I recently went to my local hardware store to buy the supplies I need to replace a torn widow screen. With the tools, materials and screen cut to order I expected to pay around $25. I shop at this store almost weekly. They are the last locally owned and operated hardware store in my town and I try to support my neighbours. I expect to pay a bit more but I enjoy the personal attention that only a small local business can provide. Big box stores can’t compete with that level of service…or so I thought.
On my way into the store I received a warm, friendly welcome from the cashiers. I walked past four salesmen as they were huddled together swapping stories and telling jokes. I waited at the service counter as they continued their conversation. I decided to time how long it would take for one of them to notice me. After about four and a half minutes, another customer approached the group requesting service. A salesman led him to the service counter to take care of him. Finally noticing me, I was told that I would be helped once he finished with the other customer’s rather long and complex order.
So I left and went to the only other option, the dreaded big box store. As soon as I walked in a nice young lady greeted me and asked what I needed. She escorted me to the proper location asking me questions the whole time: What size screen? Do you need tools and supplies? Is it hot outside today? When we got to the screen department she handed me a pre-packaged kit with everything I needed including enough screen to do the repair 2 more times. I was back in my car in less than five minutes for a total price of $8.95!
What does this have to do with jewellery? The answer is everything! Local independent jewellers in the U.S. must compete with low prices at Costco and Sam’s Club for bridal jewellery. Walmart dominates the low-end fashion market. Blue Nile and other large online retailers are virtual big boxes. And they all want your customer.
The only way for a small local store to survive in a world of big box pricing and shop-at-home convenience is with exceptional, over the top service that exceeds the customer’s expectations. This needs to be directed at every person that walks through the door. You cannot afford to lose even one customer to the rising tides of mass-markets and big boxes, especially now that some of them are starting to understand the power of a good customer experience.
My local hardware store lost a customer of sixteen years by not meeting my expectations. The big box beat them on every count with friendly helpful service, speed of transaction, and a low price. Don’t let this happen to you. The most precious gems that you can have are good customers but you need to work hard to keep them. To be one of the surviving small jewellers you’ll have to be one of the best at customer service.