“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”- Jerry Gregoire

Customer service is my passion. As an entrepreneur, I’ve spent my life trying to better the lives of others. I love to make people smile big. Nothing improves my day more than improving the day of others. I engage people everywhere I go whether I’m working, running errands or at church. I’ve heard belly laughs, given hugs, gotten hugs back, even seen a few tears. I guess you could call it my mission in life.

I have always been an introvert. As I child I couldn’t connect with other kids. I had few friends and my brother when I was a kid. By the time I was an adult, introversion seemed to be a natural part of who I was. I didn’t know any other way to live until I entered the entrepreneurial experience.

In 2005, I started a company in Indiana. Through it I ran a small chain of natural pet food markets called Give a Dog a Bone.  My first store was 700 square feet.  It was TINY, but mine!  I was so excited!

When I got started, I didn’t put any thought into customer relations.  To make the matter worse, I’d never worked retail.  I had no experience.  I never thought about the people who would be coming into my store or how I would talk to them.  I didn’t have any idea what was about to happen.

A few months after I’d opened, I began having customers come in through “word of mouth,” advertising.  Because I specialized in natural foods for dogs, people started coming in with stories of sick dogs with no cures.  In some cases, they were bringing their last hope to me, looking for solutions.  I quickly learned customer service has nothing at all to do with transacting a sale.  It’s all about the relationship.  It’s about developing trust.  I understood the concept quickly.  I realized my introverted nature was about to undergo a dramatic transformation!

“The customer experience doesn’t begin and end with a business transaction. True customer service is a way of life. The desire for authentic customer experiences comes from a mindset of providing value in every relationship.”**

From first impressions to enduring relationships, customer relationships begin with a smile and the desire to be 100% available to the person you are serving.  This was my philosphy then, and now.  If you have repeat customers, they come to you in part because you’ve developed trust.  Never, ever take it for granted.

“I built a store “community” where I shared my life with customers and they shared theirs with me. We talked about their pets, children, health, careers…you name it. I can’t count the number of times I’d be working in my office and someone who came in to shop would walk down the hall to see if I was there, say hi or sit down to talk.” **

“People need us to be authentic. Are you? People want to know they matter.”**  How will you show customers you genuinely care? Trust can turn into long-lasting bonds.  It starts with a first impression.  What do others see when they meet you for the first time?  How will you add value to the lives of people who trust you?  In the end, it’s a legacy we leave behind.  What’s yours going to be?

 

**Excerpt from Bootstrapped, Creating a Successful Business on a Budget, by Robin Aldrich.  You can find my book on Amazon here!

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