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In the Know column: Let’s not lower our standards, Alexandria!

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By Tara Bitzan, executive director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

More than ever before, we find ourselves waiting… waiting for a repair technician, waiting to check out at a store, waiting for a table or a server at a restaurant, waiting for a contractor to send a bid or complete a project, waiting for a delivery, waiting to see a medical professional, waiting in line, waiting on hold on the phone, waiting for someone to call back…

Americans are not patient people. In our defense, it appears that patience is something that was long coveted (and probably hard to come by) for all of humankind, as evidenced by writings that go back nearly to the beginning of time.

The Latin collection of proverbial wisdom and morality by Cato the Elder (born 234 BC) states: “Of human virtues, patience is most great.”

Yes, patience is considered a virtue — a state of moral excellence. The ability to wait without being agitated (or at least showing it) is to be admired.

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It seems that patience simply goes against our human instincts. I hope we don’t give up on trying to master it, just like I hope our local businesses don’t let the stresses of the workforce shortage cause them to lessen their standards.

Things have been challenging the past couple of years, and it would be easy to just give in and adopt the “it is what it is” mentality. There are plenty of examples of that happening around us.

A recent out-of-town experience left me frustrated and extremely concerned about the future. It wasn’t the wait times that frustrated me, although I did plenty of waiting throughout the day. What concerned me was the plummeting level of standards that seemed to be happening almost everywhere.

Several places I visited left me feeling that management had given up on any level of quality and just settled for getting by.

Some places were beyond disheveled — they were dirty. It’s as if the lights were turned off every night and flipped back on every morning without any attempt to tidy up or prepare for the next day.

I get it. Staff is limited, they are overworked, management is tired. There must be limits, but aren’t there options that don’t require lowering quality standards?

Alexandria — let’s not go there! Here is another way we can serve as an example of how to do things right!

Business managers — I don’t have the answer on how to attract more workforce right now, but I do have an answer on how to keep your customers. Don’t let your standards decline. Put quality, attention to excellence and the customer experience at the forefront of all that you do, and your customers will remain loyal. (They may be impatient, but we are working on that!)

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Reduce your hours slightly to give your team the time needed to get the behind-the-scenes work done, like cleaning, organizing or stocking shelves.

Perhaps you previously contracted some of that work out and now you can’t find anyone. Talk to team members about this issue. Many of them may be willing to fill in the gaps. Most employees take pride in their workplace. They don’t feel good coming to work in a disheveled environment.

Clients and customers — make the virtue of patience a priority. Understand the strain these businesses and employees are under and allow them the time they need to provide you with quality products and services. Give them a little leeway on time expectations so they can ensure their standards remain high.

Mutual respect is about everyone being valued. Businesses should respect their customers by keeping their standards high and offering exceptional products and services regardless of how long it takes, and customers should respect the businesses by understanding the current challenges, being patient, and appreciating the quality of service, even if it takes longer than it used to.

And don’t forget to be kind! (www.AlexandriaMN.org/CommitToKindness)

Tara Bitzan is executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIA LAKES AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCEALEXANDRIAIN THE KNOWBUSINESS
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