Editorial:  Business As Usual in Howard Beach

Editorial: Business As Usual in Howard Beach

When you talk to area residents about small local businesses, something they always bring up is customer service. People obviously want to get treated with respect, but also with a touch of familiarity; those from outside the neighborhood should be made to feel right at home. And so many “strangers” do come to Howard Beach, because of the proximity to JFK, the beaches, and the many other things our community has to offer.

It’s why Ragtime has been around for 38 years. It’s why you know realtors around here by their first names, whether or not you’re buying or selling a house: Carolyn, Lisa, Maria. Those who do the most business are those that cultivate ongoing relationships with their clients that begin before the sale is made and long after it is completed. The bigger companies might seem to be taking over the world, but they loom large as entities, not as people with faces and families that live, work, and go to school right alongside yours. And they’re not going to give you the personalized attention or assistance you need. They don’t really even need to get to know exactly what you’re looking for in a new home, because they’re going to sell it anyway – if not to you, then to someone else. They won’t try to pronounce your name correctly – they’ll just keep saying it the way they want to say it because they don’t feel like making any extra effort on your behalf.

Renovating a home – even just making minor repairs before you move in – means dealing with multiple people to get the job done, starting with picking up the supplies at Ace Hardware. You can rightfully expect people to help you when you walk in the door. When you hire a contractor, it understandably takes some time to complete the work. But you want it done well, you need to be kept in the loop, and when someone says they’re coming Friday, they should show up. That’s basic customer service.

The old adage doesn’t lie: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Being sweeter to clients will get them to return time and time again – even if you don’t always offer the lowest prices or the widest selection. Even if you’re not open 24 hours a day. We know you need to sleep.

Being involved in the community and sponsoring events or supporting charities is also a key element in customer service. It’s not just about getting your name listed as a sponsor in the back of the program – it’s about really paying attention to your clientele and catering to their needs without compromising your product. “Giving back” isn’t only characteristic of good business acumen from the standpoint of a business’ reputation – it also yields dividends when it comes to promoting future sales. Getting people the wherewithal to improve their lives means that one day, if not now, they’ll be able to afford to be your customer.

Recently, Ragtime advertised a special afternoon in the store – they gave out panelle and wine to everyone who walked in. As one of the only places around that offers panelle, they know there’s no better way to announce that fact than to give it away at first. In a community like Howard Beach, it only takes a matter of hours for everyone to know that Ragtime’s got panelle, and that it’s good.

Okay, it’s true: at The Forum, we have a stake in some of the area businesses who have advertised in the pages of our newspaper. We do indeed want them to keep advertising with us, and we wouldn’t be lauding a business that we didn’t believe in – paid ads or no. But above and beyond that interest, we are individuals who expect – no, demand – top-notch customer service. All of us here have used contractors recently and worked with realtors. All of us here appreciate quality products like the ones offered at Ragtime (like the spicy sausage ring we had last night; it was delicious!), and we want our readers to enjoy them as well. The bottom line is that it’s good business for everyone.


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