submitted by Deron Johnston
The single most important factor that determines whether someone will support your business or not is trust. Even if there are significant price differences from one business to another, cost is not THE determining factor when it comes to where people spend their money. No matter how inexpensive a business may offer their goods and services, people still need to feel that they can trust you and your business.
In many ways, small independent businesses (SIBs) are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to building that elusive trust compared to large corporate businesses or chains. SIBs simply don’t have the resources to do what their corporate cousins can do. For example, SIBs can’t throw money at their problems to make them go away and can’t insulate decision makers from accountability for those problems. With SIBs, the decision-maker is often the one providing the customer service or is standing just a few feet away. Being at such a disadvantage, how can SIBs build the trust required to compete with the corporate world? Consistency
People like to know what to expect when they interact with a business. In the corporate world, they use templates for almost every aspect of their operation to make everything look and feel the same. However, they also have a much larger number of employees which means that customers could interact with a different person (manager/full-time/parttime) every time, which invariably leads to a different level of service experienced by the customer.
SIBs can provide a higher level of consistency in service. By having less employees, customers see the same employees more frequently, allowing SIBs the opportunity to build stronger relationships with their customers faster as familiarity grows. This also allows SIBs the opportunity to quickly determine how best to meet a customer’s service expectations.
Corporate businesses understand the importance of accessibility when it comes to consistency and creating trust in their customers. If they rely on foot traffic to help produce their revenue, they will often have extended hours of operation to convince people that they will be open when they need them. These hours will often remain the same from year to year and no matter what is happening around them. This often translates to a feeling of security that no matter when I need them, they’ll be open or available.
Typically, SIBs can’t match these hours. What SIBs can do is adjust their hours to when their customers are available to visit. As well, avoiding changing their hours of operation will help to build trust. SIBs can also help build trust by being open when their publicly posted hours say they’re open. Closing early is very frustrating for those who find locked doors when they should be open, no matter the reason. Emergencies happen and they disproportionately impact SIBs, but if you close early, inform customers that you’re closed, and by providing a reason for the closure, customers are more likely to be sympathetic.