I KNOW many local businesses have had a difficult time over the past few years competing with businesses based outside the region, or larger businesses coming to the area to capitalise on opportunities that industry brought to Gladstone.
However, things are starting to settle down with the bigger companies, which didn't have the same overheads as local small businesses, starting to leave in search for the next lucrative location.
With this comes great opportunities for local businesses to get back into the game on a more level playing field.
In winning back customers, businesses need to be creative, innovative and provide genuine customer service.
Through our research at the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it is evident that customer service is a high priority when deciding which business to support or which to publically scorn.
It's been interesting to see the difference between what a customer thinks of a business and what the business owners think happens in their business.
The way the phone is answered, the way staff deal with difficult situations, the greetings when customers enter a store - there seems to be quite some disparity.
It seems we need a few undercover tactics to get the real story.
That's where the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry is stepping up with its support of small businesses.
"Customer Service - It's your business" is the chamber's new crusade - to work with businesses owners to provide customer service training and processes, to work with staff to improve practices, and to work with customers to improve their transactions with our local businesses.
To start the campaign, the chamber is offering a free mystery shopper assessment for any locally owned or managed business.
Results of the assessment will be provided confidentially to the business.
The businesses that scored the highest and that are regularly praised in the community will become part of the chamber's campaign, and will have the opportunity for free publicity and be part of a short film that the chamber is co-ordinating for the campaign.
If you want to be a preferred local business, think your customer service is second to none, or if you could do with some support to improve, we want you.
Contact the Buy Local team at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 4978 7800.