Small business owners face so many challenges that it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most fundamental competitive advantages, “being easy to business with.”
You may have heard the joke, “common sense, so rare it’s like a superpower,” I argue the same for ease of doing business. Being easy to do business with should be a small business super power for your company and a point of difference you can highlight as a competitive advantage.
Why is a customer friendly experience important? I can explain it with three words, the cable company.
Negative customer experiences, time consuming customer service support or the too common automated endless voice prompts can all leave your customers frustrated and feeling like the company is just hard to deal with.
In small businesses I have found it is often just not getting the customer an appropriate response in a timely fashion.
When a customer gets frustrated by the normal course of dealing with your company, they will often begin looking for alternative suppliers of your product or service. Ultimately being hard to deal with will cost you customers and sales.
Being easy to do business with has many names in the public square; customer centric, customer friendly, customer focused, customer experience, easy to deal with, ease of doing business, etc. The various descriptions all boil down to the customer’s experience and how easy you are to do business with.
As your business grows, it often becomes more complex. Some of the challenges are simple math. More employees can mean more phone lines, more voice mailboxes, more email inboxes and more internal conversations without customer involvement. You’ve added capabilities and capacity so the additions bring more complexity as an unintended consequence. Unintended doesn’t have to mean “bad” unless you fail to recognize that there is a developing consequence.
Whatever the source of the threat to your business remaining simple and customer friendly, be aware that the threat is ever present and requires your diligence to stay easy to business with.
Five Elements of Being Easy to do Business With
1. Simplify Processes
One of the best ways for small businesses to become customer friendly is to simplify processes. Make it easy for customers to find information about products, services or support when needed.
Your web site? Be sure your products and services are easy to understand. Are all of your important contacts easy to find? Your web site should be optimized for mobile devices as a large segment of the population relies upon smartphones for contacting suppliers and searching for support.
Provide clear and concise instructions on how to contact the appropriate party in your business. Sales, customer service, technical support… whatever your customers are looking for, they should be able to easily call, email or text the right person.
Automating support with ChatBots or other automated tools is ok for frequently asked questions but should not be used as a firewall against reaching a human voice.
Be sure that your process to reach to the right party for a given customer need is clean and tight.
Offering customization can help a small business stand out from your competitors. Customers appreciate a business that offers tailored solutions to their unique needs.
Offering custom solutions can help the buyer feel a personalized experience. One on one consultations, accepting special instructions or bespoke packaging can all serve to show how you value your customers and are willing to go the extra mile to meet their needs.
In more technical products or services, custom solutions can demonstrate added value by being more accurate with your technical offering for the customers unique problem.
Applied properly, technology can be a strong asset for small business customer service. A few examples include quote generating software, service writing applications and on- line booking systems.
Quote Generating Software and Service Writing applications will provide a menu of options you can use to create customer quotes and proposals if far less time than writing out proposals long hand. You have options to include images or specifications that support the quote and deliver an easy to follow, professional quote very quickly.
On-line booking systems can allow your customer to see available appointments and book their preferred time without any fuss and receive a confirmation calendar notice in seconds. My old-fashioned barber shop uses this tool to perfection; I’ve delighted in seeing a guy with scissors and apron put technology to such fitting use. They also offer me a glass of whiskey at every cut as a nice personal touch.
4. Focus on Customer Service
While technology can be a very helpful tool, it should never replace the opportunity for human interaction. Be sure the customer can reach a human if they feel they need to. Excellent customer service is one of the most influential factors in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Small businesses must prioritize exceptional service at every touchpoint of the customer experience.
There are several foundational requirements for extraordinary customer service. Knowledgeable employees, friendly employees, willing employees and the tools they need to serve the customers.
Knowledgeable employees means you need to provide training and resources to find answers. You hire and coach friendly, willing employees. You identify and acquire the tools your employees need to serve the customers; some tools you create yourself and some you have to purchase as the budget allows.
5. Be Transparent
Transparency is key to building trust with customers. Small businesses should be open about their pricing, policies and procedures. Hidden fees, unclear terms or contracts and confusing charges can be frustrating for customers leading to a loss of trust and loyalty.
Small businesses should be upfront about any relevant information that may impact customer’s purchase decision. Examples include unexpected charges, product availability, delivery schedules or other issues the customer not anticipate.
Being easy to do business with is crucial to the sustainable success of a small business. Reviewing your business across the five elements listed above will likely help you identify some opportunities to improve how your customers feel about doing business with you.
Being easy to do business with is not a given for any company. You have to check yourself and constantly nurture the elements that support a positive customer experience if you want to be assured of customers that enjoy doing business with you.