Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why I Shop Local

We all know that the benefits of shopping local are numerous.One that hits me all the time is customer service. Working in government I believe we are in the customer service sector. I am always looking for great examples of customer service to share with my staff.

This weekend I had one. I purchased Christmas gifts for my wife at a local store, which has a  fantastic, eclectic mix of hand crafted items and the owner is energetic and helpful. She remembers you and is interested in selling items to you, but not interested in harassing you.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my wife and I were in the store, and she picked up an item and said she'd love it. It could be Thanksgiving centric, and I mentioned that I had bought it for her and forgotten to give it to her the day before. Oops. When I got home I dug the gift out and noticed another box in the tote. Another gift? I couldn't recall.

Recently, I went into the store and the owner and I joked about the oops moment. I mentioned the rogue gift and how it would be a surprise to me as well. She did that little customer service step we all need to be aware of (long story short right?). She went through her receipts and found the one from the day in October that I purchased the gifts and sent me an email detailing the items. How cool is that? Nothing fancy, nothing over taxing, but over the top and really appreciated.

It is like going into your favorite coffee shop and having the clerk know you like a certain mug, or splenda not sugar. These are the little touches that an online shop can't help but not provide. I know the cigar store around the corner knows the brand I like and will give me advice. I am sure that a place online can use an algorithm to do the same thing, but it isn't the same. The guy down the street has a conversation behind his recommendation, and a personal taste, the web site has a check list of characteristics that have been digitally added. Big difference.

A colleague from another community recommended a book to me, entitled "We Don't Make Widgets" about how government can learn from private businesses on certain elements, but the bottom line is that we don't create products. I think there is a lot of truth to that and I am looking forward to that book, when I get a chance to read it. In this case though, the customer interaction case, we need to learn from small business to thrive. We're the government and "we are here to help" should be an honest and true reality. It shouldn't be a joke and we should be doing what we can to create a product that is a quality community you want to live in.

Any who, this experience made me smile, reassured that I was shopping in the correct store, and rubbed off on me. I know others have had a similar experience and believe I will be the recipient of better customer service because of it when I shop local.

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