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Creating a great customer experience

It is a great time of year to be in this business!

We are right in the middle of our local growing season and have happily converted the majority of our produce selling space to Ontario fruit and vegetables.

We are always impressed by our partners in farming.

In my opinion, they find a way season after season, weather issues aside, to produce the best and widest range of crops in Canada.

There is nothing better than receiving a load of fresh from the field Wild Ontario Blueberries.

I still vividly remember my father taking a strip off me after witnessing me scarf down two or three handfuls of blueberries while hand bombing them off the truck.

“You keep eating the profits and we all might as well go home,” he said to me.

Lesson learned: sample the product in the privacy of the cooler when the boss isn’t around.

I am not sure if it’s the increased access to information we have, or the onslaught of food related TV networks and shows, but we most definitely have an engaged customer base.

Customers today know what they want, they are trying new ways to prepare old and new ingredients and they expect quality.

We sure are glad to be an independent in this day of selling.

We find that a big differentiator for us is that as a family-run business we can react quickly to our customer requests and changing tastes.

Our produce buyer, Carmen, is down at the Ontario Food Terminal five days a week.

When a customer has a request for a product we do not normally carry, all that is required is a quick phone call to Carmen, confirmation of availability, and the next day (for the most part) we are able to create a great customer experience.

Our stores are modest in size, but we try to be big on personality, so it takes a lot of time on the floor and recently a lot of time in the world of social media to be able to get in front of our customers.

We love the customers that have the time to stand and chat and fill us in on what is going on in their world, but we mutually respect and admire the customer who needs to get home quickly.

Our experience lately is that when the latter customer wants to engage us, they turn to Twitter,website post or Facebook.

Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/VincesMarketOntario.

We make posts almost daily with pictures and comments letting customers know what is going on in the stores.

We are always pleasantly surprised at the reaction and feedback.

So in this digital age, a quick reaction time is more critical than ever.

When you are on the floor, the interaction is immediate. This is harder to do online.

If someone takes the time to write to us, it is our responsibility to respond in a timely fashion and not lose the opportunity to wrap our arms around him or her.

We definitely have all of the tools we have make it simple to respond in a timely manner.

It has become our philosophy to not lose the opportunity–and it seems to be working!

We have not handed this responsibility over to an intern or some third-party company; we take this responsibility on ourselves.

Brian and myself both get all web notifications of any kind sent to our smartphones directly.

When a customer tells us they think we are doing a great job, or reminds us how we could be better, they are getting a direct response from the owner of the business and someone who can impact change.

That is empowering to a customer.

Truth be told, we do it because we like to! It keeps us informed, it keeps us in the loop.

The investment of time is worth it and then some.

I understand our size is to our advantage in this regard but we think if more companies took this approach there would be a lot more happy customers out there who feel like their money is valued.

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