Whenever we talk about small business, we usually have discussions about the user, or the customer. While “the customer is always right” is somewhat of a cliché, the good news about having a small business is that, especially with the globalizing village effect of the Web 2.0, more and more consumers seek out a very customer-centric experience, the sort of experience that a small business actively promotes. Here are a few tips for standing by your customer in every stage of your business plan’s unfolding.  

1. Don’t only encourage, but incentivize customer feedback.

Far too many businesses make a show about how they want to hear from their customers. And far too often no one listens. If you really care about your customers, make it as easy as possible for them to give you an honest assessment. The best way to do this is set up an online platform, like Twitter, in which they can air their grievances very quickly. Also, make sure to somehow incentivize honest feedback, because even if a customer wants to criticize or praise, she often won’t go out of her way to do it, unless there is an added bonus involved.

2. While the Web 2.0 is a great tool, make sure to involve your customers in the real world, too.

Don’t get me wrong; the Internet is great at connecting people. But in the world of small business, face-to-face interaction is far from being obsolete. That “personal touch” is the lifeblood of small businesses, and that is precisely what will keep our customers coming back. As such, don’t put all your faith in the Internet. Host events, charities, or giveaways so you can directly speak with your customers. Get to know them by name.

3. Before making any business decision, ask yourself the most important question.

The most important question is, “Will X make a reluctant or first-time customer come back and do business with me again?” As a small business, this question is especially important, simply because returning customers are a more valuable asset than bringing in as many new customers as possible. We don’t operate at the scale of big business; as such, keep things small and developing a faithful and strong customer base is more important than trying to wrangle a million one-time new users.  

4. Favor your most loyal customers.

While this may sound like nepotism, it is very important to make your most frequent customers feel extremely valued. This is a good idea because for one, it makes sense to reward customers that truly care about your product or service. But another reason that going above and beyond for your best customers is that they will be your best source of word-of-mouth advertising. It only takes a handful of people who give you glowing reviews for your business to “go viral” on a local level.

These are just a few ways that you can ensure that the customer is always at the helm of all your business decisions. Most importantly, be sure to place an emphasis on sincerity and empathy—these are the things that make small establishments a special part of the business landscape.


Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer. She loves receiving reader feedback.


Copyright © 2009 Small Business Resource