Last week I witnessed two businesses demonstrating great customer service from two very different points of view and by two very different methods.

First, I toured the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Shakopee on one of its public tours. There we could see multiple extraordinary efforts, through advanced technology, to ensure the right product gets to the right customer in two days or less. The multiple uses of sensors and computerized tracking and cross-checking is eye-opening, although the human touch is still absolutely necessary. Satisfying customers is clearly their goal. And based on the explosion of Amazon use, they are succeeding.

Then I brought my chainsaw into Ace Hardware in Prior Lake. I had the option of buying several replacement components from Amazon as I couldn’t tell just what part was causing a problem. Byron Carlson quickly diagnosed the problem and offered a simple, inexpensive solution. I was back to getting my work done at home within the hour. Byron used his expertise gained through personal experience and training to satisfy his customer. Satisfying the customer through personalized service is the key to Ace Hardware’s (and many local businesses’) survival in this tough, competitive business world.

Ensuring that customers have satisfying experiences with their products is the primary reason some companies, such as Stihl, will only sell their products through stores such as Ace Hardware. Stihl wants its products sold by trained specialists who can help the customer purchase exactly the right product to meet the customer’s needs, service the product if needed, deliver the product completely assembled and tested, and demonstrate to the customer how to use the product safely. Ace Hardware demonstrated that ability in a previous purchase I made of a Stihl brush cutter after two unsuccessful efforts to buy cheaper but defective brush cutters from Amazon.

Based on my experiences, I have learned that we need to be more supportive of our local businesses who can deliver this kind of superb service. It’s a tough business world out there, and they need all the support they can get. And, after all, supporting your local businesses satisfies one part of Rotary’s 4-Way Test: Will it build goodwill and better friendships? These relationships are what makes Prior Lake a great community to live in.

Rick Olson is a resident of Spring Lake Township and is retired after a career in agricultural business management, finance, law, school business management and government. Since returning to live in Minnesota four years ago, he seeks to foster civil community conversations on issues important to residents.

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