Running or starting a customer-first small business means that you base your business processes on the customer to provide them with an unforgettable (positive) consumer experience. It’s a compelling business growth strategy, even if you practice it in its most basic form. Shifting your business direction toward a consumer-centered culture takes time and money, but it adds significant value and traffic to your business.
Many would argue that by making their employees happy and satisfied, businesses can serve their clients better. To a certain extent, that is true, at least in industries such as hospitality and food service, where customers are highly focused on the quality of service they receive while they are physically located at the establishment.
However, in most industrial sectors, the customer will likely enjoy the product even in the employees’ absentia. Thus, their loyalty and perceived product value depend mainly on their personal experiences and not the treatment received from an employee. These days, becoming a customer-first small business is more of a requirement than an option. However, while putting your customers first, you still need to ensure that the staff and stakeholders are happy too.
For customer-centric mantras to be meaningful and achieve their intended purpose, start by establishing a great plan on how to execute them. This will help you reach a point where “customer first” doesn’t automatically mean “employees second.” With a good plan, you’ll effectively create customer-oriented strategies, meet your employees’ needs, and achieve your business goals.
To strike such a balance, some of the most successful companies have learned to establish their strategies as a team — making and implementing decisions that don’t only come from the leaders or top management. By doing so, employees at all levels feel like they are important to the growth of the company.
6 Ways to Become a Customer-First Small Business
We’ve provided you with the top 6 tips to help you map out a strategic plan for giving your customers the most compelling experience possible. If you believe that success comes by giving your customers the very best service, selection, quality, and value, keep reading.
1. Establish a Customer Persona
Creating a consumer-first profile is critical in creating marketing policies and practices that resonate with them. That starts by having an in-depth understanding of who your clients are. Ask yourself: “Is my consumer base filled with corporations or individual people?” Perhaps you work with brands ranging from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. Most businesses have a mix of both. Still, you need to classify them and establish a practical plan on how to handle each of them.
As a small business, you also need to think about the expectations of your ideal client. Do they prefer personalized services or clear communication channels? Are they after efficient and quick services or a more detailed approach? Are they digitally savvy or does your audience still respond well to physical branding? These types of considerations determine your operations strategy; e.g., it wouldn’t be economically viable or wise to run a 24/7 consumer help desk if your customers would prefer an engaging online FAQ session.
2. Spread Organization-Wide Customer-Centered Culture
When your clients appreciate the personalized services you offer them, it’s often a sign that your company is operating as a single unit. One thing that many people fail to understand is that a successful company relies a lot on sustainable harmony between the management and the staff across multiple departments. It’s a dynamic that compels teams to work collectively toward satisfying the customer’s needs, suggestions, and ideas and respond to them on a timely basis.
Departments that work together and understand the role of each team in satisfying the customer are the same ones that offer the best workplace.
Let everybody know that it’s all about the customers by integrating your values into the company’s mission statement. Continuously review your mission statement and your customer-first principles as they are paramount to both the short and long-term growth of your company.
3. Launch a Collective Approach
The strategy in your customer-first small business shouldn’t be limited to the sales and customer service departments. Everyone, from the IT department to human resources should be on board to become more customer-oriented. For you, that means organizing occasional training on customer service, regardless of the employee’s position or department.
Additionally, you should be rotating the staff members at your consumer help desk so they all get the chance to interact with customers and understand their needs and wants. The experience will help design the means and methods that each department needs to equip its employees with tailored customer service skills.
4. Have a User-Friendly Website
We live in a tech-savvy world, and the first contact many customers will have with your small business will most likely be via your website. Hence, it is imperative to have a user interface that they can effortlessly use and look forward to coming back to. When creating your online UI, you need to ensure that it meets the following thresholds: clarity, consistency, responsive, efficiency, familiarity, and conciseness.
Your consumers should not have to spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out how to navigate your website. On the contrary, you should offer your users at-a-glance features that direct them straight to the answers they seek. Keep it simple and only offer what’s of help to the consumer. If you have a FAQ section, ensure that you also provide contact information for easy access to the customer service team.
5. Consumer-Oriented Innovation Offers a Competitive Edge
In-house innovations are no longer viable in today’s business world. The Internet’s customer-first mindset allows you to gather critical information and responses from your clients. It’s a sure-fire means of becoming a customer-first small business and for creating a plan that focuses on the consumer. The answers you receive, whether positive or negative, are among the greatest assets you’ll have as a business manager.
The consumer has first-hand information about your products and what other people are saying about you. Social media and other online marketing platforms help you gather critical information on a timely basis which lets you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. When developing a customer-first business strategy, use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to gather ideas and designs that resonate with them. This will prevent you from being shocked if a product fails to elicit the desired reception from your target consumers.
6. Install a Powerful Emergency Communications System
You never know when a crisis will occur; however, you can create systems to help you mitigate its impact on the organization, particularly the consumer service department. A crisis communications system allows your business to address issues that may have drastic impacts on your brand. Your clients understand that you cannot avoid an emergency, but your timely response will make them appreciate your concern for their safety, values, and opinions.
Relying on customer-first principles not only saves you cash but also gives you a competitive edge against your competitors. Also, you get to gather product development ideas from the same people who have their feet on the ground: the consumers.
Establish a solid social media presence where you can create a fertile ground for generating ideas to develop groundbreaking products. When you become a customer-first small business, you usually don’t have to worry about coming up with a million-dollar idea. Why not? Because you’ll be able to rely on your consumers to develop your business operations plans for you.
About The Author: Elijah-Blue Vieau is the SEO Manager for Looka—an AI-powered logo maker and brand identity platform for small businesses. He’s an unknown multi-instrumentalist, dedicated hugger, and tree climber.