When it comes to providing value to customers, size isn’t everything—personalized service is.
Personalized service allows small businesses to differentiate themselves larger competitors. It gives small businesses a powerful competitive edge in an age when consumers expect a high level of attention and responsiveness.
Your position at the “front lines” of your business gives you direct access to your customers’ needs, attitudes, and opinions. You know the kinds of products or services they want, when they want them, and how best to deliver them.
To gain these valuable insights, you need to proactively assess what you do and should be doing to keep customers coming back, rather than tempting them to try the “big store” down the street.
Start by putting yourself in your customers’ place. How would you like to be treated if you were a first-time customer or a “regular?” Also consider conveniences. What can you do to make it easier to find items and check out, rather than having to navigate a big-box store’s aisles and cashier lines?
Visit other stores and service centers, including those unrelated to your business. See what they do that you find appealing, and adapt those practices to enhance your business.
How you connect with customers by phone or email will also help differentiate your small business from the sometimes bureaucratic nature of big-box chains. Answer calls promptly and with a friendly greeting. Avoid putting callers on hold for longer than a minute; take a message and respond as soon as possible. If you use an automated answering system, your customer service line should be one of the first options.
Don’t let email inquiries them sit for too long. Make sure the text is upbeat and friendly—again, the kind of message you’d want to receive. Designate certain times during the day to handle email queries, or assign the responsibility to an employee.