For Small Businesses, Customer Service is Everything

For Small Businesses, Customer Service is Everything

For small businesses, customer service can mean the difference between success and failure. Here's how to win and keep customers

Rick Cundiff

If you’re a small business owner, you know how competitive your industry is. You know you need to stand out from your competitors, whether they’re local shops or nationwide online retailers. So what’s the most important asset to build customer trust and loyalty in your brand?

You’re probably expecting me to say “promotional products,” here, right? After all, we are a company that sells custom promotional products. But that’s not quite right.

The most important asset to help your business survive, thrive and grow is customer service. Over the past 20 years, that’s been our secret at TJM Promos. We do our best to give the people who buy our products the best customer service they’ll encounter anywhere. Our success is a perfect example of what great service can do for any small business.

Buyers Want More than Just a Low Price

Consumers today are better informed than ever before. They can easily find out about the products or services you offer with a tap on a screen. They can compare prices, features and options fast. You might think a low price would win out every time.

While it’s true some customers shop only for price, it’s not the only factor for most people, especially when dealing with a local business. They want a good product at a fair price. They like to support their hometown businesses rather than anonymous corporations far away.

But you need to give them a reason to support you. You can’t just expect them to take or leave what you’re offering. If, however, you offer value in the form of a superior experience, they’ll go the extra mile to buy from you – sometimes literally.

A Case in Point -- Surly Sewing Service

For example, my wife’s sewing machine recently needed a routine service and adjustment. The only local sewing machine shop is about 10 minutes away from our home, so I called them.

The woman who answered the phone sounded like I was interrupting her very important project. She was clearly not interested in me or my needs.

I asked what the shop would charge for a routine tune up. She wouldn’t say, telling me they would have to get the machine in and “see what’s wrong with it, and see what parts it needs.”

I told her there was nothing wrong with it, and it just needed a routine annual service.

She responded that the price would depend on whether the machine was a simple mechanical one or a more complex electronic model. I told her it was a plain mechanical one.

She continued to refuse to quote a price. She couldn’t tell me how long the service would take. I kept asking questions, and she finally, grudgingly, told me their service appointments started at $90.

A Different Shop, a Different Experience All Together

Hmmm. What else is possible? Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I found another shop about 45 minutes away. I spoke to someone who sounded cheerful, friendly and interested in my needs. She freely gave me a price, and said it would take two weeks or less.

Guess which shop got my business? The distant shop had the machine running like new in less than two weeks, at a price slightly lower than the local shop’s service rate.

Of course, that doesn’t count the added time and transportation cost to get there. But I know which shop we’ll go back to when my wife’s ready to trade in her sewing machine on a $2,000 computerized model. And I certainly know which one I’ll recommend to others.

What are the  Aspects of Good Customer Service?

We all know good customer service when receive it. But what exactly are the key components that make for a positive experience?

As the example above shows, good customer service is:

  • Responsive. Show the customer you value their time. Respond promptly to emails, phone calls or walk-in customers. Act on concerns or problems quickly.
  • Personal. No one wants to be treated as “Customer Number X.” We want to be recognized as unique people, with unique needs. A smile, a warm greeting and using the customer’s name breaks the ice, and encourages a positive experience.
  • Empathetic. Whether you’re selling a product or a service, you are there to solve a problem for a customer. Find out what that problem is. It’s not always what the customer thinks it is.
  • Knowledgeable. This is an important part of solving the customer’s problem. You need to know which product or service will best solve the problem. If you’re selling a product, it’s especially important to know all of the features of that product and how they can benefit the customer.
  • Professional.  It’s crucial to remain courteous and respectful to the customer at all times, even when dealing with dissatisfied customers. A little courtesy and patience goes a long way.

Benefits of Positive Customer Service

In addition to increased customer loyalty, great customer service also can:

  • Improved Brand Awareness – Word of mouth is powerful. Online reviews can lead new customers to your door.
  • Protected Customer Relationships When Mistakes Happen Even the best businesses have glitches every once in a while. Products are defective, or don’t arrive on time, or don’t arrive at all. If your overall reputation for service is good, customers are much more likely to overlook such errors and remain loyal. Remember too, online reviews are everywhere today. Bad reviews can damage your reputation and cost you prospective customers.
  • Improved Employee Morale and Retention Everyone wants to work for an employer they can be proud of. Establishing a good reputation with your customers helps your employees take pride in their work, which in turn can create better customer service.
  • Increased Customer Lifetime Value When a customer trusts your business, it increases customer lifetime value (CLV), or the total revenue you receive from that customer. Positive experiences keep customers coming back, whether for supplies, replacement parts, accessories or new products. The longer they keep coming back, the more revenue you gain from them.
  • Competitive Advantage Positive customer service can absolutely give your business an edge over your competitors. Especially for small businesses, it gives you the ability to compete with larger entities on a more even footing. People want the personal touch that proper customer service can provide.

What Customer Service Means to Us

It really all comes down to the word service. That’s the basic mission for any business large or small. At TJM Promos we do our best to provide outstanding customer service. We strive to respond to customer inquiries promptly and cheerfully. We take a genuine interest in getting to know our customers and their needs, and we do our best to resolve concerns or issues quickly.

Over the past 20 years, our customer service efforts have paid off with a successful business and a strong, loyal customer base. There’s really no mystery to it. Your business can do the same thing. Just follow the steps listed above and your business can compete with any other.

If you’d like to find out more about how our success can help you succeed, feel free to call or email us. We’d love to show you how our products, and our customer service, can make your business better.

Rick Cundiff

Rick Cundiff

Content Director, Blogger

Rick Cundiff spent 15 years as a newspaper journalist before joining TJM Promos. He has been researching and writing about promotional products for more than 10 years. He believes in the Oxford comma, eradicating the word "utilize," and Santa Claus.