Why Small Businesses must stay more customer friendly?

‘The best way to delight your customers is to exceed their expectations.’ But at a time when it seems tricky enough to even understand the customers’ expectations, exceeding those remains a distant thought.

Each customer has different expectations from your business. But it also depends largely on the type of service you provide. For example, if you are providing a service for which an alternative exists, it will raise the standard of business service and also narrow customer’s zone of tolerance.

To understand customers’ expectations, a new research by University of Toronto, Scarborough, has revealed that small businesses are often held to a higher standard of friendliness. The study emphasizes that the size of a business is crucial in shaping customer expectations and behavior in various situations.

Customer Expectations from Small Business

The report says customers expect small businesses to be “more helpful, more honest and friendlier”. It says that holding such standards is a challenge for the small businesses when competing with their large counterparts. It adds that small businesses can easily win their customer by treating them with courtesy and respect. And that a good behavior will pay off and doesn’t entail any additional cost.

The study also found that customers react differently to an ill-mannered behavior based on the size of the company.

About the Research

The study is co-authored by Pankaj Aggarwal, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Management. Aggarwal says customers feel bad when a small business mistreats them because they expect that business to be warmer and friendlier.He adds, “we don’t expect larger companies to be particularly warm or friendly, so when they fail to be nice it doesn’t come as a big surprise.”

Aggarwal has labeled this behavior as brand anthropomorphism – which refers to the idea that certain companies and products are perceived to possess human traits. He elaborates that romanticizing small business is one of the traits consumers attach to a company.

The research is an interesting one as it doesn’t take in account the efficiency or effectiveness of an organization but feelings and perception of size of a company.  

Managing Customer Expectations

The companies—big or small—shall use right mix of marketing to realize the desired expectations of customers. Apart from marketing, businesses need to stay committed to perform and deliver to avoid unintended consequences

Another way to manage expectations is that the large companies may brand themselves as being smaller. This will make not only make them appear customer-friendly but ethical too. They can try the trick to brand themselves as small business but shall never aim to deliver like a small business as that will sabotage their reputation in an irreparable way.

On the other hand, the large companies also enjoy their advantage over small businesses in terms of customer expectations. They can afford to be less personal and still avoid experiencing the punishment that small companies would suffer for being less friendly and warm.