By Erik Welke

Small business success in the modern era has begun to rely extensively on creating a unique and amazing customer experience. Millennials and Gen-Xers have developed a preference for high-quality service and goods over quantity, and an expectation that retailers and service providers will make their interaction enjoyable from start to finish. And that’s not all – modern shoppers also expect uniqueness from their products and services, especially non-essentials. Here, we’ll discuss seven ways in which you can improve your customer experience.

1. Increase Value for Money

This is one of the easier ways to create a fantastic customer experience. You might consider switching distributors to provide higher quality products; you may choose to bundle existing products; you may even opt for a gift-with-purchase, which is becoming a popular option among some larger companies. Consider introducing a loyalty program in which repeat customers may get a percentage off their fifth, tenth, or twentieth purchase, or doing a “buy nine, get the tenth free” punch card program – which, if you’re in the food business, can be very lucrative for developing brand loyalty.

2. Do Your Research

While you shouldn’t ignore or devalue other potential clients, make sure you’re aware of who your core demographic is and what they are looking for. Monitoring your social media channels is one way to do this. Providing in-store surveys to clients, whether they purchase or not, or introducing an online survey that you can email to customers, can give you even more direct information about what your customers want – and delivering it to them will help you to ensure that a one-time customer becomes a repeat customer. Consider sites like SurveyMonkey for online surveys, or TemplateLab for printable survey forms for your storefront.

3. Utilize Technology

Social media is just one aspect of the digital world of tools that can benefit your business. Consider implementing a mobile pay system that includes Apple Pay, Android Pay, or even PayPal options; or using a JAK card swipe extension that plugs into your smartphone or tablet, whether in-store, for trade shows, or on-the-go transactions if you happen to be traveling. This not only makes for easier payment for your customers, but it compiles all your data from point of sales in one place – making organization a lot easier come tax season.

Your contact list – which we’ll discuss next – can be managed by a service like MailChimp, which can assist you in marketing via email when you introduce a new product, discount, or service; or, when you introduce a new loyalty program like the ones we just discussed.

4. Develop a Contact List

Developing a contact list should be one of your top priorities. Whether you do this via social media, an in-store mailing list signup, or an opt-in channel via social media, your contact list should always hear it first when you introduce a new product, you’re running a sale, or anything else of interest to loyal buyers. Anyone who opts into your mailing list, whether via signup sheet or online interface, is enthusiastic about what you have to offer and will want to hear about what your business is up to.

5. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

While business owners have to wear a lot of hats on a day-to-day basis, it’s important to accept that you have limitations – and the more your business grows, the greater the likelihood that you’ll be able to do everything yourself. Consider delegating your business marketing to a social media coordinator or marketing director, a virtual assistant, or hiring additional staff or consultants so that you can focus on what got you to start your business in the first place.

6. Avoid Pessimism

Drops in the economy are always hardest on smaller companies, but don’t despair (and if you do, don’t let your customers see it). Effective management can help you weather through the leaner years – and there will always be those! Maintaining a positive tone in both your personal dealings with customers and across your social media channels will maintain your audience – and while you may make less money during those economic ebbs, you will maintain your loyal audience by continuing to be engaging and positive, rather than driving them away with pessimism – key to any small business’ longevity.

7. Keep Tabs On Social Media

Many small business owners make excuses for why they don’t need social media or don’t bother to maintain it, but these business owners won’t last long. Much of the business world has moved online, and your customers, current and future, expect that you’ll have social media channels for them to plug into. Social media serves not only to help market your business, but to proliferate your potential audience through post sharing, reblogging or retweeting, and it also allows current and past customers to share reviews of your products or services. Posting regularly will keep your audience paying attention to you, and it will also help you address any of your customers’ needs, concerns, or complaints directly and publicly.

While these are just a few examples of things you can do to improve your customers’ experience, each of them will impact your business in a big way. Consider starting with two or three, and work your way into implementing all of them – and watch your business grow into profits and longevity.