It’s not easy being a small business owner. Some may think you’re on easy street. You get to be your own boss and do what you want–what could be better? But we all know that’s not the case.
A lot of stress and worry comes with being a small business owner. The last thing a small business owner wants to do is take out more small business loans while struggling financially. You have to worry about inventory, bills, and most importantly, making enough to turn a profit each month.
One of the most important factors in turning that profit is your customers. After all, they’re the reason you stay in business. Their support allows you to continue doing what you love. Without them, you’re not living your dream. But what makes you different from any other business out there? What makes your place the place your customers want to keep coming back to? Well, I’m here to tell you how to make sure they do just that.
My family started a restaurant business long before I was born. My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe with hopes of living the American dream, and they did. My grandmother’s American dream was a restaurant that would then be bought by my mother almost fifteen years later. It’s still in business today after 33 years.
Would you believe me if I told you that in those 33 years, my family had customers stick with us the entire time? It’s true–there are people who have been coming in and seeing my adorable grandmother (who still works there with my mom) for 33 years. Even when my mom bought the business and moved locations, those same customers followed the restaurant. My mom picked up my grandmother’s ideas and now she has customers coming to see her for the 18 years she has owned it.
Customers come in and rave about my mom and grandma. They gush about how much they love stopping by for a meal because they feel special, like they’re a part of the restaurant. So I realized, from a young age, the importance of making sure your customers want to come back to your business, time and time again. I started thinking about all the ways my mother and grandmother made their customers want to keep coming back, and here they are.
Be Kind to Your Customers and They’ll Be Kind in Return
This first one sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, you’d be surprised. We all want to be kind, but there are days we just don’t feel like we can be. When you own your own business and you work with people, feeling kind is the only option.
I’ve watched my mom go into work after being up all night in the ER with me, after she lost someone she loved, after she ran all over town helping our family with things and barely sat down for an entire day. She’s gone into work tired, hurting, and sad. But she never shows it. No matter how she feels on the inside, she greets every person who walks into her door with a huge smile and a voice full of warmth.
People notice that. They notice that every time they come see her, she’s got a smile to share. And it makes them want to keep coming back.
Make Sure Your Customers Feel Taken Care of
I hear this one all the time. When people go to a larger chain, they’re not getting that personalized service that comes with a small business. The truth is, more often than not, a large chain doesn’t need one person’s business.
If you’re unhappy with something, they’re not going to put as much effort into making sure the issue is resolved. When you're running a small business, each and every customer matters. Making sure your customers are taken care of, their voices are heard, and trying your best to correct your mistakes are great ways to keep them coming back.
Remember Your Customers Names, Faces, and Likes
The look of joy on a customer’s face when they walk in the door and know you remembered them is priceless. They smile wide and their eyes light up. There’s just something about walking into a place and they already know your name. Cheers said it best, didn’t it? We just want to go where everyone knows our name.
I understand it’s impossible to always remember everyone’s name, but if you notice a customer repeatedly coming in, maybe make some extra effort to learn their name and what they enjoy. Trust me–they will feel amazing knowing they’re bringing their business somewhere they are known and appreciated.
Investing in Your Customers’ Lives and They’ll Invest in Yours
I know small business owners have a lot on their plates. Business gets stressful and we all have our stressors and anxieties in life. But if there are customers who you know you see often, or you know their name, try and take the time to get to know a little more about them.
I always watch my mom talk to her customers about their lives. She asks about their family or their kids. She cries with them when a loved one passes away. She celebrates with them when their child is accepted to college or they receive a promotion at work. She is invested in their lives, and it makes all the difference. Customers want to come in and eat just so they can tell her what’s going on. They know she’ll listen, and they know she cares.
At the End of the Day, It’s All Worth it
These tips aren’t over the top or excessive. They’re just simple ways to make your customers feel special and appreciated. They work–I promise. I’ve seen it first hand my entire life. Putting in that little extra effort and following these tips is a sure fire way to keep your customers coming back for years to come.
Alexandra Arcand writes for Loans.org and loves being part of the small business community