Local business owners walked a red carpet at the 10th-annual “Mounties” to receive their awards on Tuesday and be recognized for their achievement in being selected as the “Best of the Best.”
The awards luncheon, held in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church, was the first of its kind in the 10-year history of the awards sponsored by The Mount Airy News, with winners chosen by readers of The News and viewers of MountAiryNews.com. A full list of the 2018 winners is in a special print section of this edition of The News and online at MountAiryNews.com.
Tuesday’s lunch was sponsored by Northern Hospital of Surry County, John L. Gravitte D.D.S. PA, J’s HVAC, and Scenic Ford.
“It’s a great opportunity to honor some very special businesses,” said Sandra Hurley, Mount Airy News publisher, in her opening remarks. “There were thousands of votes,” she said of this year’s reader’s choice poll. But the contest has always been popular. “I remember back when we had paper ballots, it could take days to count.”
Eighty-eight winners and their guests of this year’s “Best of the Best” were present at the luncheon in addition to about a dozen News staffers.
As the first guest speaker for this first-time event, Matt Linville, foundation director for Northern Hospital of Surry County, began his speech by proclaiming, “I am the best speaker this event has ever had” to a round of laughter. He then proclaimed, “I am also the worst speaker this event has ever had” to an even bigger round of laughter.
Linville, noting the event’s venue being a church, spoke about the Golden Rule and its relevance to customer service. He began with an anecdote about a dry goods store which opened in Wyoming in 1932 with goals of offering the best customer service, treating employees fairly and employing the best business ethics possible.
The store was started by James Cash Penney, better known as J.C. Penney, but his first store did not bear his name. It was called “The Golden Rule Store.” Linville challenged his audience to imagine if their businesses were named after the Golden Rule and asked, “How differently would you handle your business?”
He then offered six suggestions:
• Customer service is everybody’s business. Everyone involved in a business, regardless of their job description, is also responsible for customer service. Linville then cited the old saw that “A city’s downtown is truly their front yard,” which he then turned around to “Employees are your front yard.”
• Every interaction matters.
• A complaint can be a positive, quoting Bill Gates who said, “Most unhappy customers are your best way of learning.” Linville then said, “You can’t please everybody,” which brought an “Amen” from the congregation. If they care enough to complain, he said, and you can resolve that complaint, they will come back.
• Know how to apologize. “Say ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it.” Linville admitted this is a tough one, but insisted it was mandatory. “Humility can end hostility quicker than a cash refund.”
• Customer experience can drive growth. Linville then cited some statistics: 86 percent of customers will pay a premium for customer service, 75 percent would be willing to pay a 13-percent premium for excellent customer service.
• Treat your employees well. “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”
Linville went a little further on the subject of treating employees well, saying it was important to “share your numbers.” Employees need the pertinent information to do a good job.
Setting a good example is important. “You are the tone-setter for your business,” he said, noting that if a business owner gives poor customer service, employees will do the same, or else leave.
Linville concluded by saying, “If you were not good at the Golden Rule, you wouldn’t be here anyway,” to the room jam-packed with people who had all been voted by their customers as being the best at what they do.