Customer service is key for small business survival

Customer service is key for small business survival

June 28th, 2009 by Perla Trevizo in Trends2009products

For Shaan Khan, who manages the India Bazar on Lee Highway, focusing on one community and on customer satisfaction has been a way to help the business stay afloat during the difficult economy.

"We provide fresh vegetables," he said. "We offer the best price for the best product."

SMALL BUSINESS TIPS

* Don't panic. Be calm and rational as you look at your business. Don't let stress keep you from focusing on the fundamentals.

* Consult your mentors. Keep in touch with your accountant, and be aware of tax breaks for small businesses.

* Look for local funding. Contact your city, county or state governments when you seek capital. Sometimes there are programs with grants or loans in specific industries.

* Find ways to cut costs. Check your cash flow on a regular basis. Cut costs and hold the line on price increases. Keep good records of your inventory, and be careful not to overstock your shelves.

* Continue your marketing. This is the time you need marketing the most. Consider publishing e-mail newsletters and sales alerts. Let people sign up for them on your Web site.

Source: SCORE Counselors to America's Small Business

AREA FIRM OWNERSHIP BY RACE/ETHNICITY

Asian 614

Hispanic 318

Black 1,833

American Indian and Alaska Native 388

Female 10,551

Chattanooga Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of Hamilton, Marion and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in Georgia.

Source: U.S. Census, 2002 figures

As more people find themselves without a job, local businesses, including small minority-owned firms, are struggling to maintain their customer base when most people are trying to save.

"If America catches a cold, small businesses, minorities, will get pneumonia. It's just the way things are," said Sherrie Gilchrist, president of the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce.

She said the biggest problem for small businesses seems to be getting paid contracts for services already rendered.

"(What they can do) is go to their bank and ask for an extended line of credit if they have a good relationship with their (lender)," she said. "Those relationships are really key in these times of uncertainty."

Cristina Vivar, owner of Sabor Latino on Brainerd Road, said the bad economy has made her think of things she hadn't before, like electricity.

"I've found ways to save, like unplugging all appliances at night and getting rid of things people weren't buying as much, like warm food," she said.

She has also laid off four people in the last couple of months, leaving only family to work the store, said the Ecuador native.

Ms. Gilchrist said it's important that small businesses continue to market themselves.

"Sometimes you have to do some free stuff to get people to the doors. You become very innovative on how you get the word out, letting people know you are still there and doing the best that you can," she said.


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