I recently visited a relatively new business that has all the possibilities for success at hand: a lovely space, really good products and the potential to be a very good community hub. Yet there was also an air of being just on the edge of collapse and here are just a few reasons why they probably won’t make it.
They don’t engage their customers.
This cafe is in a small western town that depends on both local customers and also tourists to survive. They seem to have a loyal local following but they don’t engage much with any of their new customers. Not only do they not make the effort, they just don’t seem to care. Little indie businesses are as much about personality as they are about product. And it’s not just basic customer service I’m talking about (though no one should be standing at the counter waiting for someone to come from the back room for 5 minutes, either) – it’s about us, the consumers, wanting you to win. We can spend our money anywhere and if you’re too cool for school to even show the slightest interest in your patrons then hire someone who actually enjoys people or you’re doomed.
It’s also imperative to properly handle correspondence. This cafe’s website doesn’t even have hours and days of operation, and when I wrote them asking for the information no one ever responded. Basic info like whether they have wifi wasn’t even on the site, either. Seriously, you have no one who can take two minutes to rattle off an email?
And particularly in a small town, if you’re trying to make your business a go it pays to remember you are always “on”. For instance, I had spent the better part of the day working from the cafe; I had lunch there, bought a gift from the gift shop, spent much more money there than the few other customers who came through.
Later that evening I saw the manager and his co-worker girlfriend at a neighboring pub, they nodded hello but when I went over to chat with them they were off-putting and dismissive. Everyone has a right to a bad day, and I truly know what it’s like to want to just hang out and “be”, but when you’re struggling to make your business a go it is imperative to remember that every person who walks into your place can make or break it. Sure, they weren’t at their job and may have wanted to have a drink in peace and solitude but to a tourist passing through that simple choice to brush me off instantly and effectively made me feel unwelcome and ill-at-ease.
So do I want to spend more time and money at their place? Frankly, no. Do I want to tell others about their business? Not really. They’ve shown that they may want my business but they obviously do not want my support and loyalty.
It’s truly a shame because these days indie businesses do need to do more and be more than just “good” at that one thing they do. They also need to seem like they care. It’s a tall order for fledgling companies that are just trying to figure out a way to make ends meet but it’s crucial to remember exactly who it is paying the bills. I as a customer don’t really require a lot – I want a good product at an appropriate price; I appreciate consistency so that I know if I recommend a place it will be good when my friend goes; and I want to feel like my choice to support them matters. It’s surprising how few indie businesses can meet the most basic needs of its customers but it thankfully makes the few good ones who do it right stand out.
Author Emma Bell writes for Coupon Croc. Want discounts on beauty products from a company that understands customer service? Look here.