Great service is what you are selling
Whether you are marketing high-quality alfalfa to dairy farmers or vegetables to consumers, great service is often what sells. Your products may be no different from other vendors at the market, or other farmers offering the same products, but if you step up your service by making transactions easier, offering to go the extra mile for your customers, you set yourself apart.
Small farms and family operations are often able to easily monitor service standards among family and farm employees. They might set service standards or even train everyone involved in the operation in great service traits.
• Providing high-quality service sells all kinds of farm products.
• Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated.
• Train family members and employees to provide good service.
Think about your favorite local grocery store, feed store or community restaurant. Why do you keep offering your hard-earned dollars to these businesses? Perhaps it is because the owners and employees greet you enthusiastically when you walk in the door. Maybe it is because you know that the feed store will deliver feed to your farm when you run out on a weekend. Maybe the restaurant rewards customer loyalty by occasionally giving you a free cup of coffee or a soda.
You want to give your business to these folks because they are nice to you. So, in the same way, direct farm marketers and producers of all kinds of farm and food products need to offer that kind of memorable service to their customers.
Set service goals
Make sure your family members working in your business and your employees are well-versed on what is expected of them when they deal with customers on the phone, over email or in person. Talk with your employees about what your customers expect for service and give them specific goals to meet.
Such things as answering the office phone by the second ring, or greeting everyone who walks up to your booth or into your farm stand or business front within 30 seconds of their entry are specific goals that can be met. Smiling when dealing with customers and helping them find what they need are additional signs of great service. Preach to employees that they should treat customers the way they like to be treated.
Service and assertiveness with customers are often traits that farmers do not think of when they start their operations. If most of your time on the farm is spent in the tractor cab or working livestock, that might be all right. But if you are direct-marketing farm products to friends, neighbors and other customers, providing high-quality service will serve you quite well.
You already have enough to do, producing what you are selling. But taking the extra time and effort to provide great service pays back dividends in the form of customer loyalty and, ultimately, profitability, over the long haul.
This article published in the October, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.