Just about everyone these days knows the daunting feeling of walking into a big-box store looking for one small item or the answer to a simple question: Is there anyone here who can help me? For a small farm or small agribusiness, that universal feeling holds the key to staying viable in an industry often dominated by Goliaths. Whatever you give up in terms of selection and price, you can more than make up for with personal attention. In other words: It’s all about the customer.
It’s not easy to take time away from running a company to chat up customers, but keep in mind that getting to know your customers personally may be your most important function as a small business operator. It’s the only way to truly understand what they care about and what they need. For example, customers aren’t just buying your farm’s produce; they’re buying your knowledge of seasons, growth cycles and nutrition. If you’re a retailer, remembering customers’ names and preferences, and making informed recommendations of a specific type of feed or tool to meet their needs develops the sort of trust that keeps them coming back.
No matter how much they like you, today’s customers are rather knowledgeable, sophisticated and accustomed to being served at their convenience, not yours. Fortunately, technology can help you manage your farm or retail business (and serve customers) with a level of efficiency once reserved for much larger enterprises.
Farm management software can help you manage crops, analyze yields and manage labor and pricing — leaving you more time to focus on building relationships with your customers. If you’re an agricultural retailer, consider point of sale (POS) software, which can help you analyze sales data, keep accurate records and manage inventory to help ensure you’ll always have what your customers need, when they need it. Of course, despite your best intentions, mistakes do happen, and each one represents the opportunity to enhance a relationship or to jeopardize one. Responding and even going a little overboard to make things right can help distinguish you from larger, less personal operations. An employee who is neglectful of a customer can significantly lower the value of one of your greatest assets as a small operation: the personal touch.
Take the time to make sure each employee, no matter what their function, feels essential to the operation, understands your mission and holds customer satisfaction as their top priority. Recognize employees who go the extra mile to help.
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