ran into this at the local scrapbook stores throughout our state with customer service. Yikes, is all I have to say to that. I decided I wouldn't even bother with the local scrapbook store...I have been way disappointed way to many times to put myself through that...(waiting on my scrappy friends to offer me hope in that area - praying...)
Therefore, a local fun shopping district, Bridge Street, got the money my husband gave me to spend at one of these shops I had earned from selling a key piece of furniture that he wanted me to strictly use for art and respite today. Sadly, it was mom and pop business because they weren't available online, via email, phone (no answering machine or voice mail either...it is 11:25am and the store still hasn't replied to my emails or apparent phone id's)...just saying.
So, from someone that has done every homebased business imaginable, shopped every business theme none to the human race, succeeded and failed at business, I have learned a few things along the way especially as a customer...I could write a book for what I have learned plus I know how I want to be treated...
1. Have a phone system linked to a specific cell phone, voice mail or answering machine so that it can be checked at least 3x a day by you or someone you trust to relay messages. If you are a consultant for a homebased business and fortunate to have a secretary, then let her process your orders, answer your calls and emails, etc, but you call your customer base; it is so much more personal and crucial to your business.
2. If you have a website, make sure your email links are working and checked!! If not, hire a reputable web designer to prepare a really good basic site that works properly. ((plugging my husband here...but find someone!)) If I email a business locally or online, I want to hear back within 12 hours if not sooner or I will go elsewhere, been there done that just Sunday.
3. Call your existing customer base monthly, don't email them, call them personally, you, asking them if they are in need of product and how they are coming along on the project they are working on now. If they haven't used the products they purchased last month, offer, don't ask, offer to help them get active. This is for store front shops or homebased businesses.
4. Consider your hours...Most people can't make it into a store front in the hours of 11-5, think about it. When I worked in an office, I couldn't. In this economy, one can't be serious with these type of hours or they must not need the money of the common person I am thinking. Why not go to 8 pm or open earlier? Just thinking something outside the box. Not in a good location, then move. Homebased business...open your home during certain days and hours and be consistent!! Have make and takes available or new products to sample on the go.
5. Move the walls, offer classes in the middle of the store so that customers can join in while stopping by the store to shop. My favorite local beading store did this and I sat in a couple of classes when I first visited her shop. I loved that about it. Fill your calendar with classes regardless if anyone shows up, that way you can invite existing customers shopping to participate in the class that is scheduled, but don't whine that someone didn't signup, make it as if "oh by the way...come learn how to incorporate this ___ into your artwork (or daily plan)." I so should write a book of what to say and not to say...
6. If you are business owner, regardless where, leave all your negative thoughts, vocals locked away in a closet regardless of what I might say. Don't feed your customers opinions or thoughts. Smile and nod at all times. Attitude is everything. Encourage, be happy, be positive.
Well, I am sure I will get a lot of notes about this post, but I just want to see mom and pops, box stores, homebased businesses, artists all alike working, succeeding, needing our monies, feeding the community watching it grow and cultivate newness and opportunity! Doesn't that sound wonderful? Teaching others, beginners to make a way for themselves only then will we build relationships, the ultimate goal of having a close community of businesses in the first place. I have no desire to own a business. I just want to see local art shops, especially, grow and flourish, but those that I see that are growing have multiple classes per day offered, make consistent personal contact with their customer base, many teach free beginner classes (folks see for yourself online!!), and respond quickly in every way with customer service. Also, stick a little thank you in their package when they shop...I like that added touch. I will certainly shop again when I get that or a small discount as a repeated customer...=)
I am through venting now...I suppose you are shocked and may not agree, I don't really care. I just know that I was disappointed that I didn't spend my day learning to make a quilt design I really wanted to make, to brush up my skills since it has been so long since I have sewn...but, hay...life goes on...I got some cross-stitch and crochet down. Life is good...
Happy with Hugs, Rita