As touted in this recent Mashable article, 2015 is the “year of customer experience”. Daily new information apps and social network referrals – all available anytime and in the palm of their hands – give consumers the real power. Customers no longer silently accept produce/service glitches. And they expect immediate response to digital inquiries and complaints.
But for many small business owners, this trend can mean opportunity, and even a sustainable competitive differentiation.
For example, Apple emerged from the tech industry ashes, not just by building cool gadgets, but by taking on and improving all aspects of the customer experience. Clean, modern stores with “genius” bars replaced frustrating 1-800 calls with long waits. Defective products are often replaced immediately and without question. Software upgrades seamlessly improve and expand device capabilities. These experiences built millions of customer fans – and a new standard for the competition.
Small businesses are often closer and more connected to customers. Listening at the ground level to what customers love, and what drives them nuts, can help you look beyond your store, or product, or service to ways to improve the entire customer experience. Here are a few examples:
- Restaurant: If parking is a real hassle for diners, have quarters readily available with the hostess as well as a map of nearby garages (also available digitally so you can tweet it as response when knowing a diner is nearby.)
- Tax Accountants: Set up “collection systems” like an accordion file of receipt groups that clients need to track during the year. This will reduce the stress for customers and remind them you are there for them throughout the year.
- Hardware Stores: Focus on greeting customers as they walk in with, “Can I help you find something?” Ask them about the problem they are trying to solve and have a list of recommended service providers if the DIY approach doesn’t pan out.
I’ll conclude with a final example from Southwest Airlines. Recently I was on a flight where the flight attendant announced a passenger’s birthday. She made a crown out of peanut packs and swizzle sticks, instructed us all to push the call button (for candles) and sing Happy Birthday in unison. Talk about a customer experience!