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Ways to make your business stand out

Differentiating your business from the competition is important for success. The competition now is not only the store down the street, across town or in the closest metro area, but the ever-increasing internet market. You can make your business stand out by differentiating your products and services, and providing the best customer service. Following are some things you can do in your business to stand out from the pack.

• Pay attention to details — Everything in your business should be reviewed from operations to marketing. Pay attention to the little things. Focus on increasing value to the customer. It will enhance the customer experience.

• Staffing — Your employees are your greatest asset. Hire the right people, those who have the same kind of work ethic and attitude you have. A “can-do” attitude is essential for success. Hiring part-time or seasonal employees may be necessary and can lower your labor expenses but often are more difficult to train and retain. Employees should be experienced and passionate about providing good customer service.

• Innovation and creativity — You need to be aware of the needs and wants of the customer. Consumer tastes are ever-changing and you need to monitor those changes. Many new ideas for business come from employees who are the closest to the customer. Listen to them and reward them for ideas.

• Pay attention to customer feedback — Even without formal customer surveys you can still get customer feedback. Listen to complaints and suggestions. Follow up with action.

• Anticipate customer needs — Think ahead and broaden your perspective. Stay abreast of the things that are working well for your competition. Your current customers can bring new business that will more than pay for any costs of developing new products and services.

• Know your market — Know who comprises your target market. Communicate consistently with prospects and customers. Offer specials, provide awards programs, use coupons, etc. to attract new buyers.

• Never skimp — If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Pay attention to costs by shopping for the best prices and quality of products purchased to re-sell. Your clientele will notice quality or the lack thereof.

• Don’t be afraid to buck the trend — Continuing to refine and improve the customer experience requires more of an investment in your people. Unfortunately it is often a surprise at many stores when you get good customer service. An advantage of smaller and medium sized businesses is the ability to provide outstanding customer service. Most big box stores can’t compete in this arena. Customers are often willing to pay more if they feel appreciated and receive high quality merchandise/service.

Angie Jordan, owner of Co-Lin Feed and Seed in Brookhaven, said that one of the issues she faces as a small business owner is “predicting what will sell and having to order inventory sometimes as long as a year in advance of the selling season. If you miss it, it affects your costs and profitability. Expect great things from your staff and treat them well, pay them well,” she said. “If they are doing a good job, make it worth their while to stay. Long-tenured employees are very valuable. It makes my job as owner easier when I have employees that value their job and that I can depend on.”

Robbie Jackson is the owner of Jackson Plumbing in Brookhaven, a company that has been in business for over 60 years. Robbie said, “I have been in this business for 30 years and have found that it is very valuable to have long-term employees. Being in the service business, it is crucial to ensure customer satisfaction. I ask myself if I would want this employee in my home to do repair work. Appearance is important and must be followed up with quality work. Your reputation is a most valuable asset. All of these things have kept my business growing and improving. Having done outstanding work for customers is an accomplishment I am proud of. At the same time, when problems, errors or issues occur, I deal with them to turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer. Ensuring customer satisfaction is number one.”

Having hiring practices with a clear goal of delighting customers with extraordinary service is crucial. Using continuous innovation, understanding your market, making needed changes in a timely manner and staying close to the customer will serve you well to attract and retain your customer base. Having quality products and providing exceptional customer service will carry your business into a future where you can rise above the pack.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.