The best way to know what customers want is to ask them.  Some of the things you hear might surprise you. The main question will be, are you willing to implement the ideas your best customers provide? Let’s explore some of the feedback you may hear:

1. Provide better product selection

You’ll need to ask if this means more variety, higher-quality merchandise, or lower-priced products. Maybe the customers are partial to a particular brand they can’t get anywhere else in town. Before making an investment in additional inventory, make sure there’s profit potential in implementing this suggestion. Adding new inventory to your selection will only benefit your business if there are enough customers willing to purchase at prices that are profitable to you.

2. Provide longer hours of operation

Customers want to be able to shop when they have the time. That might mean being open later in the evening or earlier in the morning or on weekends. It might also mean scheduling appointments for customers outside regular operating hours. Maybe they want to be able to shop online. It may be time to analyze when customers actually shop in your establishment then adjust your hours of operation accordingly, or add online shopping capabilities to your website.

3. Good customer service

Do you know how your employees treat customers when you aren’t there? Customer service is the key to the word-of-mouth advertising you hope to generate in the community. You might consider hiring a secret shopper to provide feedback on ways to improve customer service. Training can often help employees provide better customer service. Your local Small Business Development Center Network probably provides regular training opportunities.

4. Accept credit cards or checks, not just cash

There are costs involved with credit cards or checks, so make sure you have established profitable pricing that will cover any cost increases. Train employees in verifying that the check or credit card is good.


Customers buy because they have wants, needs, concerns or problems.  Your business needs to satisfy the customer while still maintaining profitable operations.  Often business owners forget to ask customers what can be done to improve their shopping experience next time they visit or even if there is anything else they need at the time of purchase.

Customers often just want to know someone is listening to them.  Ask your customers for feedback and use that feedback to improve your business.


Have a question about your small business? You can reach Arlene at or leave it in the comments here!

[ Down to Business is a weekly small business advice column featured in The World Newspaper, originally published online by the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, and republished here with permission. ]


Arlene SotoArlene Soto

Arlene M. Soto is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Tillamook Bay Community College. She came to Oregon in July 2007 from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network, where she managed the Region 4 office in Cheyenne for almost 13 years.