As Agritourism owners we find ourselves in a wide variety of stores for a wide variety of reasons. Even though price is a big determining factor for whether or not I frequent a store, there are other factors that are equally important. If you were to ask me my opinion about the 3 local hardware stores that I visit the most, I would most likely evaluate them based on price, inventory and customer service. And based on those things there is one store that stands out and one I will go out of my way to support.
There are few things more important to a customer than personal service. I believe they will even pay a little bit more if they think they will get accurate, quality information and individual attention. Hardware stores are not my main supplier, but when it comes to most products I really want to give the local entrepreneurs my business because we are one in the same.
Recently I announced that I needed to go to the hardware store and my son commented, “Oh is that where everyone knows your name?” It was interesting that he picked up on something that is really foundational for a good business. Fortunately this store is also very professional and priced very competitively with the big box stores, but their customer service definitely sets them apart. One of the other local stores barely acknowledges your presence and rarely asks if they can assist. And when you go in for 4 things and they are out of 2 of them on a regular basis, the customers will notice and will respond by going elsewhere.
Agritourism is no different when it comes to intentionally reaching out to our customers. The business itself lends itself to connect on a personal level. Many of our guests leave the urban, busy lifestyle to purposely immerse themselves in the quietness of the rural. You are part of the attraction because your life and your lifestyle are part of what they want to experience. And to be honest, most people expect the “country folk” to be friendly and polite and are disappointed when they aren’t!
So let’s talk a little about what it means to be intentional about customer service. This will mean an across the board policy that you will probably want to make an important part of your mission and part of your staff training. These are things that may seem very simple and not very important on the surface, but are things that your guests will notice.
First, I would say that in the Agritourism business that we need to be relational. Let’s face it, the season is fairly short, but extremely busy. Our days become very full in preparation and don’t slow down once we open. We’re often exhausted by the time the guests begin coming, so we sometimes settle for getting them in and out without any major catastrophes! And as the season wears on, we become more and more complacent. So the challenge is to treat each guest as individuals. From the first day we open to the day we close, we need to make the experience just as memorable. The way we do that is to remember that they are people, not simply customers. You have the opportunity to contribute something to their lives using some very basic methods. Here’s how:
- Smile! Nothing removes barriers more quickly than a genuine, encouraging smile. If your guests find a friendly staff that awaits them, they will stress less about people, lines or other things they usually stress about.
- Greet as many people as possible. Of course don’t be overly bothersome, but a simple, “How are you today?” goes a long way to making them feel at home. And letting them know you are there if they need anything gives them confidence they can get answers to their questions. Most venues use some kind of uniform or shirt color for their staff that is easily identifiable. We usually choose a bright or even fluorescent color and instruct staff to be available for the guests.
- Carry on simple conversation about where they are from and how they heard about you. Share some interesting things about your farm or orchard or other part of your venue that they may not know. You have a unique business so use the opportunity to teach your quests something new that they will remember.
- Ask your guests in simple conversation if they need anything. If they are active and involved, they probably are fine. If they seem lost or wandering, ask them if you can help. They will be happy that people are concerned about their visit.
Remember that if our only goal is to get the masses in and out and we neglect the personal touch, they are less likely to return or refer you to others. Be relational because part of what makes us unique is our goal to help families build lasting memories.
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