When I worked at Big Brown they frequently reminded us that though a customer might share a good experience, a bad experience goes seven times farther. I don’t know where that statistic comes from, nor how accurate it is, but I wonder what the effect is now with social media.
I try to highlight positive experiences at local businesses, or even big boxes. I have frequently searched out a manager to commend an employee at a big box store, because I know that most often they only hear about complaints.
But we do tend to harp on bad experiences. That’s because we expect as customers, to get decent service. So service has to be excellent to get our attention. There are several places in town where I always get excellent service, and I let them and others know how pleased I am. Sometimes things can go terribly wrong. If the business and its employees make a genuine effort to fix things, I’m a happy camper. Got a dirty restaurant? Rude to my Grandkids? Disdainful because I am not a big bucks customer? Treat me as if I am stupid? I will not be back and my friends will know why.Many stores are savvy to Social Media. Of course the big boxes. They have it covered through their advertising campaigns. Social Media has enabled small campaigns like the Buy Local movement to encourage folks to shop at local businesses that can’t compete with Wally World. By getting the information out as to how local Mom and Pop’s contribute more to a community, or how they boost local jobs, people have become willing to spend those extra nickels and dimes for local products and services. Some small businesses have been renewed from near death by the efforts of their employees and supporters and the exponential power of Facebook, Twitter and email.
Small businesses have an Achilles heel that the big box more easily avoids. Because they have a smaller employee base (and a smaller customer base),there is a more intimate relationship between customers and employees.
If I go into BezBuyz and don’t see my favorite associate Ralph, I will assume it’s not his shift. I might know him well enough to know his first name, but I probably don’t know who his kids are, where he works, or his dog’s name. And he probably won’t know enough about me to recognize me outside the store.
Yet this is their strength too. At a small store, if we don’t see you, we worry about you. And vice versa. I know that your Mom’s been sick, or that you were facing surgery, and I care – about you – not just the loss of a customer. And we care about the loss of ‘a’ customer. Likewise our customers care about us. If we have a day off, our customers ask about it. If a salesperson leaves unexpectedly, the rest of the staff have to answer customer’s questions. It’s an easy job when it’s good news: “oh, she was accepted into that Master’s Program in Illinois”; or “His wife inherited the family farm and they are in the process of moving”. Not such an easy job when the news is bad. Customers know when you are fumbling for words, or if it doesn’t make sense, or if the real reason is something you just can’t share.