Reader Question: Keeping the Personal Touch Online

26 Apr

I couldn’t find a “You’ve Got Reader Question” graphic (source:

We’ve got a reader question!

I was kind of hoping the first reader question would be something really existential, so I could expound on it in a introspective, philosophical way. Something like:

What is?

– Person Humanberg, Placeville

And then I would come up with some meaningful counsel like, “I think the real question, Person, is ‘What Isn’t?'”

That didn’t happen, and it’s probably for the best. Because Jeff from Wilkes-Barre, PA has a way better question:

I believe my business is successful because we offer extremely personal service. I can never hope to technologically compete with a national company, so why should I invest in expanding my business online? Anyone who shops online is going to go with the big name.

Well, Jeff, I think the real question is, “What isn’t?”

Wait, sorry. Still stuck in the previous thought. You asked a great question.

First the bad news… you’re right. You can’t compete with the resources available to a huge corporation when it comes to technology. But here’s the thing: in theory, you also can’t compete with them in a whole bunch of other ways, but you do anyway. Big companies can offer better prices, a wider selection – basically, anything.

And yet, you’re still in business, so obviously you’ve overcome those hurdles (unlike this fellow). I’m sure a big reason for your success is your personal touch, which can help entice customers to buy local and maybe even pay a little more.

Jeff’s personal touch (source:

But you shouldn’t be worried that going on the world wide webernets, will make you lose that special something that keeps Wilkes-Barrians (Wilkes-Barrese? Wilkes-Barrites?) coming back to you. I think you can eat your cake and have it, too. In fact, expanding your online presence can help your business feel even more personal than the big companies.

Let’s do a Pepsi vs Coke thing. Jeff Co. vs Globalcorp.

Let’s say I bought a wicket from a Globalcorp location, and now that I’m home I have a wicket-related inquiry. I go on Globalcorp’s website. The website offers A LOT. Pretty much every product under the sun, a 24 hour customer service chat window, blah blah blah. I have a question about something the salesperson said to me, but I can’t quite remember all the details, or her name, or my customer number. How the heck are you supposed to explain that problem over a webchat to a customer service rep 2,000 miles from you?

On the other hand, Jeff Co. has an easily navigable website with some simple info. I can still buy things, but there’s also a directory of employees that helps me remember the salesperson’s name (it was Sarah). It also has her e-mail address, where I can send my question. It also has the e-mail of her boss (JEFF!) in case the question is a little more complicated. It also also also has a map, community reviews, pricing info, and a whole bunch of other stuff that will streamline my next visit to Jeff Co., making business easier for both of us.

Mind blowing. (Source:

DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND, JEFF? I hope not, because that’s not the goal. I just want you to see how helpful an online presence can be. If you use it right, the internet will help you – with your bottom line and with your customers.

And if it doesn’t… well, we can both go back to philosophy.

2 Responses to “Reader Question: Keeping the Personal Touch Online”


  1. Reader Question: Phone Service TIPS! | Very Bad Business Bureau - May 24, 2013

    […] time to answer another reader question. This one comes from Lindsay in San […]

  2. Reader Question: Phone Service TIPS! - Very Bad Business Bureau - May 28, 2013

    […] time to answer another reader question. This one comes from Lindsay in San […]

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