Small businesses in small towns have a lot of hurdles. It truly is much harder to succeed at running your own business than it is to be an employee.
And small businesses depend on the goodwill of their customers so much more than the big ones. Especially in small towns, gaining repeat customers has so much to do with your customer’s experience.
The fact is that you cannot compete with big box stores on price. If you’re trying to, you’re surely making your work so much harder.
In reality, you have to blow people out of the water with customer service. And there are some super easy ways to do that.
Let me explain.
Convenience is key
This isn’t the 1990s anymore. Having a modern, mobile-friendly website is absolutely necessary, and it isn’t expensive anymore. Even if you don’t want to do it yourself, getting someone to do it for you is much more affordable than it used to be.
But the cost of not having a website is even higher.
If your website is not mobile-friendly, difficult to navigate, or has broken links, your customers will be turned off. If you make a bad impression, they may be annoyed and go somewhere else.
Your website needs to make finding the information and booking an appointment as simple as possible. I know I’m not alone when I get annoyed that I have to call to find out more information or book an appointment.
So often I’m doing my research and planning outside of normal business hours. And with all the means of electronic communication and booking, there’s really no reason I should have to call.
Here’s an example:
I went to a website to research birthday party ideas for my son. He wants an airsoft party, so I found a place nearby on google and went to their website to check it out.
The homepage of their site is hard to read, there are several fonts and colors, and none of them are linked to the appropriate topic. So I had to search through their menu, to find more info on birthday parties and see examples…but the link was broken.
So then I had to go to their Facebook page to see pics and read reviews. I wanted to ask for more information so I sent a Facebook message. Their autoreply said to call as they don’t respond to Facebook messages…..but they’re closed for 2 more days.
Super inconvenient. Bad customer experience.
Take all forms of payment
As I mentioned before, this isn’t 1990. You need to make payment for your services as convenient as finding out more info about your business.
Don’t make me jump through hoops to send you money.
Yes, writing a check is jumping through hoops. I don’t know where my checkbook is…I haven’t used it in 2 decades people. Come on, how many of us under 50 (60?) years old carry checkbooks anymore?
And don’t charge me for using a credit card.
Nothing ticks off a customer more than having to pay for your service fees. Credit card fees are a cost of doing business. Build it into your pricing structure instead of charging a fee.
If you are charging credit card fees, it’s telling your customer that you’re either broke or stingy. You don’t want to be either one of those things.
Set boundaries, maintain balance
Small business owners need to walk a fine line. Being convenient and accommodating to your customers does not mean you get no privacy or alone time.
Never project an air of annoyance about having to deal with a customer. Your customers are your livelyhood.
Answering Facebook messages isn’t an inconvenience if it means gaining a new paying customer. Raising your prices by 3% so you can offer the convenience of online credit card payment isn’t a big deal.
In my experience, owning a business is a 24 hour/7 day a week job. If you’re looking for a part-time job with 3 days off, then don’t start a business.
But if you want to become successful and grow your business year over year, make sure that your customers always come first…or at least to them it seems like they do.