Mar 24, 2012 Written by 
Consumers are fickle. We all know it. Many of us has experienced it and all of us have been a fickle consumer at one time or another.

5 weeks ago, I embarked on taking a picture that I had painted in 2007 to be framed as a gift for my best girlfriend.
Putting Your Small Business In The Frame

The first place I went to said it would take 6 weeks for the picture to be framed. The second said 3-4 weeks and the last one I went to said 4 weeks. I gave up. The picture then sat in my car for weeks.

Then last week, I arrived at the stage of embarrassment. I needed to have this picture framed for my friend as it was meant as a birthday gift. I had already given her the picture in 2008, and now it was time to frame it to ensure that it was shown in its best light on the wall of her beautiful home.

So, I went down to Eckersley, which is a store that I buy all my painting products from. It took 20 minutes to be served even though there was no-one in the store. I was very frustrated I can assure you. In the end, with another mention of 4 weeks, I decided to have one last go of looking elsewhere. The waiting to be served was the deal breaker for me.

I drove down the road, to this store that I drive past every day when I am in Melbourne, but have never noticed before. AG Framing. Situated at 48 Commercial Road, Prahran in Melbourne, the store looks like your typical artist abode.

As I walked in, the owner Linda Fonda, immediately greeted me, even though she was in the process of serving someone else. She asked someone to assist me straight away, so within seconds someone was asking how they could help me. I explained that I wanted the pictured framed. They said, "no problem - it will take a week". I was over the moon. Great! Finally, a place that takes only a week.

We picked a frame out and she promised to send me a quote via email before the day's end. She did and it was on par with the other quotes I had received. I gave her the go-ahead and a few days later, I received a text message to say that it was ready for collection.

Today, I went in to pick it up, and her business partner Andrew Green greeted me. I explained that I was there to pick up the picture, and he knew who I was straight away and he brought out the picture to ensure that I was satisfied with it before he took my credit card. Very polite. Fast. Efficient. No time wasted. Happy customer!

What's the difference between one small businesses customer service and another?

Simply, it is how they make a customer feel. The second point that is of interest, is in all the other places I went to, the people serving were employees, whereas at AG Framing, they were the business owners. Time was of the essence, so they 'made it happen' in a tighter time frame than I expected. I am sure they could sense that I was frustrated and they wanted to make it as easy as possible.

How can a small business manage a fickle consumer base?

In this case, all I needed was for someone to serve me in a reasonable amount of time and not wait 5 minutes to finish a conversation with a colleague. Another point is that at one place, the person serving me proceeded to tell me that his children had picked up  scurvy at kindergarden that week. Seriously, as a customer, we don't want to hear that. Immediately I made up an excuse and walked out. When you are in the face of consumers, being polite, listening to their needs and ensuring that you are using your expertise to give them the best option possible is paramount. Consumers also don't want to wait 4 weeks or more for a simple picture framing. That is ridiculous. Hire more staff!

Good customer service leads to referrals

When you experience particularly good customer service, then the chances are that you will mention it to friends, colleagues, family and anyone else that is willing to listen to your story. This is a much cheaper way of promoting your business than advertising and way more powerful. Advertising is the price for being boring according to Word of Mouth Guru Andy Sernovitz.

In Andy Sernovitz book "Word of Mouth Marketing" - How smart companies get people talking, he talks about how word of mouth marketing should follow a simple philosophy with one golden rule: Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers, and they will do the rest. Treat people well; they will do your marketing for you, for free. Be interesting, or be invisible.

When people trust you, they are willing to put their words on the line for you.

Mellissah Smith is a serial entrepreneur and business leader with more than 20 years' experience in marketing.
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert, author, writer, public speaker and technology innovator. Having worked with more than 300 companies across technology, medical device, professional services, manufacturing, logistics, finance and health industries, Mellissah has a well-established reputation as an experienced marketing professional with more than 20 years experience. As the founder and managing director of Marketing Eye, she has taken the company from startup to a multi-million dollar enterprise with offices in Australia and the US. Mellissah is also the Editor in Chief of Marketing Eye Magazine, a quarterly magazine that cover marketing, entrepreneurship, travel, health and wellbeing. #mellissah #marketingeye


  • Linda Fonda
    Linda Fonda

    Thank you for your lovely words Mellissah! We really do try and make our customers happy for exactly the reasons you outlined above, but also, because it makes us feel good. Job satisfaction is a wonderful thing.
    We know it's working as we often get referred customers.
    My only regret was the shop is looking rather empty at the moment...I am working feverishly to get a new window display up and running (all goes towards 'visibility'!), so keep an eye out next time you're whizzing by.

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