Raise the Bar: We Want (and Deserve) Quality in Lakeland
I live in Lakeland, by choice.
I love this community and all of the special places (and people) within it.
I recently read a post by a friend I admire in the community who shared his thoughts about the quality of the local businesses, and their disappointment in the customer service and overall quality of the local shops in Lakeland. The post generated a lot of feedback (about 10 different comments, affirming the sentiment. - Here's his post, shared here with his permission.
The Lakeland I Want Is Not The Lakeland That Is.
And, quite frankly, I don't think it would take much to move our local businesses up several notches. But, it WILL require that our local businesses begin to think smarter about how they do business. Face it, our community is filled with very smart people! We all feel like we deserve to receive good customer service, and not wonder if a business is going to be open during regular business hours.
When we begin to build that local pride in our community, the rest will fall into place. The quote that is frequently used is
"A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships."
I agree with this sentiment 100% but in order for it to mean anything, the tide needs to rise! That means the leaders of our community - historically small business owners - need to begin to look at what the consumers (the citizens of Lakeland) want and find a way to give it to them.
Consumers don't want to hear excuses, and they don't want to feel like a business expects them to overlook certain details, just because "the economy is challenging, or the big box stores are taking over." If you're in this game to win, we need you to show us what it takes to be a winner!
This is my list of things I, as a consumer want...
1. Welcome ME! A prompt and affectionate welcome is the most important thing that, even as a regular, I want to see every single time. You and I knowing each other doesn't mean you don't need to treat me like I matter! Don't let your staff get lazy because it's close to closing time. Make sure every customer is greeted quickly and with a friendly welcome! If your staff isn't friendly, you need new staff.
2. Digital Options. We want an opportunity to explore the business's offerings online - to know what is happening, when and with consistent regularity. If you're on Facebook, make sure you update us regularly. If your website is where you're posting your updates, how about a link on FB that gets us to all the good stuff?
3. Consistent Hours. When your website or online sites say you are going to be open - BE OPEN! It's that simple, and really essential.
4. Competitive Pricing - or SERVICE that justifies paying higher prices. If I am going to spend more money, I will gladly do it to support my community, but I don't want to sacrifice for it!
5. Make It EASY! Convenience is becoming more and more important, so when we decide to support you and we arrive with a debit card, don't frown at us. Maybe REWARD those who pay with cash, but don't suggest that we don't care about the ails of small businesses by guilting us into going to the ATM next door.
6. Reward Loyalty. I have heard many times from various business owners that they don't want to offer rewards to their already existing customers. They prefer to spend the money to bring in NEW customers. I get it, it costs money to reward your loyal customers and you want them to be fiercely loyal to you, but if you look at it from our perspective, you might see it a little differently... showing us you care make us more loyal. Providing HIGH QUALITY service every single time, along with knowing our name is always a plus, and that goes a long way. You don't always have to give away stuff to win our loyalty. Think creatively about ways you can shift your advertising money toward something that will encourage your loyal fans to be even more true to your brand!
7. Support Locals. When it comes to our community, you have to be at the top of your game. You are a leader. Like it or not, you're setting the example for your consumers. By taking the "It's all about Me" approach, you're isolating yourself as a business. By being part of the community of small business owners, we're looking for all of you to be joined in solidarity. Your competition isn't the other small businesses on the block! We want to know that you are all part of one big team, and by participating in the bigger picture, we feel we can all succeed. It's not just our job to support you, it your job to support each other!
I am sure I have missed something. I welcome your comments and suggestions. We owe it to ourselves to raise the bar in our community. No more of this, "It's Polk County" stuff. We are all part of the solution. As your customers, we ask you to consider making an effort to give us more...