Our View: The extra mile

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Craig and Moffat County's seemingly-porous attention to the all-important details of customer service has been a point of contention for every editorial board in the past 18 months.

After two meetings, this current editorial board is no different.

The editorial board believes good customer service is an important element to the success of local businesses, retaining jobs and enticing out-of-town visitors to someday return to our area.

Without good-to-great customer service, people stay home and cook rather than eat at restaurants. Without good-to-great customer service, people buy goods on the Internet rather than at local stores.

Without good-to-great customer service, people shop at big-box stores such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart instead of the small mom-and-pop stores in our downtown district.

In short, without good-to-great customer service, people take their money and spend it either outside of Craig and Moffat County or with vendors that, unlike the small businesses that are part of our community's lifeblood, don't necessarily re-invest in the area.

This problem that has become so mammoth as to garner the attention of community members, tourists and the editorial board alike seems like such an easy fix. And maybe, with an upcoming presentation designed to plug the customer-service holes, it will prove to be.

The Craig Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with sponsors such as Colorado Northwestern Community College, Wal-Mart, Bank of Colorado and the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership, offers a seminar Thursday that would help businesses develop practices to promote customer-service excellence.

The seminar is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn of Craig, 300 S. Colorado Highway 13.

A representative from SkillPath, a company founded in 1989 that provides business training in the United States and other countries, will make a presentation. It will include tips on motivating employees, how to handle disgruntled customers and how to use customer service as a tool to compete against chain and big-box stores.

As necessary as this seminar is, there is reason for concern, the board believes.

Disheartening were comments published in Monday's Daily Press from Chamber director Christina Currie, who said registration from restaurant and retail business owners had been limited thus far. As Currie pointed out, these are exactly the two factions of our business community that receive the most customer-service complaints and need sound customer-service practices the most.

The editorial board commends the Chamber and other sponsors for offering the elixir several local businesses need to cure their customer-service ills, or for businesses that already have decent customer-service qualities to improve them even more.

The Chamber and the sponsors have done exactly what responsible businesses and groups should do in dealing with a mounting problem - present a solution.

The event sponsors have done their part. Now, it's up to these business proprietors to do theirs and be at the Holiday Inn to listen to what SkillPath has to say.

Not much is riding on whether businesses improve their customer relations. Just the future of small businesses in the area, whether more customers and sales tax revenue will be lost in the sea of cyberspace shopping and the existence of retail jobs in an area already in short supply.

In the end, the decision resides with business owners: Do they want to improve relations and ensure people come back to spend money at their stores and restaurants? Or are they willing to risk the future instead of taking time to learn valuable information for the small cost of a paltry admission fee?

Two facts are certain.

First, today's business environment means businesses no longer compete only against others in the area, and competition is fierce for the consumer dollar.

Second, if our local businesses aren't willing to satisfy the need customers have regularly asked for - improving customer service - consumers will gladly and easily decide to spend their money elsewhere.

Take it to the bank: Another business, whether it be in Craig or somewhere else, will go the extra mile to satisfy a customer need that isn't that extra at all.

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