When Americans shop, their choices are driven by one factor: customer service.
Ken Burnes, a nationally known business consultant, drove that point home Monday night during a lecture on small business improvement.
Most shoppers say cost is their fifth priority when shopping, Burnes said. That opens a window of opportunity for small business owners of the type that populate downtown Craig.
"Customer service is giving someone something they didn't expect to get, from someone they didn't expect to get it from, when they did not expect to get it," Burnes said.
Fourteen people, mostly downtown business owners, attended Burnes' presentation, hosted by the Craig-Moffat County Economic Development Partnership and the Downtown Business Association.
"This is the first step we're taking to improve our businesses ... because the Economic Development Partnership believes our businesses are one of our most important resources," said Tom Flavin, EDP executive director.
Titled "Sharpening Your Competitive Edge," Burnes' Powerpoint presentation consisted mostly of questions on customer service, target markets and industry changes for business owners to consider.
Burnes had been writing the presentation when his father was on the verge of kicking him out of his family's jewelry business. Burnes and his cousin had opened five retail jewelry stores, but only one was making money. His family had invested in the stores and was facing bankruptcy.
Burnes traveled across the country then, meeting small business owners and finding out what worked and what didn't.
He discovered that most businesses need to know their customers better. He encouraged the seminar's attendees to learn as much about their customers as possible, from where they live to what date they celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Some of those at the meeting said one of biggest challenges they face is customers traveling to Grand Junction to shop. Burnes encouraged them to point blank ask customers why they go to Grand Junction.
Many small business customers become discouraged when stores keep irregular hours, Burnes said. Craig residents that commute could go to Grand Junction just because the stores have regular hours and wide selections. Groups like the Downtown Business Association can combat this problem by setting the same hours in all stores.
Storefront and window signage is the strongest form of advertising, Burnes said. Customers make up their minds about a business before they enter it. Lots of sale signs can actually dissuade shoppers from entering a store, he said.
When businesses do advertise through traditional sources such as newspapers, radio and the phone book, the ads should support one another, he said.
The seminar continues today from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Burnes will present Monday's talk again on Wednesday at 8 a.m.
Both events will be held at the Center of Craig.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.