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How small businesses improve the consumer experience

Small business is big business. Though it's easy and not necessarily inaccurate to associate small businesses with Main Street, small- and medium-size companies are players in the international trade arena as well.

A 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau found that small- and medium-sized companies comprised 97.6 percent of all identified exporters and 97.2 percent of all identified importers.

Small businesses can compete in both the domestic and international trade arenas for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the experience they provide for their customers. While they may not have the marketing muscle to compete with large corporations, many small businesses have perfected the art of providing top-notch experiences for their customers by embracing several strategies that make consumers feel appreciated.

Improved customer service

Nearly every consumer has had to contact a retailer or service provider regarding a purchase at one point or another. Contacting a large corporation can be a difficult experience for consumers, who often must answer several telephone prompts before they can be connected to a human being. Small businesses typically do not ask customers to clear such hurdles before they can get in touch with an actual person. That makes the process of contacting customer service less time-consuming and aggravating and more enjoyable for customers.

Responses

Small businesses are in better position to respond to negative experiences or reviews, particularly online reviews, because they have fewer customers than large companies who field hundreds if not thousands of complaints per day. Studies have shown that customers appreciate responses from businesses they patronize. A 2018 online reviews survey from Review Trackers found that 53 percent of consumers expect a response to negative reviews within a week of posting their reviews and are disappointed when they do not receive a response. Unfortunately, the same survey found that 63 percent of reviewers have never received a response to a review. Small businesses are in a unique position to respond to online reviews, and providing such responses can turn a potentially negative consumer experience into a positive one. What's more, because online reviews and responses are public, prospective customers can read a company's response and know that owners want their customers to have as positive an experience as possible.

Personalization

Many large companies won't customize their products, as their financial success is typically rooted in how effectively they can scale to thousands of customers per day, if not more. So large companies have less incentive to work one-on-one with customers. Small businesses are not beholden to scale, which gives them the flexibility offer more unique products, including customized items.

The consumer experience is often more customer-friendly with small businesses than large corporations. That well-earned reputation is just one of many reasons why small businesses are thriving in today's economy.

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