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Minding your own business

Ronda Rich's picture

One night as a particularly hard, extremely long rain poured down, I discovered a leak in my roof. The leak became a minor problem. Finding a roofer to show up and fix it became the primary problem.

Is it just me – I know it’s not – or do many business folks just don’t care? For the most part, customer service is sadly lacking.

Now, I tend to understand this more with big businesses than with small, independent businesses. I’m to the point that when folks treat me as if my business really matters, I fall down on my knees, misty-eyed with gratitude and profusely thank them.

What is wrong with that picture?

After all, I’m the one working long hours to earn every penny possible to put it back into the community’s economy. Shouldn’t someone be using their good Southern manners and thank me for my business?

Listen up. I’m about to launch my own stimulus plan and if folks will listen, it will be a huge boost to the economy. Let’s just call it the Ten Commandments For Prospering in Business.

Answer the phone. You can’t get business if you don’t answer or if you send it to voicemail where it gets lost.

Return calls. Promptly. This is the biggest indication that you want business.

Keep your word. If you say you’ll do something, then do it. When someone doesn’t phone me back or show up as promised, my business is gone with the wind. “I’m sorry I bothered you,” I say in a syrupy sweet tone.

Be graciously solicitous. I called one business where the owner immediately jumped all over me, telling me what his rules were for doing business with me.

Follow up. One independent owner lost my business when he didn’t place an order for me and when I showed up to pick it up, it was still laying by his computer. He didn’t bother to apologize. My banker, Erin, though, is the best with follow-up. Whatever it takes, she does.

Price Fairly. If you can’t beat the price of a big competitor, then throw in something extra.

Be Professional. That goes for the owner and the employees. No gum-smacking or yawning when having a conversation.

Courtesy is essential. There was a woman at an independently-owned gas company I use, who decided she didn’t like me. So, if I called with a customer service issue and she didn’t get to talk to me and be her usual rude self, she would call me back just to jump on me. She was not a Southerner but her Southern bosses said, “For some reason, she doesn’t like you.” Not cool for any of them.

Stand behind your product or service. I deal with a cabinet maker, who will keep coming back until everything is perfect. No matter what it takes. He’s a tiny bit pricier but his integrity and fairness are worth the extra pennies.

Be appreciative. When I took up with a new independent drugstore, the pharmacist came down from her perch, shook my hand, thanked me for my business, then said, “Let me give you my home number. If you ever need anything after hours, call me at home.” Wow. I’m love-struck. I hope this romance lasts forever.

In my books, I have often espoused that dressing nice and presenting yourself in a coifed, well-done way, will help you stand out in the crowd and give you an edge over the competition. Something similar is true with business. You’ll have more business and make more money, if you stand out in the crowd by following these commandments.

People like to know that they and their money matters. It’s just good manners. Whether you’re Southern or not.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at]


I am so appreciative that you wrote this article, it validates so many of the points I have brought up with my boss!

I always return calls promptly, jump on a $100 sale as if it were a $10,000 sale, my clients know that I will address any problem as promptly as I deposited their check, and I will beat any price I can...if I can't, I'll be honest and tell you so, and explain why. I have, on occasion, told a client that a competitor could get them a better price on something, when I knew that I would be out of the ball park, and they have appreciated that I am looking out for their best interests, and come back to me on their next order...but my boss wanted to strangle me for it.

It seems no one cares or understands about customer service anymore. I had one of my competitors ask me "Why does so and so keep coming here...I told her I would get her a better price and she still keeps buying from you! I don't even return her calls anymore, because she gives you most of her work, and I know if she calls me she's just price shopping!" I just smiled and said "Isn't it funny, they still come back to me, wonder why that is?" (Hint: Because I return her calls, even if she gives a job to you, I still treat her with courtesy and respect and you don't!)

My boss says I "do too much" for them and "let them push me around"...but he sure likes it when I bring in a huge sale...he just doesn't seem to understand "cause and effect"!

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