7 ways to nail your customer experience as a small business

Customer experience is about avoiding complaints, not handling them. Here’s how to get your customer experience spot on.

If you look at the agenda of any major business conference these days, you can be sure to find a talk (or a whole talk track) dedicated the engineering and delivering outstanding customer experiences. Businesses agree that it’s one of the few lasting differentiators that will bind customers to you.

In short: Get your customer experience spot on, and there shouldn’t be any complaints to handle. Instead, you might need some extra manpower to sift through all that positive feedback.

But that’s easy for big companies with access to advanced analytics, staff and oodles of customer data.

As a small business owner, you have to use a little more creativity. Here’s how to hone your customer experience with limited resources.

The little things

You might have the perfect product. But what if the ‘order now’ button on your website is sluggish, or a potential client can’t find a parking space when they come for a meeting?

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we’re often focused on the bigger picture. But it’s all those little dots and brushstrokes that make it look lovely—and that, if neglected, can turn everything into a big old mess.

Pay attention to the logistics and boring stuff or, if it’s really not your bag, delegate.

Think like a customer


Sometimes, it really does come down to basics. You know your product or service inside out, right? Take a step back and think about the service you would expect as a customer. What would make you come back? What would make you smile and perhaps feel a little special, as the best customer experience can? 

On the flip-side, what would make you tear your hair out/slam the phone down/vow never to contact your company again?

Making a regular habit of assessing (and reassessing) your customer experience will help you stay in that customer mindset, and could help you anticipate any potential problems or issues.

Call in a few favours

Customer research needn’t eat into company funds. Rope in friends, colleagues and family members to scan your website, try out your app or order a product.

It may not be the most scientific research. But recruiting few extra pairs of eyes—and getting some fresh opinions—could reveal something you’ve missed.

Data matters

Here’s the science bit. Many big companies dedicate huge chunks of their budget to getting their customer experience spot on. In an article for Gartner, analyst Lizzy Foo Kune talks describes how customer journey analytics, or CJA, “attempts to understand how individuals and customer segments interact across channels, over time”.

But what if you don’t have a huge budget, or the time to dedicate to this complex process? You can still create a comprehensive picture. Collate information from email lists and repeat-purchase patterns. Engage with customers on social media. Or consider issuing a short, anonymous, customer survey.

Invest in inbound marketing

We all want customer loyalty and repeat business. We need it to survive. Having an amazing product helps. But it’s more than that.

It’s about what your brand means to potential customers. That’s where inbound marketing comes in: building a brand that draws the right customers to you and associates your business with the product or service you’re offering.

Even with limited resources, you can hone your brand voice and image through social media posts and customer outreach—regular newsletters, for example.

“Inviting customers to connect on social media or share their feedback with a simple email can help them feel personally involved in the business,” small business expert Pam Slim told Retail Customer Experience.

Bring in an expert

Going in blind could do more damage than good—it’s easy to go overboard with customer engagement, for example, which can be off-putting.

Know your limitations. If your personal Instagram feed is better curated than the Tate Modern, great! You should ace your business’ social media overhaul. If it’s all blurry pics of your cat, however, it might be worth hiring a specialist.

It’s about time, too: hiring a contractor means you can prioritise, rather than spreading yourself too thinly.

Flex your business model

Customers want more, and rightly so. That means adaptability is one of your biggest assets.

The good news? Smaller businesses can be far more agile than their heftier counterparts. Having fewer overheads, staff and capital investments should make it simpler to respond to changing needs and demands.

This is where leasing, rather than owning, makes sense. Rather than having one room for client presentations and customer research, consider sourcing bespoke spaces when needed via a service like Vrumi (and save on unnecessary rent). And Zipcar for Business members have on-demand access to fleet of vehicles.

Being petite also means you can offer a more personal, bespoke service. You could even go old-school by picking up the phone and talking to your customers. That’s who all this is about, after all.

Matt Farrelly
Matt is our Head of Zipcar for Business and spends a lot of his time thinking about how we can deliver a better future, of more sustainable business transport in our cities. The rest of the time he's likely to be found either with his head in a book, playing tennis or continuing his attempt to break the world record for weekend Netflix binges.

Date published: 5 April 2019

Other Articles

Frances McMonagle

How a diversity and inclusion policy will help your business grow

The more diverse and inclusive your team is, the more likely your company is to be successful – and benefits go beyond bottom line, to areas like recruitment and retention. Find out why, and how to implement diversity and inclusion policies in your own company.

Read more
Frances McMonagle

Why managing cash flows is so important for small businesses

Cash crunches are one of the key issues that face small businesses on a daily basis, which creditors to pay when, and managing it correctly can be the difference between survival and going to the wall.

Read more
Frances McMonagle

How to find the right employees for your small business

There comes a time in the journey of every small business when there is just too much work for one person and a succession of interns. And it is at this point that expanding the team is necessary, but how do you make sure you choose the right people?

Read more