Putting Customers First
October 19, 2023
Owning a small business today can feel like David facing down Goliath, with the popularity of retail brands like Amazon and Walmart. However, if there’s one strength that small businesses have to compete against the convenience of online shopping or the ubiquity of big box retailers, it’s their ability to provide attentive, personalized customer service.
While all businesses seek to ensure all their customers have a positive experience, small business owners have the advantage of being able to get to know each and every one of their customers personally. Social media has made it easier than ever to communicate directly with consumers and cultivate brand loyalty. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool to grow your business, and happy customers are your strongest advocates.
Here are some tips for how you and your employees can leave the right impression with your customers.
Make it Personal
While it may be challenging to grow a business with a small customer base, you can use this to your advantage and spend more time getting to know the customers you already have. Big brands cannot possibly know their millions of customers personally. Small businesses, on the other hand, have the ability to learn each customer’s name, understand their preferences, and go the extra mile to create a personalized experience each time they walk through the door.
For example: a pet groomer could send reminders to their clientele when it’s time to trim their pet’s claws, with a link to set up an appointment. Employees at a coffee shop could keep track of its regulars, greet them by name and be sure to ask if they’d like their usual order when they walk through the door. Personalizing the experience strengthens your relationship with your customers and conveys that loyalty goes both ways.
I’ve already mentioned how social media is an excellent communication tool for your business. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms allow you to set up business profiles where your customers can follow you to receive regular updates, letting them know when their favorite product is back in stock or announcing upcoming sales and events.
Social media also allows customers to reach you directly with questions or feedback, allowing you to respond quickly to their needs. Just make sure you maintain awareness of how the things you or your employees post on social media reflect upon your business.
Invest in Your Employees
One thing small business employees will often hear when answering the phone is how happy the customer is to be speaking with an actual person. Most national brands maintain such a high call volume that they have opted either to outsource their customer support or have switched to a completely automated customer support line.
You need to make sure each of your employees is well-versed in your products and has the necessary skills to meet your customers’ needs. Because you have so few employees, each one of them is vastly more important to you than they would be working for a larger business. While this means you should be very selective with your hiring, you should also invest in proper training for each employee. Train your employees in customer service best practices and quiz them on frequently asked questions about specific products or services. A small business is only as strong as its weakest link.
Each employee should be knowledgeable to the point that you feel comfortable leaving them to their own discretion when handling customer issues, rather than requiring you to be on-hand at all times. Employees who understand all aspects of your business can provide personalized service and quickly meet a customer’s needs. Moreover, it shows a level of respect that can motivate them, as they feel like they contribute more to the business.
Listen to Your Customers
The best way to improve your product or service is to listen to what your customers have to say about your business. A customer is more inclined to do business with you if they feel like they are being heard. Proactively reach out to customers for comments and provide them with an outlet to submit constructive feedback, whether through a follow-up email, phone call, or even just a public request for responses via social media.
Make sure your customers know when and how they can reach you. Provide clear information on your hours of operation and contact information on your website. You should also make sure you are accessible wherever your customers are. If you have customers trying to reach you via Facebook Messenger, for example, make sure you are monitoring that channel regularly, so you don’t miss a message.
It's a competitive world out there, and every little bit counts when it comes to succeeding as a small business. Think creatively about how to implement your customer service strategy; small businesses can only get ahead by setting themselves apart. Personalizing customer service, using technology to reach your customers, training your employees to be knowledgeable, and listening to your customers are basic ways your business can build a loyal customer base and succeed.
New Tripoli Bank is proud of how we put our customers first each and every day. If you’re looking for help planning a growth strategy for your small business, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced lending team. We have years of experience helping small business owners achieve their financial goals.
Kate Hart-Zayaitz is New Tripoli Bank's Chief Lending Officer and Senior Vice President. Kate has spent many years working for various community banks in our area. She was born and raised in Emmaus and has been involved with multiple banking and economic organizations throughout the Lehigh Valley.