This interactive series between Archery Trade Association members lets everyone explain and discover what makes archery and bowhunting businesses thrive. Previous editions addressed sales, retailing, marketing and industry issues.
Customers drive business, so treat them right.
The ATA spoke with three members to learn how much they value customer service, and how they handle customer issues. Let’s meet our members and read their answers:
- Bob Jacobs, president of LOC OutdoorZ, manufacturer.
- Garrett Prochaska, manager and lead archery tech at Cabin Fever Archery, retailer.
- John Betker, director of sales and marketing for Vapor Trail Archery, manufacturer.
Quote by Bob Jacobs, LOC OutdoorZ. Photo Credit: LOC OutdoorZ
11! Without customers, your business won’t exist. Good service before and after the sale is very important as you build the customer’s trust. Always leave them with a smile on their face at the end of a conversation or encounter. We always tell them to have a great day!
10. Customer service is important. We create a good customer relationship with the guys and gals who come in, which helps with repeat customers. This is a competitive market. There are a lot of shops around, and anyone can go online and buy things. If we provide really good service, we’ll give customers a reason to come back.
15. With so many forms of competition, you can have the best products in the world, but if you’re not responsive to customers and you don’t meet their needs, you can lose them in an instant. Customer service is something you’re 100 percent in control of, so there’s no reason not to excel every time.
Quote by John Betker, Vapor Trail Archery. Photo Credit: Vapor Trail Archery
We always start by having a conversation to see how their season went or is going. A customer can tell if you’re genuine or phony. Take notes and follow up with them on questions or issues they’ve encountered. Offer help or suggestions to make their experience with you one they’ll remember and tell others about. Treat them like you want to be treated.
We do a lot of lessons, coaching, birthday parties and events that cater to customers. We always have a range marshal to facilitate, help out and ensure people are safe. We’re always willing to help anyone, even if they aren’t local or close by. We’re a full-service shop, and we don’t mind helping people who bring in items that weren’t purchased here. There’s no reason to turn people away. You never know how they might have acquired an item. Even if they found a better price elsewhere, that’s no skin off our teeth. We try to educate customers so they buy the right product the first time. They often come back and use our services.
We try to be available whenever a customer needs us, even on weekends. There really is no 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. anymore. We respond to calls, emails and social-media inquiries as quickly as possible. Being available when a customer needs us can gain their trust for life. We also use technology to improve our communication strategies. If a customer is struggling to explain a problem by phone, we’ll have them text us a photo. We take every opportunity to be polite, professional and understanding of the customer’s needs. All these things show customers you care.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP THE INDUSTRY, TO HELP INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES GET THE MOST OUT OF THE INDUSTRY, AND TO HELP YOU.
Quote by Garrett Prochaska, Cabin Fever Archery. Photo Credit: Cabin Fever Archery
We listen to what they say. Some customers can be difficult at times, but if you listen and explain a few things to them, most situations can be defused quickly. You must be thick-skinned and not take everything personally. Let them feel like they won the battle, and you’ll win the war.
Every retail shop is going to have tough customers. What makes or breaks shops is how they handle the situation. When we’re working with someone who is unhappy about a service we provided or is griping about prices or whatever, we tell them we respect their opinion and understand their decision to go elsewhere. We can’t make people do anything. We can just show them our techniques or explain our reasons for doing things. We always stick with it and try to help them the best we can, but if we can’t help them, we point them to someone who can.
The easiest way to deal with a tough customer is not to have them. In theory, if we do everything correctly, we shouldn’t have tough customers. However, that’s often not the reality. We look at these situations as opportunities to improve. We always listen to the customer and try to find the best resolution. Customers expect instant gratification, so we try to achieve that as often as possible.
No, not always. We always want to listen to what they’re saying and try to help in a way that works for all parties.
The old business model has always been “the customer is always right,” but whether they are or aren’t right, it’s how you handle it. There has to be give and take. There are going to be some instances when they’re wrong, but it’s not your job to tell them they’re wrong. That burns bridges. Sticking with the customer is important. That shows you care and are willing to help. We usually tell them to try it their way and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll be here to help how we can.
This is similar to the question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” The outcome? Yes, the customer is always right, as long as the expectation of right and wrong is something you can achieve. When something goes wrong, customers usually have the “You messed up, you fix it” mentality, even when circumstances are out of your control, like a product being lost or damaged in transit. Every case is different, but we strive to remedy the situation and get the customer back up and running.
One issue I hear often is companies not having items available. Customers see a new item and want to buy it now, not three to six months later. If you’re showing these items at trade shows or displaying them on your website, they need to be ready in short order. Offering the product six months later usually leads to negative comments about your item or company.
More shops need to be open-minded about a lot of things. They need to understand there will be troubles down the road and they can’t fix everything. Take it with a smile and offer the best service you possibly can. We also like to stick with companies that have great customer service. Then if a customer has a problem, we can work with the manufacturer to solve it. Good relationships and communication are huge. Ultimately, great customer service correlates to the businesses you have on your side and how they help you or correspond to your issues.
As an industry, we must realize the hardest – but most important – thing we can do is retain, much less grow, participation. When we’re given a chance to interact with a customer it’s important we provide a positive experience, rather than a reason not to be involved with archery. Manufacturers must be more accessible, and retailers must make all customers feel welcomed and important.
With the internet and social media, things can get blown out of proportion quickly. Most of the time it’s just a misunderstanding, or someone didn’t hear what they wanted to. Never let it get that far. Always determine the real issue and take care of it.
Smile and greet every customer who enters your shop. Either ask how you can help or let them know you’ll be with them in a minute. A simple greeting sends a good message. It’s also important to thank them for coming to your shop. We have repeat customers say the reason they come back is because of how nice, honest and helpful we were.
It’s no secret that Amazon and internet sales have a huge impact on our industry, and not in a good way. It’s not going away, so we must learn how to adjust and make it benefit consumers and the industry. Either that or we’ll slide into the abyss. We must adapt as an industry because the consumer already made the switch and knows how to navigate the trenches. We can’t wait for customers to come back to us. We must get them and then bring our A-game customer service.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact the ATA’s business office at (866) 266-2776 or (507) 233-8130.