Small businesses have a huge advantage. They know their customers. Large businesses don’t. Small businesses which become large businesses forget their customers.
I wrote a while back about our extreme disappointment at our treatment by a veterinary practice. Quite apart from the excessive charges levied in the face of my wife’s and my distress, there is another underlying problem with the practice and with many other veterinary practices in the UK. They have been acquired by large chains.
What is the effect for the customer of dealing with a large chain of vets? Well, we rarely get to see the same vet twice. There is often no continuity in the case of an ongoing treatment. The usually junior vets we get to see are still learning their profession but are not used to building relationships with the animals’ owners even if we do have any continuity in their dealing with a case.
Young vets have to learn their business. Our previous family veterinary surgeon, before he sold out to the chain, always had a young assistant vet. Most of them lasted two or three years before they naturally moved on in their career progression. That meant that they had a relationship with the owners of the pets brought in. Of course we had known the senior vet for a long time, so felt we could talk to him more easily than to a business-like trainee of the current vogue who probably has developed little in the way of people skills.
Small business owners can beat the big chains simply by being there, by talking to the clients and customers on a regular basis, by perhaps visiting their premises or homes and even inviting them to celebrations and networking events. We can make them feel they belong, which of course they do.
Customers who feel they have a relationship with a business owner or with the staff are less likely to move on and are more likely to value the service they get. They are more likely to be happy to pay more for the personal touch. Small businesses can compete very well with their larger competitors because although sometimes the big boys and girls will pile high and sell cheap, there is nothing like being able to pick up the phone and talk to your supplier as a person you know.
How often with large companies must we press the phone keys for multiple options just to get through to an offer of more multiple options? Hours of our lives can be wasted hanging on the telephone.
It will be no surprise to you that we have moved our cats’ healthcare issues to another veterinary practice where we can make an appointment with any one of several veterinary surgeons we know and like, and whom we can see are really caring. One in particular has given us great advice on dealing with a problem without even prescribing a medicine. There was huge value in the advice and it was well worth paying for.
Against big business, we generally have the upper hand if we have the facilities to provide the same basic service as they do, and then add to it our personal touches and ourselves. Remember we have the advantage, and make the most of it.