Smaller companies are often touted as having better customer service than their larger competitors, something I've found to be mostly true. When you have fewer clients, you can devote more time to communicating with them.
Quality customer service is undoubtedly important. Still, it can be difficult to rationalize how it trumps being able to offer lower prices or a more recognizable name. Quality customer service doesn’t directly bring in more revenue, at least, according to its traditional (and therefore criminally vague) definition. The average person probably associates the term “customer service” with helping frustrated customers solve technical problems or answering relatively simple questions. This is just one small part of what is actually a complex responsibility. You could legitimately argue that the kind of people who are really, really good at what is commonly known as customer service have what it takes to accomplish just about anything.
What Is Customer Service?
In one way or another, anyone who speaks to clients/customers is a customer service representative. In bigger companies, the employees who respond to communication are of a relatively low level. In smaller companies, on the other hand, a lot of employees (if not all of them) perform some sort of customer service task. In fact, some small businesses offer customer service nearly 24 hours a day. Many small business employees speak to clients/customers on a daily basis.
Small businesses clearly rely on customer service significantly more than their larger competitors. What’s the big deal?
It's More Than Just Following Protocol
Constant communication with customers/clients makes you a professional at what is arguably the most important skill someone could possibly possess. There isn’t a definitive name for it (at least in the English language), but it’s best described as the art of dealing with people. Every industry deals with different types of people. You have to know how they think, what kind of tone they are most receptive to, what they like to hear, what they don’t like to hear, what they actually need to hear, etc. It sounds difficult because it is. You have to sound smart and confident but not condescending or pretentious. You have to sound excited and passionate but not inauthentic or melodramatic.
Then, there’s the content of your communication. Sometimes, you don’t know the answer or must report bad news. How you handle yourself in either situation can make or break your career.
You Can’t Help If You Don’t Care
As the CEO of an alternative business financing company, our main competitors are banks, which are not known for their quality customer service. They usually do not give their clients the impression that they actually care about their businesses and want to see them succeed. Most of the questions they ask are about numbers, as opposed to getting to know their clients on a personal level.
My team displays a genuine interest in our clients’ businesses, since it’s impossible to effectively solve a problem if you don’t understand the nature of it. For us, customer service means having the patience to dig deep and speak to clients like human beings.
Bridging Knowledge Gaps
Even though my company’s clients are business owners, we are well-aware that many of them are not exactly business-savvy. They started their careers to help people, not to grow a small business. But if they are seeking a business loan, they need to learn the different options available to them as well as how to manage their finances. It is up to companies like mine to carefully educate these hard-working business owners and walk them through unorthodox repayment processes.
What’s another name for that? You’ve got it: customer service.
If You Can Communicate Well, You Can Do Anything
The more customer service you observe and perform yourself, the more you begin to realize that courting and keeping customers/clients is all about the right kind of communication. Industry-related knowledge is obviously essential, but your boss and star co-workers wouldn’t be where they are today without their ability to relay this knowledge in a manner that their customers/clients usually appreciate. These skills are mandatory for countless occupations, from stockbrokers to sports agents to marketing managers. You can learn industry-related information by reading a book. On the other hand, you can only master effective communication through years of experience. It’s what separates the junior employees from the senior employees as well as your industry’s winners and losers.
The Origin Of Small-Business Confidence
Since small businesses have the capabilities to handle more customer service interaction, their leaders and team members are more likely to become expert communicators. Those who perform the most and best customer service outreach could probably talk their way out of many traffic tickets! This is where many small businesses get their confidence and why they believe they can compete with virtually anyone.
So, when small businesses rightfully claim to have better customer service than big businesses, they are not just referring to the amount of communication they handle. They are also referring to their level of communicative expertise and the number of employees who are on that level. This expertise ensures a positive future, partially by making everything that’s stacked against small businesses seem less important. Natural disadvantages won’t matter when that game-changing meeting or phone conference finally arrives.
Big Advantages Deserve Acknowledgment
Employees of small businesses should therefore recognize their ability to spend more time talking to customers/clients. If you speak to them daily, always remember: Your largest competitors aren’t doing this. And the next time a customer/client gets upset or asks what appears to be a “dumb” question, don’t blatantly dismiss their concerns. That’s what big companies do. Your response must show that you have internalized their words and that you value their business.
By Jared Weitz