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Shannon Mantaro: Shop local this holiday season

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Shannon Mantaro, Commentary

For many small businesses, the busiest and most profitable time of the year is officially here.

According to the National Retail Federation, 24 percent of consumers in the United States plan to increase the amount they are spending this holiday season, and 54 percent plan to spend at least the same as they did last year. Add to that an additional full shopping weekend before Christmas this year, and businesses have strong potential for a financially successful season.

Shannon Mantaro
Shannon Mantaro

Although competition with online retailers can be very challenging for a brick-and-mortar operation, there is an opportunity to make a great impression on your customers by providing an excellent customer service experience. These days, it's easy for customers to move to other shopping options if they do not have an exceptional experience — sometimes even paying more for a similar product or service simply because the service is better. 

In fact, customer service solutions company RightNow Technologies reports that 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay up to 25 percent more for a better customer experience. Providing great service can build and retain customer loyalty, trust and, hopefully, increased sales and referrals. It can help build awareness of your service, product and brand, and it can differentiate your business from others.

If you'd like to sharpen your customer service skills, on Thursday, Jan. 11, Texas Woman's University's Center for Women in Business will present another Disney Institute — a one-day business course that focuses on excellence in leadership, culture, service, brand and innovation.

In this training, you will:

  • Examine how you could differentiate your service to become a provider of choice;
  • Explore quality service standards that can help you create a consistent service experience;
  • Learn about tools that can gauge the needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions of your customers at an individual level;
  • Understand the processes necessary to develop a culture that consistently delivers exceptional service; and
  • Discover how you could recover effectively from a service failure and how you could turn it into an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships.

Please visit our website at twu.edu/center-women-business for more information and to register for the training.

As consumers, there's no better way to support and grow our communities than to shop local. The advantages are numerous:

·         Local businesses buy from other local businesses, keeping dollars in the community;

·         Taxes stay local with the potential to support local schools, infrastructure improvements and maintenance, and public safety;

·         The negative impact on the environment is reduced as products do not need to be transported as far;

·         When you buy food from a local farm or market, it tends to be organic, chemical-free and fresher;

·         You'll likely find unique and interesting products and services that aren't available anywhere else; and

·         You'll have a more personalized and memorable customer experience.

This holiday season, I encourage you to shop at the many terrific and unique small businesses throughout Denton. Not only will you likely find that special gift to give, but you'll be contributing to your community as well.

Shannon Mantaro is director of Texas Woman's University's Center for Women in Business and can be reached at smantaro@twu.edu. For more information regarding the Center for Women in Business, visit https://twu.edu/center-women-business.