Almost 70 percent of customers that quit supporting a business do so because of poor service or attitudes of employees, managers or owners.

“One key to business is building repeat customers,” says Megan Bruch Leffew, marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture. “Poor customer service can drive away new or existing customers and encourage the spread of negative word of mouth referrals. What’s more, businesses that lose customers are paying three to five times more to earn a new customer than to keep an existing one.”  

Leffew adds that excellent customer service can help a business attract new customers, build brand loyalty among existing customers, decrease customer complaints, improve employee effectiveness and decrease employee turnover.

In an effort to help agritourism operators and direct farm marketers provide quality customer service, the Center for Profitable Agriculture is teaming up with program partners to once again offer Southern Style Hospitality seminars. The seminars will provide customer service training to business owners, managers and front-line employees.

Participants at Southern Style Hospitality seminars in 2013 said they would use the information learned to evaluate their customer service performance, review and improve customer service policies and procedures and train employees in customer service. Another participant said, “We are starting a business, and this seminar will help us implement customer service that should help us make our business a success.”

“The seminars will focus on fundamental hospitality habits that most people know but often forget to follow,” says Stacy Tomas, program developer and instructor and assistant professor of agritourism at Tennessee Tech University. “These seminars will refresh existing knowledge, provide tips for handling difficult situations and remind participants of the importance of implementing these habits to provide excellent service. Additionally, participants will leave with a notebook of resources and a customer service action plan for their business.”

While these seminars are targeted toward agritourism operators and direct farm marketers, the concepts taught will apply to anyone who deals with customers, according to Tammy Algood, marketing specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and another of the program instructors. “This seminar will include lots of interactive dialogue and activities. Participants should come ready to share, laugh and have fun while learning!”

Southern Style Hospitality will be offered in four locations: December 5 in Cookeville, December 11 in Chattanooga, December 16 in Clarksville and December 18 in Memphis. Sessions will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. local time. Lunch will be provided.

Pre-registration is required five business days prior to the seminar date. Space is limited so you are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

Tennessee Agritourism Association members receive two free registrations per enterprise, although pre-registration is still required. The registration fee for additional members and non-members is $20 per person. For free registrations, email seminar location you would like to attend, participant name(s), business name, email address and phone number to cpa@utk.edu. For paid registrations, register online athttps://tiny.utk.edu/SSH.

These workshops fulfill a TAEP requirement in the agritourism, fruits and vegetable and value-added sectors. These events are made possible through a 2013 Extension Risk Management Education Grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Southern Risk Management Education Center. Additional information is available on the CPA’s website ag.tennessee.edu/cpa or by contacting Megan Bruch Leffew at mleffew@utk.edu or 931-486-2777.

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a partnership between the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the UT Extension. The center is committed to increasing the value of Tennessee's economy through new, expanded and improved processing and marketing of agricultural and forestry products.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.