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Lead Your Team Strategy

Personal Touches Give Small Businesses a Competitive Edge

Personal Touches Give Small Businesses a Competitive Edge
Using a personal touch gives small businesses a customer service advantage. / Credit: Welcome mat image via Shutterstock

When it comes to business, bigger isn't always better. A recent survey of U.S. consumers finds that small businesses are beating out their oversized competitors by focusing on the little things that matter most to their customers, according to research published on the website eMarketer.

The online survey by AYTM Market Research asked participants to indicate why, when choosing where to take their business, they opt for the little guy. Intimate and highly personalized service — something you're not likely to find at the average big-box store — was high on consumers' lists.

While the majority of respondents (56.7 percent) said they shop small to support their local economies, nearly as many (52.7 percent) cited personal service as their main reason for choosing small business. Higher-quality goods and lower prices also made the list, but these factors weren't nearly as important to shoppers as high-quality service.

The April 2014 AYTM survey is consistent with earlier surveys conducted by Web.com and Toluna, which found that customer service is the most important thing consumers look for when choosing which small businesses to patronize. Eighty-six percent of respondents to the sites' September 2013 survey said that they look for excellent customer service or a customer-focused environment when deciding where to spend their money. [How to Use Social Media for Customer Service]

Businesses that keep things "personal, human, intimate or face to face" were also found to be very attractive to consumers, with 84 percent of respondents listing these attributes as qualities they look for in a small business. The same number of respondents said they like going to a place where proprietors and staff know them (and what they need) as soon as they walk in the door.

A separate survey conducted by Web.com and Toluna found that the characteristic most commonly associated with small business — by consumers and small-business "decision-makers" alike — is great customer service. Respondents to the August 2013 survey said that, when they think of small business, they think about the face-to-face, "human" interactions they're likely to experience.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents considered small businesses to be "responsive" or "friendly," and 77 percent said small businesses are more hands-on and direct than larger companies.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth writes about innovative technologies and business trends. She has traveled throughout the Americas in her roles as student, English teacher, Spanish language interpreter and freelance writer. She graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. You can follow her on Twitter @techEpalermo or .

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