Online Word of Mouth Can Help You Compete in a Big Box World!
I recently read an interesting book which describes the impacts that big box retailers have had on communities and associated independent retail businesses. The book is Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses written by Stacy Mitchell. The book details how big box retailers have used their lobbying power to win preferential treatment and tax breaks from local and state governments and the federal government and how these retailers have won price concessions from suppliers that are not available to the independents.
The book also outlines how some independents have successfully competed against the big-box stores by offering higher quality goods, a more diverse selection of products and services, and providing better customer service. The successful independents don’t try to compete on price alone — they know they have to provide something extra to satisfy customers.
A friend of mine bought a kayak and roof rack at a great store called Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Central Virginia. The Dicks Sporting Goods down the road would have been happy to sell her the same equipment, but the Blue Ridge Mountain Sports staff actually took the kayak and rack out to her car in the parking lot and showed her how to install the rack and secure the kayak. That kind of customer service is rarely seen at a big-box retailer, and it will keep new customers heading for Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. The challenge for Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is getting the word out about their exceptional customer service.
If you’re an independent business, you may try to feature testimonials from selected customers in your advertising, but that tactic is not especially persuasive because the public knows you’ve filtered these recommendations. The best and most effective way to get the word out about your outstanding customer service, your high-quality merchandise, and your extensive selection is to get your customers talking about it online. You’ve already trained your sales staff to be expert and attentive — you should also train staff members to ask their customers to go online and recommend your business. Prospective customers will see online evidence of your business reputation and you’ll see more of them in your store.
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