Growing a business is about making connections with customers. Over time, those connections may evolve into relationships, which is how you earn a customer’s loyalty.
But establishing those initial connections takes work — all businesses must compete for a finite amount of attention from customers. “With so many channels through which customers communicate, it seems like creating a powerful and memorable customer experience is more complicated than ever,” customer experience advisor Shep Hyken says.
That said, it can be accomplished with a little ingenuity and creative thinking. These eight small businesses have found ways to embrace this evolution and build memorable customer experiences.
Belleville, Ontario-based Burger Revolution is built on the premise that local customers want companies to foster a sense of community. That’s why the restaurant partners with area farmers and local vendors to supply all of the food it cooks.
Burger Revolution’s local supply chain includes companies like Enright Cattle Co., whose family-run farm puts an emphasis on sustainable food production, and The County Bounty, which makes limited-edition runs of its artisanal sodas just for the burger company.
The brand then engages customers on social media to make them feel as though they, too, are partners in this business. The restaurant has a comment board where customers can leave sticky notes, and then the social team calls out the best comment of the day with a special post online.
Motawi Tileworks’ positions itself as a partner for its clients. To underscore that positioning, the company uses its website to showcase its projects and highlight do-it-yourself designs.
Motawi’s DIY Projects page is a great tool for customers who need inspiration for designs. For customers who aren’t sure of their style and taste, this is a nice touch that helps them to envision the right design for them.
For those who still have trouble pulling a look together, the company also offers design services that partner customers with design specialists. Both of these services take some of the pressure off clients to create a perfect design, which in turn brings the fun back into the browsing and shopping for gorgeously-designed tiles.
Retailer turnerboone does more than simply sell workplace furniture to commercial customers. The company’s founders, Ellen Turner and Laura Boone, built the company to grow via a relationships-not-sales model. It’s a point of pride for Turner and Boone that their company can provide thoughtful, personal customer experiences.
A personal touch can be rare in their industry. Imagine a newly expanded hospital whose facilities team needs to outfit its brand new waiting room. The facilities team will have no trouble finding furniture dealers ready to offer quick, cookie-cutter installations. Turnerboone, however, customizes the design and installation of each project, and the team manages those projects with detail-oriented precision. This includes delivering regular sketches of the planned space, tagging and tracking each delivered piece of furniture, and ongoing maintenance after the installation is complete.
The owners themselves get hands-on with every project and dedicate no fewer than seven support staff to work with each client. This gives turnerboone time to sit down and truly listen to each client’s design challenges. Boone gives Forbes’ Rob Dube an example of what these challenges can look like: At big companies like Apple, executives encourage team members from different departments to constantly bump into one another, interact, and share ideas. Boone sees this as a design problem and will help such clients create common spaces that nudge colleagues toward serendipitous meetings.
Avid4 Adventure, a company that creates summer camps for kids, is the culmination of founder David Secunda’s vision of giving kids a way to learn to love outdoor activities and educate them on how to take care of the planet.
Summer camps are an interesting business from a customer experience standpoint because the parents or guardians paying for the service aren’t the ones enjoying the service. Avid4 Adventure understands this, and staff members take time to talk to parents about what their kids are doing at the camp, Secunda tells Boulder Lifestyle.
This includes a daily discussion about what a child struggled with and where the child found success. Imagine a child who excels at team activities like rowing, but might lack the confidence in individual activities like rock climbing. The team will note both, report back to the child’s parents, then look for ways to build up the child’s confidence in activities that require individual fortitude.
Inclusivity is another important aspect of the customer experience at Avid4 Adventure. Some of the company's efforts to build a welcoming community include removing financial barriers that keep the less-privileged from attending outdoor camps. These initiatives open the experience up to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access.
While the ten-year-old company’s core business is selling lunch boxes, EasyLunchboxes goes the extra mile to show customers different ways they can pack healthy, hearty lunches.
EasyLunchboxes’ website and Pinterest account has thousands of packed lunch ideas for inspiration. There is also a YouTube channel where customers can see videos of lunch packing tips and ideas. These include tutorials on packing a week’s worth of school lunches for a child and tips on organizing food to maximize the space available in each box. Each and every tip intends to show the customer how they can maximize the use of the company’s products.
By sharing so much more information than simply how to buy the products, EasyLunchboxes has become a go-to resource for customers on all things having to do with packing a lunch.
Tapping into feelings of nostalgia can help businesses connect with customers. That is exactly what Chris Ruder did with Spikeball, a reimagination of a beloved lawn game from the 1980s.
Forbes reports that in the beginning, Ruder sent a personal note to every customer. He received letters back detailing those customers’ passions for the game. He even received photos from soldiers in Afghanistan. These customers felt a personal connection with Ruder through a shared love of the game.
Customers are so happy that they have taken Spikeball to the next level, with tournaments now happening around the globe.
Malibu Family Wines in California doesn’t offer your typical winery tour and wine tasting. It takes the customer experience to the next level with a number a different Malibu Experiences.
Customers can go on an adventurous wine safari, where they ride in an open-air vehicle past zebras, camels, alpacas, bison, and several more creatures you don’t expect to see at a Southern California winery. Adventurers stop along the way to taste different wines and enjoy the scenery.
There’s also a wine hike where customers get to trek through the winery’s estate and sample different wines along the way. And for customers who would rather just escape and relax, there is the Salvaje Malibu wellness retreat, where customers can practice yoga or book sound healing treatments.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that make the biggest difference for customers. Tanzanite Jewelry Designs in Crown Point, Indiana, understand how much a simple “thank you” can mean to a customer.
The company has an app that automatically sends a postcard to customers four weeks after they’ve made a purchase. The postcard includes a brief note of thanks and a coupon that customers can use for their next purchase. The company saw the opportunity to stand out from the competition and make a lasting positive impression on customers by simply taking the time to say “thank you.”
Though they all take different approaches to building world-class customer experiences, each of these small businesses nails it by understanding what their customers want, need, and expect. It’s all about putting the customers first and creating experiences that make the company unforgettable to the consumer.