By Dee Blick, international #1 bestselling business author and Horsham based businesswoman.
Our high street would be a boring place indeed without local independent businesses. Don’t get me wrong I love national brands too but local independents rock for many reasons. And it’s incumbent on each one of us to use them if we want our high street to be more than just the same old brands we see in every town.
But should sentimentality be the prime driver of our motivation?
I don’t think so. I can say almost without exception that the service I’ve received from local independents has been amazing. By contrast the service provided by businesses on the internet is often (IMHO) conspicuous by its absence; none more so than when things go wrong and we’re at the end of a convoluted process designed to thwart our attempts for redress and send us dotty.
I want to illustrate this point with an example from a family owned, independent business that’s been in Horsham for donkey’s years – Collingwood Batchellor. As many of you know, they sell lovely furniture and home accessories– all at pretty keen prices. We’ve been a customer for 20 odd years.
My mum recently visited from Leeds and was so taken with a suite at CB that she bought it, assured that the national courier service they use would deliver it to her door and set it up inside her lounge.
When the appointed day arrived I received a frantic phone call from Mum. The guys delivering could not get the arm chair through the door. I spoke to them and they were adamant. The suite had to go back down the M1. They were unwilling to remove the feet. My Mum was pretty traumatised.
I popped in to CB within the hour (that’s another great thing about buying local – you can walk through the door and discuss any problems face to face) and was given a sympathetic response plus the phone number of the customer service manager, James Denston who is based at their Horley store.
What happened thereafter was truly astonishing and the best example of customer service I have ever received. James immediately reassured me that the suite would be redelivered with instructions to the delivery team on how to remove the feet. He said CB would pay for this delivery. He also stated unequivocally that Mum would get a full refund if indeed her front door was too narrow – no questions asked. He made it clear that a happy customer was all that mattered to him.
There followed some to’ing and fro’ing with the courier company but all the time James looked after us, even contacting me at the weekend and on his day off to ensure they had made contact and we were happy. The CB Horsham team took photographs of the feet of the suite, with clear instructions to the courier company on how to remove them. The whole team was involved. I never had to chase James. He kept us updated throughout.
When Mum’s suite was redelivered it went through the door, feet off! I popped into CB Horsham to say thank you and they were genuinely pleased Mum was happy; problem solved.
How many businesses would have washed their hands when the chair did not go through the door citing it the responsibility of the customer to get their measurements right?
How many would have redelivered it but charged the customer especially when the delivery depot was in London and Mum in Leeds?
This was never on the agenda for CB. It was unspoken but obvious they were determined to go the extra mile at each stage, assuming ownership of the problem.
This experience underpins why I love using local independents. Because when the going gets rough they go the extra mile to get it right.
So let’s hear it for local and back our independents big time.