It used to be that the bigger your business was, the more advantages you had, because all of the so-called advantages to be had – like paid advertising – cost real money. But things have changed. Consumers, senses bombarded and saturated with paid advertising, are now skeptical, savvy and wary of anything that sounds like a sales pitch. Today, small businesses have a distinct advantage when it comes to convincing consumers to buy from them, setting the stage for not only customer satisfaction but word of mouth referrals; and here it is.
The biggest advantage your independently-owned business has in terms of maximizing customer satisfaction and stimulating word of mouth recommendations is your small size.
Why? (I’m glad you asked!)
Your smallish size puts you into the position of being able to – as they say – turn on a dime in order to do what it takes to improve the overall customer experience (and increase customer satisfaction), and it gives you the ability to make exceptions to your own rules in order to provoke word of mouth marketing by surprising your customers in the course of doing business.
- You have the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions, implement new techniques, improve your processes and procedures, respond to demand and cater to your customers in ways that bigger, procedure and rule-bound businesses can’t.
- You have the ability to address customer complaints and requests with complete customization, and turn potential dissatisfaction into positive word of mouth marketing.
- Making exceptions or improving your customer experience in order to “wow” your customers doesn’t require the filing of paperwork and waiting for permission.
- What’s more, there aren’t layers of bureaucracy between the decision makers and customer demand. You have the ability to get first-hand information from your customers in order to make improvements, bring in new products or services or change the way your business provides the goods or services it sells.
Here’s the million dollar question: Are you?
Are you taking advantage of this aspect of your business – truly listening to what your customers want and then acting on what you learn? If not, it’s an advantage that’s being wasted, and it’s costing you customer satisfaction, word of mouth referrals and buzz in your community.
Customers expect your business to set and follow procedures, and nothing that occurs in the course of normal operations is likely to get your business any buzz. It’s what occurs in their customer experience that is unexpected (in ways that are both positive and which are meaningful to your customers) that result in word of mouth recommendations and customer referrals. Case in point, my favorite microwave popcorn and my local grocery store.
A box of microwave popcorn costs 6-7 dollars, right? So this isn’t a high-ticket item, nor is it by any stretch of the imagination a need. And since there are several major brands to choose from in any one grocer’s aisle, you wouldn’t think that it would matter so much that my personal favorite (Pop Secret Jumbo Pop Butter Flavored microwave popcorn) disappeared from the shelves of all of the grocery stores near my home.
And I know this, because I looked. Because, no offense to you if you prefer another brand, flavor or variety, this one happens to be the best.
So one day while paying for my groceries, the cashier (who happened to be an assistant manager) asked, as they always do, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
I responded with a negative, noting that they no longer carried my favorite variety of microwave popcorn, and that no one else seemed to locally, either.
He said, “We’d be happy to order it for you.”
WHOA! What was that?
I thought what was on the shelves was what they had, and all they would offer. But no, he assured me that they could simply order a case and have it there within a day or two. He said they’d call me when it arrived. And they did, and he did, and two days later I was walking out of the Lake Tapps, Washington, Top Food grocery store with a case of my favorite microwave popcorn, feeling like the most important person in the greater Seattle region – all because my local grocer did something unexpected, providing me with value over and above what I believed their business could offer.
What’s more, now every time I go past or into that Top Food grocery store, I remember that act of above and beyond-ness. I remember how extremely satisfied I felt, as a customer of that store. And I’ve told the story at least 10 times.
Do your customers know that you can exceed their expectations every day? Do your employees? Do you empower your employees with options that give them the ability to immediately respond to customer wants and complaints in order to solve problems or demonstrate to customers that they truly are your number one priority?