Why? Let me illustrate why by giving you a couple of examples of what happened to me this week:
The Small Business:
I phoned a mobile mechanic I've used before to pick up my Dad's car and MOT it. The car hadn't been driven for around 8 months, wouldn't start and wasn't taxed or insured. My dad has Alzheimer's and thinks he still drives it every day. He was upset about the idea of us taking his car off him but accepted it had to go for an MOT.
The mobile mechanic had just had his van stolen so at first said he couldn't do it. However, he found someone with a pick-up truck and organised collection (and delivery back to my house, so we didn't upset my dad further) - all without fuss. Fabulous customer service - friendly, helpful, understanding, considerate and prompt. I can highly recommend him if you want a car mechanic in Warrington.
The Large Business:
This very same week, my parents' phone stopped working. I spent 8 days trying to communicate with BT about it. It took 10 days to fix it (including being told 6 times it was fixed when it wasn't) despite it being marked as a priority because of their age. I have discovered:
- each call to BT takes about half an hour - you can have a shower, get dressed and make your breakfast while you are waiting to speak to someone
- after an engineer has worked on it, they send an automated message to say the phone line "should be OK" now. "Should"? Is it not someone's job to actually check? It would appear not.
- When it isn't OK, it takes another half hour of waiting on hold to speak to a human being to report the fault yet again (and again and again...)
- BT employs contractors on a paid-by-job basis. I've been told that when the job looks complicated, these contractors sometimes just pass it off as fixed. BT also have their own engineers and you may stumble across one eventually when your luck changes.
Why am I telling you this?
Because it illustrates the difference between how a very large company responds to customers when solving their problems and how a small one does it so much better. And quicker!
As a small business, you can respond to customer needs quickly and directly. As a customer this week, with a problem each time related to my elderly parents, I was dealt with in two very different ways. The small business stepped up and responded with a personal service, which I was happy to pay extra for. The large business? It gets worse. When I said I was worried about leaving my elderly parents without a phone line overnight, I was told quite sharply: "There's nothing to worry about". Really?! One has Alzheimer's and sometimes wanders off. One has had several serious falls. They have problems using a mobile phone (heck, Dad can't even remember it's a phone, he thinks it's a clock). How would they summon help? Wouldn't you worry?
I know everyone has real-life stories like this - which is precisely why excellent customer service really matters to people.
What can you do for your customers to make life easier for them? Easy online ordering, easy ways to contact you, quick response times, flexible approach, personal responses, extras like gift-wrapping or gift cards, sending direct to the gift recipient ... none of it is difficult for a small business, but sometimes it appears pretty much impossible for the giants.
Go on - go the extra mile. Shine out from the competition. It's well worth the extra effort and might just make somebody's day.