40 Years of Customer Service with a Smile

Town Talk pic

“The customer is always right!” I can still hear my grandfather saying that, and let me tell you that my grandfather was always right, too. I’m sure he never heard the words “corporate culture,” but he certainly lived it every day with his actions. He treated others with respect. He started his own business of shining shoes and cleaning hats, and he gave jobs to some who could not get jobs. He still remembered them by name, even in his later years.

Nobody was a stranger. Every teller at the bank was his girlfriend, and it took him an hour to go to the post office as he stopped to talk to everyone there. Building relationships in the community is still important today.

Living the American Dream is important. When others say it can’t be done, don’t give up. You can do anything in this country as long as you work hard, I learned from my grandfather.

Image is everything, and you would find him with a broom sweeping the leaves off downtown sidewalks every day. Have pride and take the responsibility to keep things neat and clean … always.

I was only four years old when my parents named Carrie’s Hallmark Shop after me. I grew up learning what it meant to take care of the customer, the lost art of counting change back by hand, and reinvesting back into the family business rather than taking family vacations in those early years.

Having a store with my name on it on High Street pretty much guaranteed my career path, but I still chose to go to college, and I’m so glad I did. My business degree from Missouri State University gave me the edge to bring my third-generation business to the next level. Education and my college experience taught me how to be on my own, build relationships, and take on leadership roles.

So, why are we successful in our 40th year in business? As the owner, I realize that I am a mirror to my customers and staff. I am a reflection of my store. Whatever I give is what I get back in return. We are all a reflection of our attitude. Smile, and your customers will smile back. Attitude, either good or bad, will reflect on those around you. No one wants to walk in a store and hear the owner complain.

Stay calm, don’t freak out when you have a bad week or month, and focus on the positive. After 40 years, we know there are trends, ups and downs, and you have to be in it for the long run. Sometimes it feels like a run, a “retail marathon.” Also, have a good banker, accountant, lawyer, and contractor, even if you think you can or should do it all yourself.

Empower your staff. It can be hard to give up control. After all, I am the store. However, I take pride in those moments where I learn from my staff, when my Hallmark girls think of creative ideas that I never would have thought of, all because I take pride in them and in my store. They have that same pride because of it. I could never be mayor without their support, and my store could never be open 70 hours a week without them. Customer service means being there when the customer needs us, even on nights, weekends, and holidays, as well as having a staff that is ready to step up because they know I am behind them 100 percent.

Yes, “the customer is always right!” People don’t want to believe it. They want to challenge it, fight it, and try to reason around it. Face it, it’s not about one situation where the customer was right or not. It’s about the lifetime value of that customer. Remember not to get too focused or stuck on winning an argument with your customer, but to focus on a satisfied customer every time. Move beyond the situation and think of what it means to value that customer today. Think of their future worth to you, their friends and family, and what that means to the future of your business. Then, thank them with a smile!