How Small Businesses Can Compete With Big Businesses

Consumers know they can find just about anything they need on They can compare products, place an order, and receive their item quickly – sometimes, on the same day. Small retailers just can’t compete with that kind of efficiency, but they do have some advantages over large corporations.

Online and big-box retailers often fall short of customer expectations when it comes to providing friendly and helpful service. Small businesses that make excellent customer service a priority can gain an edge over their larger competitors.

What Customers Want

A survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that about 90 percent of respondents had experienced an irritating customer service interaction in the previous year. Most complaints were about the inability to resolve an issue with a phone call, specifically:

  • Unable to find customer service number to call
  • Unable to reach a customer service representative
  • Transferred to a representative who was not helpful or was incorrect
  • Long hold times
  • Disconnected
  • Phone tree navigation requires too many steps or doesn’t offer the right options
  • Repeatedly asked for the same information
  • Proposed solution was useless.

The article about these complaints on the Consumer Reports website is followed by several comments from readers, detailing their frustrating phone calls with large companies. Businesses of all sizes should keep in mind that people often share online their opinions about their interactions with businesses.

Making a Good Impression

Answering the phone promptly and handling calls professionally is just one way small businesses can make a good impression with customers. These are some other ways small businesses can build a reputation for excellent customer service:

Follow up – If and when customers have a complaint or concern, managers should follow up to make sure the issue was resolved. Calling or emailing customers to ask about the resolution of an issue is a good way for businesses to build customer loyalty.

Reward loyalty – Large companies often offer rewards programs, and there’s no reason small businesses shouldn’t do the same. Small businesses can offer simple perks, like punch cards that, after a certain number of purchases, result in a free offer or discount.

Ask for referrals – Small businesses should give satisfied customers an incentive to share their opinions publicly. For example, businesses could ask customers to write a review on the company Facebook page in exchange for a chance to win a prize.

Interact with customers – Far too many small businesses set up social media accounts but then fail to acknowledge customers who attempt to interact via those channels. Businesses should monitor social media and respond to or acknowledge any mentions of their company name or any comments from customers.

Be personable – The Consumer Reports survey found that customers were irritated when salespeople were rude, pushy, condescending, or ignored them. Small businesses must ensure that face-to-face interactions between employees and customers are positive.

Starting With a Solid Foundation

Small businesses should have policies that are easy for customers to understand – such as how customers can return a product, and whether they can expect a full refund. When policies are unclear – or non-existent – customers may become frustrated.

If you need help in developing policies for your small business, talk to the attorneys at Lusk Law, LLC. We have provided legal counsel and representation to entrepreneurs in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you need legal advice for your business.

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