Monday, April 19, 2021

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Time seems to be on a fast track here at Lake Gaston. Despite the heaping helpings of winter weather Mother Nature has seen fit to serve us, March 1 arrives on Saturday! Lake Gaston regional businesses and residents alike are eager for Spring with the beautiful weather, time outdoors, second home owners, vacationers and visitors that Spring and Summer will soon herald in for us.

I had an interesting conversation with one of our local businesses the other day. We have previously addressed this issue in brief in Chamber Talk, but my conversation with that business person, made me want to present it more in depth. The topic of our conversation was customer loyalty.

We all know that in this age of e-commerce that we are able to cast our net far and wide to seek the best price or a unique brand of a particular item. However, we also know that although convenient, shopping online loses any personal interaction with the business. If, for instance, I am shopping for an appliance or a piece of furniture, would I rather shop online, gazing at photo after photo of products, or would I rather go to my local merchant, actually touch the product and listen to the store staff tell me more about the product’s features?

I truly feel that we have good customer service here in the Lake Gaston region, and good customer service is one of the most important facets of the customer buying experience for both goods and services. You may argue that shopping online is quick and offers more choices. That can be true, but it can also be tedious, depending upon the site from which you order, and disappointing in product quality.

For example, three Christmases ago, I wanted to order a radio/CD player for the shower because my then pre-teenager loved listening to music while she stayed in there for what seemed like hours. I honestly couldn’t find this product in stores locally, so I decided to order from Amazon because, of course, they would have what I needed. I selected a mid-price product with the features I wanted. It arrived quickly and was packaged nicely. However, it stopped working soon after my daughter received it.

Products fail all the time whether ordered online or not; however, if I had taken the time to further explore and find this product with a local merchant, perhaps they would have known more and could have shared with me the product’s performance. There was no place to return the product, so it still resides in the cabinet under the bathroom sink in the hopes that I will one day fix it.

What else doesn’t happen when we order online? Our dollars do not turn over in the region the way they do when we shop locally. I have mentioned previously that research shows that shopping locally keeps approximately .55 of every $1 in the area. The fact alone should make us want to keep our dollars in the Lake Gaston region, but the other facets of customer loyalty and shopping locally are having relationships with our local merchants (kind of like Andy Griffith and Floyd the barber back in the good ol’ days) and keeping our businesses healthy.

If I walk into any store or contact any local business for a service, they will do their best to meet my needs and exceed my expectations because this is their livelihood. I like consistency and reliability and being able to count on the experience I am going to get. I like knowing the merchant by name and having more of a personal interaction. Choosing to spend money is a personal experience. Spend it wisely with our local shops, restaurants, and service-providers. Healthy businesses are able to hire more and better staff to enhance our customer service experience, and they are able to stock a better selection of products.

Shop the Lake Gaston region first. It is a win-win in the region for everyone – businesses, customers, local government, non-profits, churches and more! Keep your ears open. Our next Shop Lake Gaston 1st contest will begin on Memorial Day weekend and run through Labor Day weekend.

By the way, I want to say a hearty congratulations to our ACE Hardware family – Paul, Bill and Terryn Owens – as they soon open their new ACE Hardware location in Rolesville, NC. If you’re headed over that way, be sure to stop by because you know the level of customer service you will be able to expect. Lake Gaston is proud of you!

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