4 Secrets to Serving Small Businesses Well

Nowhere is customer care more important than at a small business. 

Retaining small business customers is key to your bottom line. Attracting new customers is about five times more expensive than retaining a current customer. Not only do happy customers give your staff less grief, but they also give your company positive reviews and refer you to friends and family.

But there’s a wrinkle here: If your company targets small businesses, you should know your customers have different needs than their enterprise counterparts. To meet their expectations, you have to tailor your customer support to those needs. 

Here are four ways you can set up your customer support to serve small businesses:

1. Know their pain points.

Small businesses have very different pain points than corporations. Those pain points stem from their goals.

Enterprises want to grow by becoming efficient, cutting costs, and allocating their budgets well. They analyze solutions on how they fit into their long-term goals.

On the other hand, small businesses want to develop scalable processes and generate revenue. They look for solutions that demonstrate a high return on investments and have short time-to-value ratios.

What that means is that, unlike their enterprise counterparts, small businesses usually don’t have much time or money to experiment. They’re working very hard to establish their companies, which means they need fast and effective solutions to their problems. 

For example, a small business 401(k) plan will have far different needs and expectations than a 401(k) plan for larger enterprises. A pain point for these small businesses may be integrating the account with their other tools and getting it set up. They might expect more help in that area because they have a smaller team and won’t have a dedicated employee to handle that.

2. Make the CEO happy.

Another key difference between corporations and small businesses is who makes the decisions.

With enterprises, buying decisions require an average of 6.8 stakeholders’ consensus. However, 98% of small business buying decisions are made by the CEO.

To retain small businesses, you really just have to win over one person: the CEO. But it’s a double-edged sword: If you give that CEO bad service even once, it’ll make a bad impression with the one person who has the power to leave you.

Put extra effort into building rapport with the business owner. Learn her name, talk through her goals, and explain how you can help her company grow. It may be worth designating a point person to work with the CEO.

Another consideration is the CEO’s preferred method of communication. Omnichannel approaches to customer service are increasingly effective because people have different communication preferences. Learn whether the CEO prefers phone calls, emails, or screen sharing on a video call.

3. Focus on quick wins.

Small businesses are often still trying to establish themselves. They don’t have a lot of time or resources to invest in long-term experiments. They often need immediate solutions to their problems so they can achieve profitability.

In other words, they need quick wins. For example, if a small business uses payroll software, customer support can migrate employee data on day one. Self-service can immediately give the CEO hours of time back per week. That’s an immediate load off a small business leader’s shoulders.

Keep checking in with the CEO as her company grows. What she sees as a win may change when, for example, payroll costs become a bigger burden than the time investment.

4. Listen first.

When their business is the smallest one on the block, many leaders don’t feel heard. Show that you’re truly paying attention, not just waiting until a bigger client comes along.

There are a lot of ways you can do that:

  • Survey them after each service session.
  • Recap their feedback in a follow-up email.
  • Mention the latest updates to their blog or social media pages.
  • Compliment them on the progress they’ve made since your last call. 
  • Practice good conversation skills, like asking questions and not interrupting.

Listen well, and listen often. Customer expectations may change over time, but being heard is one that almost certainly won’t. 

Small businesses aren’t one-size-fits-all customers. But if you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to a slate of satisfied small business customers.