Lately I read a great article in Forbes that tries to answer the question “Why you need to support small businesses?” (check it out here). We can read there, e.g.: “When you consider how many small businesses surround you in your everyday lives, it is impressive to think about the amount of time, commitment and labour these hard working individuals contribute to make their businesses both come to life and stay alive.” This is the best conclusion why you don’t need to ask IF you should support small businesses, but HOW to support them. Because the answer for the first question is clearly “yes”. Although, it is not easy to have a small business when there are big corporations around us. And, let’s be honest, many times customers choose the last ones. So how small businesses can increase they organizations to encourage more clients to choose them instead of big supermarkets or mainstream corporations?
As we can read in point 3. in Forbes article: “Customer service is more personalized, hands-on and noteworthy from smaller businesses”. This is totally true. Smaller organizations are mostly more flexible in their customer service. But you can always make it better. Because big companies have also some advantages like help centres that you can call 24h/day. So that’s why small businesses should focus on the flexibility in the customer service and use special tools to make it more available for their clients. Of course you won’t afford a whole help centre that is never closed, but you can show your customers that they can turn to you every time and make clear and easy policy in this sector. You can use a special chat to make the customers see that you want to have personal, immediate contact with them. If you offer delivery, you can think about smoothing to increase the effectiveness of it. It can be difficult because small businesses mostly can not control deliverers, as they are from another courier firm, but you can try to make a delivery process as quick and clear as possible. You need to remember to have a clear organized data with addresses. Nothing is as annoying, as getting your package, opening it and getting a wrong order.
Of course everybody knows that shit happens, so don’t be naive – it will happen to your company too. That’s why you need to take a close eye on your compliment processes. If a client is pissed off, you don’t need to frustrate him or her more. That’s why you should make an easy, clear compliment form, that can be sent to you and then you can respond quickly. If the compliment will be realized quick and with out pain, the customer will be favourable to your business. “Yeah, they sent me a totally different thing, although I’ve written my address in bold, but hey, they made things right in one day and sent me a bonus with a note and smiley face, how can I be mad on them? We’re only humans!” And that’s how you solve things out. And this is a big advantage in your business, because you show your customers, that they are treated individual and respectfully. In contrast, in big companies, they are just one of the 1000 people, that are complaining on something, so they need to wait for they turn, and actually nobody cares. Use that against big firms and increase your customer service by using special tools and apps that can help you do all that stuff that I wrote about above.
As we can read: “Smaller merchants have the same access to vendors as big box stores do, therefore if you need an item and it’s not available in their store, it’s likely they can get in touch with the vendor right away and try and order it for you right away.” As you see, this right away in italic is a key word here. And it means literally right away. In the epoch when you can order something for another country and get it in 4 days the speed is super important. That’s why you need to be in a permanent contact with your suppliers.
The customer orders the product form your company because he or she hopes that it will be faster. So you can not disappoint him or her. In that case it is good to have a process template specially for those cases that you can use many times. It will be also a good sign for the suppliers because when they’ll see such a form, they will know that you need something right away.
You create a form that contains what product do you need and in what time you need to get it. You send a notification to the supplier who has to fulfil the condition, is the product available and is it possible to send it in such time. If all conditions are fulfilled, you get the notification and then you can send an email to a client that the product will be delivered to him or her in x period of time. If not, you get the information about it and search in another magazine or ask the client if he or she can wait, e.g. 2 more days.
Product diversity and options
„When you walk into a local business, – as Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle writes further in her article – you are often surprised by the inventory options. This is to a customer’s advantage and is among the many reasons to frequent your local stores more often. And remember – just because a big box store is just that… bigger… doesn’t mean they have more to offer.” This is possible because small businesses can cooperate with many suppliers. Further more, you don’t need to have all the product that you sell on your stock. As you read in the previous paragraph, you can bring products from the vendors, when there is such a need. This can be your big advantage, because the customer knows, that he or she is treated very personally.
It is also good to use chat in a contact with the suppliers, because you can get in touch with them very quickly and get to know is product available. You can use a chat to contact with your customers in that case too, as I wrote in the part about the customer service.
You may not always be small…
As Leinbach-Reyhle notes, the fact that you now have a small business, doesn’t mean that it will be small forever. “Another interesting point to consider is that small businesses do not always stay small – such as Ben & Jerry’s or Ralph Lauren. Both began as just dreams filled with a tremendous amount of hard work, long days and tired nights. Today, they are among the most recognized brands in our country.” This actually is tempting and many small business owners dreams to create a beginning of a new brand. But still, you should remember, that there is a good learning form small companies, even when your firm grow. This thing is a process approach and flexibility, that are used in small businesses more often. But nowadays it seems like a process approach isn’t something associated only with small businesses. Big companies are looking more and more favourably to a horizontal integration and process approach in a contrast to a vertical approach.