Archived Story

Small businesses offer customer service

Published 9:16am Monday, March 5, 2012

Column: Something About Nothing

We have all heard the complaints about customer service. In the olden days good customer service was a given. You heard the phrase many times “The customer is always right.” With the advent of the Internet and big-box retail stores, customer service has taken a hit.

We have all spent hours on the phone at one time or another trying to talk to someone in another country about our computer or electronics problem. They couldn’t understand us and we couldn’t understand them. Add their scripted answers and time spent on hold and many a phone got banged on the desk and tempers flared.

Add the Internet companies and customer service is hit or miss.

The best customer service for me has come from local mom-and-pop establishments. Local businesses know the value of customer service.

A few weeks ago I needed to order parts for my business. I couldn’t get these parts locally so I turned to the Internet. I ordered parts from two different companies that I had never used before. In fact, I had never heard of them before, but they had what I needed at a good price so I decided to take a chance.

The first part came, and it appeared to not work right. I looked for a phone number and the only way to contact them was email. I heaved a sigh and sent off an email and expected a long wait for a reply. Ten minutes after I sent my email my phone rang and it was the company calling me about my part. They provided wonderful support to get the part working correctly. I was amazed at the quick response.

The same day I placed an order with another company and five minutes after I placed my order I received a phone call from this company too. They wanted to make sure that I had the correct part I was looking for before they sent it.

That is the best response that I have ever had from anything that I have ordered off of the internet. In questioning these two companies I found that they were small businesses trying to find their way in selling on the Internet since they no longer could rely so much on local businesses to support their brick-and-mortar business. They knew the secret of customer service because they were small.

Small businesses, local businesses know that customer service counts. I will at times pay a little more because of the value of customer service.

We take our local businesses for granted. I will include myself in that category. We go wherever we can to get the better deal regardless of the time and distance. The Internet provides us with another option to buy.

Recently I read an article that the Elmore grocery store is closing. The local community did not support it. I thought of my local grocery store and what would happen if we lost it. I think of the local businesses that have closed because we did not support those local businesses. We opted for trips out of town for flashy stores and Kmart deals. As a result it does cost us more money because we have to drive for more things or pay postage or shipping for those things we cannot get in our community. We also lose the customer service and personal touch that we used to value so much.

I actually miss full-service gas stations. The youngsters don’t remember those, but it was nice to have someone pump my gas and wash my windshield. It was also nice to have someone greet you with a smile, and in the winter, you appreciated the attendant who stood out in the bad weather for you.

Life has changed. We are so automated that we have lost the human touch. We have lost the art of politeness, respect and interaction with each other that used to be the customer service for every business.

Customer service is hard today because we as consumers are not as patient, are not as nice, and we expect what we want, when we want it. We want it right now.

As a result we have frustrated businesses and frustrated consumers. We are so busy pushing the 1, 2, 3 button on the phone to get to the right person that by the time we get to the right person our buttons are punched and voices erupt.

I leave you with this thought: We don’t miss what we have until we don’t have it anymore. What would you miss in your community if it went away tomorrow?


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at