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Take Advantage of Your Competitors By Offering Better Customer Service




  • they have not hired or promoted enough high performing people,
  • their cultures are so deeply imbedded that they will give up before getting to the level they need to reach and
  • they just don’t understand how to do it.
  • But delivering outstanding customer service on a consistent basis is hard work and it requires extreme discipline to accomplish. There must be a company-wide commitment and top management must insist on near perfection in delivering service to the company’s customers. Again, most organizations cannot sustain a disciplined and well-managed effort to deliver outstanding service. You must first understand what is important to your customers. At a minimum, customers expect:
    • to be treated with respect
    • to be treated fairly
    • the business to respond in a reasonable time frame
    • products and services to be of high quality
    • employees to be knowledgeable about the products and/or services being offered
    • the business to deliver what was ordered or purchased and on time
    • few or no mistakes in charges, billing, shipping, etc.
    • employees to be friendly and courteous
    • the business to rectify errors and problems in a timely and expedient manner
    This “minimal expectations” list is virtually ignored by many businesses. Getting to these simple minimums can be a monumental task for some businesses. Delivering outstanding service means exceeding these mimimal expectations on a consistent basis. Most businesses have large peaks and valleys in terms of how they deliver service. Or one area of the business does a decent job with customer service while another does a very poor job with it. Businesses that gain an edge in their battle with competitors understand that customer service is an organization-wide activity that must be treated as such. Delivering outstanding service begins with hiring people that have the inherent traits and skills to be able to function in a customer-focused culture. All too often, businesses hire people who have no idea how to deliver outstanding service. Or they put people with few people skills in heavy customer contact positions. And to compound matters, they establish few, if any, expectations, policies or procedures related to customer service. Bear in mind that training people who are not well-suited to customer service activities will have little, if any, impact on the level of service delivered. In broad and simplistic terms, the following must be in place in order for your business to have chance at gaining a consistent and definitive edge against your competition relative to customer satisfaction:
    • Strong management
    • A high percentage of high performing employees who are well-suited to the jobs they hold
    • A real commitment to outstanding service
    • Clear goals and objectives about customer service
    • Reasonable, yet demanding expectations about serving customers
    • Efficient processes
    • Discipline about doing the right things the right way
    • Clearly defined policies and procedures
    • A system/organization-wide approach to customer service
    • Action rather than lip service
    • A very high level of accountability
    Again this list represents minimum requirements for delivering outstanding service. Your organization must look internally to determine specific requirements that must be in place beyond the item on this list. It is possible to gain an advantage over your competition in terms of customer satisfaction. However, it will require hard work and lots of it. Does your business have what it takes to deliver outstanding service on a consistent basis?Consistently strong customer service is a must and your strategic plan should address how your business will achieve it.]]]]> ]]>

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    Engaging young readers to explore the world through words



    Nora Yates gets her first taste of how much fun books can be. (photo by Kelle Barfield)

    For most people, retirement means turning off the alarm clock and relaxing the days away. Vicksburg native Kelle Barfield is not most people.

    Barfield’s resume includes a degree in magazine journalism and a move to New York City for positions at Doubleday-Dell Publishing, Random House and Southern Living. She returned to Vicksburg in 1986 and began her position as a technical editor of nuclear procedures at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. She was planning to finally retire in 2018, when she learned that the founder of Lorelei Books was also retiring, and Vicksburg’s only local bookstore would close.

    “Every town needs a bookstore!” Barfield said, so she purchased the restoration-era building and is spending her retirement continuing the legacy of Lorelei.

    Vicksburg’s younger readers are grateful she did.

    “My father was a voracious reader with an incessantly curious mind. My inherited DNA loves literacy and learning as much as the air I breathe,” Barfield said. Because of this, she tries to instill her love of exploring the world through books in the children that visit her store.

    Before the pandemic, Lorelei hosted story readings on Saturdays. The store also offered craft activities, free materials for children to write their own books and hosted guest readers. Children could also participate in a pen-pal program where children write their favorite literary character and get a letter back in the mail.

    “Who doesn’t love getting a real letter?” Barfield asked.

    She didn’t let the pandemic totally stop her from engaging readers. She created an Easter family drive-by word search challenge downtown. It encouraged children to work with their parents to come up with as many words as they could from letters displayed on large Easter egg posters.

    According to Barfield, “Learning should truly be a family activity enjoyed by all.”

    Although the pandemic has temporarily stopped some of Lorelei’s programs, Barfield is not giving up. She has been in talks with Marie Cunningham, head of children’s programs for the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, about a partnership of online reading events as a substitute for in person story time.

    Lorelei has set up a YouTube channel and is working out the kinks to present Facebook video posts of readings.

    “We had many ideas prior to the pandemic that we’re hoping to establish once it’s clearer what the future holds for online and in person events,” Barfield said.

    Barfield also works with organizations such as United Way and Mutual Credit Union to support literacy in schools.

    “We recently used a very generous donation to gift 150 books to A.W. Watson Elementary School in memory of Heidi Burrell,” she said. “She was a United Way staffer who we lost in July. I’m prayerful that ‘Heidi’s Hideout’ will offer the joy of learning to even more youngsters in our region.”

    In this age of computers, Kindles and internet superstores, Vicksburg’s young readers are lucky to have Lorelei Books and Kelle Barfield’s version of retirement.

    Anyone wanting to donate a book to Heidi’s Hideout can call Lorelei Books at 601-634-8624 and arrange to have a book delivered in their name.

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    The Klondyke has new owners



    Woody and Holly Ramo, the new owners of the Historic Klondyke Trading Post, (ohoto by David Day)

    Woody and Holly Ramo have purchased the Klondyke, 100 N. Washington St., from Rhonda Day.

    “We’re going to update the place a bit and bring  back breakfast, dinner and Karaoke,” Woody Ramo said. “I’m so excited,” Holly Ramos added.

    The Ramos are best known for operating The Games Bar and Restaurant in Delta, Louisiana, a business they purchased in 2016.

    “I am so happy for Holly and Woody,” Day said. “They are the perfect couple to operate the Klondyke and carry on the hundred-year tradition of serving the Vicksburg community.”

    The Historic Klondyke Trading Post has been in continuous operation for more than 60 years serving food, and a business called the Klondyke has been in that location since the 1930s. A restaurant, saloon or bar has been in the location since the 1890s when the SilverMoon Cafe sat there.

    The location’s long and varied history can be traced back to indigenous Americans trading in the bayou and the hillside that leads up to the old downtown area of Vicksburg. A band of pirates called the Kangaroos controlled the area in the 1830s until the “vicious gamblers” were run out of town. The Vicksburg Militia, under the guidance of Dr. Hugh Bodley, attacked the Kangaroos’ stronghold on July 5, 1835, and Dr. Bodley was killed in the attack. A monument to his efforts is located up the hill from the Klondyke at Farmer and First East streets. During the Civil War, the area was heavily used and included Union barracks.

    Rhonda and David Day purchased the Klondyke from Janelle and Eddie Cook in November of 2005. Rhonda Day became the sole owner in 2018.

    Asked what she was going to do with her time now that it had been sold, Day’s response was simple.

    “I’m going to play with my grandbabies and enjoy that front porch at Eagle Lake,” she said.

    Rhonda Day after her last full day operating the Klondyke Trading Post. (photo by David Day)

    Day made the decision during the height of the COVID-19 crisis to operate the restaurant only during lunch hours. The Ramos plan to reopen all of it in the coming months.

    “We will get our liquor license and open the karaoke bar soon, but for now we are going to focus on getting breakfast up and running. Maybe as soon as next week,” Holly Ramo said.

    “One of the best things for me is the size of that cooler,” said an excited Woody Ramo. “I can put all kinds of crawfish in there to cook up for folks.”

    Rhonda Day’s husband, David Day, is the publisher of the Vicksburg Daily News.



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    Vicksburg native Jaron Smith launched Run Your Gun Tactical to train firearm users



    (photo courtesy Jaron Smith)

    Vicksburg native Jaron Smith has launched Run Your Gun Tactical, a firearm training and manufacturing company based in Brandon, Mississippi.

    Smith is a 2010 graduate of Vicksburg High School where he was known for his intelligence and being a great student.

    He started his company in early August, and it has taken off in a good direction with Smith teaching multiple classes on firearm safety.

    The company began after an incident at a local church where windows were broken out. The incident prompted the pastor to investigate firearm protection, and Smith stepped in to help by getting certified as a firearms instructor. Run Your Gun Tactical now deals with church security where Smith trains someone in the church to be prepared for incidents such as an active shooter situation.

    “I want to build confidence in people while they are handling a firearm,” Smith said. “Safety cannot and will not be compromised.”

    Smith and Run Your Gun Tactical are trained to handle any type of firearm but only offers training in handguns and AR-15-style rifles at this time. One of the purposes for the company is getting individuals prepared for concealed carry permits, which are popular in Mississippi. He gives firearm training to individuals 13 years old and up, and training with Run Your Gun Tactical begins with a classroom session before hands-on training.

    The company is growing more each week and Smith has major goals for his business. In just a short amount of time, he has held firearm training classes in Tupelo and Greenwood, Mississippi.

    By the beginning of next year or sooner, Run Your Gun Tactical will be able to manufacture and sell firearms made by Smith.

    “Success can be yours,” Smith said. “Do not be afraid to succeed, and there will be many obstacles you will have to face.”

    For more information, visit the Run Your Gun Tactical website or Facebook page.

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