If you think about it, small businesses have always been the masters of customer experience. In fact, what is labeled “customer experience” in larger companies is actually just how many small businesses do business. It’s not about a separate department or inventing a new way to operate. Many small business owners obsess about customer experience because it’s directly reflective of who they are as people and the brand they are creating in their community. Small businesses are relationship-based. Creating personal, relevant relationships is often something that’s closer to their heart than bigger businesses.

What's labeled 'customer experience' in big organizations is just how many small businesses do business. Click To Tweet

If you want to do more to put your customers first or just need a few reminders, here are five tips.

1. Respect your customers

Your business exists and you have revenue because of your customers. They see enough value in what you offer to pay you their hard-earned money. It’s a very cool relationship. At the heart, however, is respect. In a recent article Dharmesh Shah said, “You better really love your customers.” Couldn’t agree more!

2. Be empathetic

If you truly respect and value your customers, cultivating empathy is the next step. If you’re not speaking with your customers frequently, make it habit. Always working to understand their perspective and circumstances is key to your success and growth. Seeing things from your customers’ shoes helps give rich context to improve problem solving and idea generation. Our very own customer success expert, Robert Nelson, shared his advice: “Be patient and understanding without sounding cookie cutter. No one likes talking to a scripted response. Be relatable and be there for them.”

Working to understand customer perspective and circumstances is key to your success and growth. Click To Tweet

3. Be generous

If you have an abundance-based approach to life, the same applies to business. Being generous to your customers means giving them value, time, expertise and service. Being generous doesn’t mean you have to slash prices or give your time away for free. It does mean being generous in your relationship with your customers instead of cutting corners.

4. Surprise them (in a good way)

I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t had a surprise negative customer service experience. Not fun! Please don’t be one of those businesses. What are some of the ways you could go the extra mile for your customers? Maybe it’s a hand-written thank-you card (yes, snail mail). Or, maybe it’s a friendly tweet just to thank them for being a customer. Many of my favorite businesses always surprise and delight me.

Every time I bring a few items to my dry cleaner, the lady at the front desk always knows my name. She always greets me with a great big smile and asks about my day. It’s so rare to be greeted with a genuine smile and someone who knows my name. I don’t care if there are other, less-expensive dry cleaners in the area. I’ll never go anywhere else.

5. Speak with them on their terms

If your prospects, leads or customers reach out to you, it’s because they need something. They might need your product or service. They may need to make a purchase. They might have a question, idea or concern. Whatever it is, they need you and you have something to offer. Don’t make them jump through hoops to get to you. If they can’t reach you by phone, make it easy for them to send you an email, tweet, or a live chat message. Customer engagement and communication is critical. They are a source of innovation for your business, but if you don’t meet them where they are you might miss out!    

Great customer experiences are not a one-time event. Great relationships between customers and businesses are built over time and through many engagements. It’s really a wonderful, powerful thing.

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com