It’s National Small Business Week, which is always a great time to reflect on the passion of small business owners and their ability to know their customers better than anyone.  Of course, delivering an exceptional customer experience is never easy, despite all of the advice you hear:  “Under promise and over deliver.” “Deliver a ‘wow’ customer experience.” “Give everybody the white glove treatment.” It’s challenging to provide customers with the type of experience that turns a stop-by visit into a long-term customer relationship. One that inspires customers to engage you on social media and give you five stars on Yelp.

Contrary to what you might believe, you don’t have to move mountains to create the kinds of customer experiences that have them referring their friends to your business. Here are five small improvements that will ultimately make a big impact.

1. Try to always have a live, knowledgeable person answer the phone in less than three rings. Since your first foot forward is your best foot forward, you want to be sure customers are greeted by a friendly, informed voice that actually belongs to a person. For those times when someone’s not available to answer the phone, be sure that all calls returned on the same day.

2. Invest in on-going training for yourself and employees. Incentivize staff to know your products or services inside and out so they can share shortcuts and immediately troubleshoot issues. Equally important is training them on the softer skills such as listening and defusing customer frustration. Along with demonstrating your expertise, which always boosts customer trust, on-going training also heads off complaints and lowers the likelihood of returns.

3. Offer free workshops to customers. Make a list of the questions you’re most frequently asked and develop free educational workshops around them. This will keep your business top of mind every time customers put your good advice to use. Also, if you want to get more mileage from the workshops, post the tips in your newsletter or on your website.  Or record the classes and put them on YouTube with a link in your newsletter and on your Facebook Business Page.

4. Anticipate what customers need before they ask for it. A simple example is the customer who buys a can of paint and doesn’t realize until he gets home that he also needs brushes and drop cloths. You can avoid these types of situations by engaging customers to find out the reasons behind their purchases and making thoughtful suggestions that will help them quickly accomplish what they’ve set out to do.

5. Personalize the customer experience. You can elevate your service by providing customers with things they don’t even know they want or need until the options are presented to them. A simple gesture can go a long way, such as calling attention to services included their membership that they aren’t using.

Here’s a good example from a thriving artist. He delivers and hangs his paintings in customers’ houses, letting them borrow them on a trial basis to see how they work in certain rooms. He then allows them to pay for the art they choose over time.

If you think about the ways that customers use your products and services and what holds them back from making a purchase, you’ll come up with all sorts of creative ideas to deliver personalized customer experiences that inspire them to say yes and enable you to stand out from your competitors.

So much of a great customer experience is about the processes you put in place behind the scenes. When customers know that you really understand them, and that you measure your success by their satisfaction, you’ll build the type of business they rave about online and to their friends.


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