Small business customer service is the critical piece that all small business owners must get right. It’s a vital component that empowers small businesses to stand toe-to-toe with larger brands with much deeper marketing pockets. By delivering exceptional customer service, small businesses can level the playing field, particularly in scenarios where they might not be able to compete directly on price.
Customer service is the lifeblood of small businesses. It’s not just about handling emails or solving problems; it’s about creating memorable experiences that can turn first-time customers into lifelong customers. In a world where big brands often dominate the market with aggressive pricing strategies, small businesses can carve out their niche by offering personalized, attentive, and legendary customer service.
The power of small business customer service lies in its ability to humanize the brand so customers feel like they’re doing business with a person instead of a company. It’s about understanding the customer’s needs, exceeding their expectations, and making them feel valued. This level of service is often hard to find in larger brands, giving small businesses a unique advantage when delivering service.
Small businesses may not always have the capacity to compete with big brands on price, locations, or product inventory, but they can compete—and win—when it comes to customer service. This is the secret weapon of small businesses, and it’s reshaping the competitive landscape of both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers.
One of the most compelling advantages of small businesses is their ability to offer personalized and tailored experiences. In a small business setting, customers are not just another number or line item. They are recognized customers, greeted by name, and their preferences are remembered. This level of personalization is a drastically different experience and contrast to the impersonal nature of transactions with larger corporations, and it’s a difference that customers notice and appreciate.
Building strong customer relationships is a key area where small businesses shine over big brands. They have the opportunity to interact with their customers on a more personal level, understand their needs, and respond to their feedback in real time instead of following a script or path from the corporate office. This close relationship fosters trust and loyalty, turning customers into advocates for the business in their communities.
Small businesses are also known for going the extra mile for their customers. Whether it’s staying open late to accommodate a customer’s schedule, placing a special order a hard-to-find product, or simply offering a caring ear when a customer has had a bad day, these businesses are often willing to do what it takes to ensure customer satisfaction.
The old saying “people buy from people” is particularly true in the context of succeeding as small businesses. Customers appreciate the human connection they experience when doing business with smaller companies. They value the personal touch, the friendly service, and the feeling of being appreciated. In a world where big brands often feel distant and impersonal, the human-centric approach of small businesses can be a powerful differentiator.
While small businesses can use their size to offer personalized customer service, they also face unique challenges. One of the most significant is the limited finances compared to larger brands and retailers. These resources aren’t just financial; they also include time, labor, and technical capabilities. This disparity can make it difficult for small businesses to provide the same level of service as their larger counterparts.
Another challenge is overcoming the perception of inferior service. Despite the personalized attention they can provide, small businesses sometimes struggle against the assumption that bigger is better when it comes to service. The reality is that as big brands move to AI-driven tools, it’s going to be easier and easier for small businesses to shine on service.
Despite these challenges, technology offers a beacon of hope while retaining a human touch. Many point of sale systems designed for small businesses are bundling in a loyalty program, CRM functionality, and analytics. These tools can automate routine tasks, provide valuable customer insights, and enhance communication, allowing small businesses to compete with big brands in the realm of customer service and delivering personalized service. In the end, it’s not just about the size of the business, but the size of its commitment to its customers.
While TextExpander is a great tool for streamlining customer communication with its Snippet usage, there are several other tools that small businesses can leverage to enhance their customer service workflows and experience. These include Help Scout, Zendesk, Zoho Desk, and Freshdesk. Each of these platforms offers unique features designed to help small businesses deliver exceptional customer service and keep customers coming back month after month.
Help Scout is a great customer service platform that helps small businesses manage their customer interactions in a personalized way. It offers features like shared email inboxes, which allow teams to manage multiple email addresses in one place, and Help Docs, which let businesses create a searchable knowledge base to help customers find answers to common questions.
Zendesk is a customer service software that provides a range of tools to improve customer engagement. It allows businesses to interact with customers through email, chat, phone, and social media from a single platform. It also provides robust analytics and reporting tools to help businesses understand their customer service performance.
Zoho Desk is a fantastic help desk solution for medium size businesses that helps them provide more personalized customer service. It offers features like help ticket management, automation, and monitoring of email, social media, etc.
Freshdesk is a customer support software that offers customer tickets, automation, and reporting. It also provides a knowledge base and community forum that allows businesses to build a self-service portal for their customers so they can get the help they need immediately.
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In the area of small business customer service, efficiency and consistency are key. This is where tools like TextExpander can be a game changer for small businesses looking to compete against big brands. TextExpander is a tool that allows teams to fly through repetitive tasks quickly by expanding the things they type regularly. Using Snippets for frequently typed text, a business owner can speed up the time it takes to respond to customer inquiries while also presenting a human touch! These Snippets are always accessible with a quick search or abbreviation, saving valuable time and ensuring consistency in communication.
The same principle applies to talking with customers on social media. Whether it’s responding to customer inquiries, posting updates to Facebook, or engaging with comments, small businesses can use TextExpander to streamline their social media management. By using Snippets for common posts, responses, or hashtags, they can maintain a consistent voice and message across all platforms.
Updating website content is another area where TextExpander can prove invaluable. Whether it’s updating product descriptions, updating policies, or writing blog content, TextExpander can make the process quicker and more efficient. By using snippets for common phrases or sections of text, small businesses can ensure that their website content is always up-to-date and consistent.
TextExpander is not just about speeding up typing, though. It also allows for customization, with features like fill-ins and optional sections that keep the human touch in communication. And because it can be used on any system, any device, and within any app, it’s a versatile tool that can adapt to any small business’s needs without the need to hire an IT department to set it up.
In essence, TextExpander empowers small businesses to compete with big brands in the realm of customer service. By streamlining repetitive tasks and ensuring consistency in communication, it allows small businesses to focus on what they do best: building strong relationships with their customers.
Improving small business customer service is a multi-step journey, but there are a few key strategies that can make a significant difference right away.
First, small businesses should focus on building customer loyalty and advocacy. This goes beyond providing excellent customer service. It’s about creating an experience that customers love so much that they can’t help but to talk about it in person and on social media. This could be through a loyalty program, personalized sales, or simply by going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations. A good example here would be a wine retailer ordering a special brand for a loyal customer. The goal is to turn customers into advocates for your business, as their word of mouth experiences will do more than any advertising campaign
Differentiating from big brands through personalized service is another effective strategy. As mentioned earlier, small businesses have a unique advantage in their ability to offer personalized service that big brands can’t match. This can be a powerful differentiator in a market dominated by big brands. By knowing your customers’ names, remembering things about them, and getting to know them personally, you can create a customer experience that big brands can’t match.
In 2023, customers expect quick responses and resolutions to their inquiries and issues. Waiting 2-4 business days isn’t going to cut it. This is especially true for small businesses, where the quality of customer service can make or break the customer’s experience. Here are some strategies that small businesses can employ to meet these expectations:
- Use the right technology tools: Tools like TextExpander can help small businesses manage customer messages at the speed of light. These tools can automate routine tasks, provide valuable customer insights, and enhance communication, allowing small businesses to respond to customer inquiries quickly and effectively.
- Set clear expectations: Let your customers know when they can expect a response and then deliver on those expectations.
- Prioritize responses: Not all customer inquiries are created equal. Some require immediate attention, while others can wait. Develop a system for prioritizing responses to ensure that the most urgent issues are addressed first. You don’t want a negative experience festering for days on end.
- Train Your Team: Make sure your team is well-trained and equipped to handle customer communications. This includes training on your products or services, as well as training on how to communicate effectively with customers. Everyone is in the business of customer service.
By prioritizing quick response times and resolutions, small businesses can improve their customer service experience and build stronger relationships with their customers.
One of the most exciting examples of small businesses competing with big brands comes from the world of independent bookstores. In an industry dominated by Amazon for many years, indie bookstores are not just surviving, they’re thriving in 2023. A case in point is the story of Brookline Booksmith, a bookstore that has outlived its large competitors by focusing on their local community.
According to Ryan Raffaelli, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, the return of independent bookstores is driven by three key reasons:
Indie bookstores are heavily invested in their communities and have been instrumental in promoting the ‘shop local’ movement. They know their customers. They know the books are likely to be popular in the community. They’re creating a community—not just a bookstore.
Jamie Fiocco, president of the American Booksellers Association and owner and general manager of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., reinforces the importance of community for independent bookstores. She mentions that every bookstore really has to understand about their community and how they can carve out a living by being there and being a part of the conversation.
The resurgence of independent bookstores is a shocking twist in the narrative of small businesses competing with big brands. It’s almost as if we’re seeing a real-life sequel to the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” In the original film, the small bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character is driven out of business by a large chain bookstore owned by Tom Hanks’ character. But in our sequel, it’s the small, independent bookstores that are thriving while the big chains struggle to keep up. Sure—it’s hard to compete on price, but customers are looking for more than just rock-bottom pricing.
Maybe it’s time for “You’ve Got Mail 2: Shop Around the Corner Strikes Back.” In this sequel, it’s the small businesses that come out on top, proving that with the right approach, they can not only compete with the big brands but thrive.
In the hit TV Show “The Office, Robert Californa had an excellent quote:
Let me tell you how I buy something these days.
I know what I want, I go on the Internet and I get the best price.
Or, I don’t know what I want, and I go to a small store that can help me.
The era of personal service is back. You are back.
You’ll find that customers will pay our higher prices and then they will thank us. And we will say to them, you are welcome.
Small businesses are back
The importance of small business customer service is key to surviving in 2023 and beyond. It’s the secret weapon that allows small businesses to compete head-to-head with big brands with deep pockets. By delivering exceptional, personalized service, small businesses can carve out their niche in the market and community while building strong, loyal customer bases.
But it’s not just about delivering great service. It’s also about doing so efficiently and effectively. That’s where the right technology stack comes in. By leveraging tools like TextExpander, small businesses can create faster, smarter workflows. These tools automate routine tasks and streamline communication allowing small businesses to focus on what really matters: delivering exceptional service to their customers—wherever they are.
Small businesses have unique strengths and advantages that big brands can’t match. Leverage these strengths, equip yourself with the right tools, and focus on delivering the kind of customer service that only small businesses can. In doing so, you’ll not only compete with the big brands— you’ll outshine them.