Ask Dave #1: What small businesses can learn from homemade chips and salsa.

I’ve always envisioned Friction Fixer incorporating an occasional “Ask Dave” feature: people asking me questions about customer experience, marketing, design, accessibility, or other related topics that are critical to success in modern business.

Well, I’m thrilled that I’ve received multiple questions, and the first is a perfect topic for my first article of 2021:

“As a small business with modest resources, how do I effectively assess and manage my customers’ needs in order to give them quality customer and user experiences?”

This is such a great question, but it also poses a dilemma because of the two most important words in the question:

Modest resources.

The problem is, the closely-related fields of Customer and User Experience (or CX and UX, for short) are inherently multidisciplinary. That’s why massive companies will hire hundreds or even thousands of well-paid professionals with diverse backgrounds — researchers, strategists, marketers, designers, software developers, and more — all making their own unique contributions to the company’s CX and UX efforts.

Meanwhile, in most small businesses, time and money are in short supply (especially now in the midst of COVID-19). The big companies may hire thousands of people, but a small business is lucky if it has $1,000 to spend on its CX and UX efforts.

That’s a massive disconnect. So what’s the answer?

Honestly, given the expansive nature of CX and UX, and the enormous diversity of small businesses, it’s difficult for me to answer today’s question in a single article. Doing so would turn it into a small book.

But that’s a good thing! What makes this question so great is that it has the potential to lead to multiple future small business-centric articles here on Friction Fixer, and other helpful offerings from Deedub Inc. From customer research to digital transformation, the possibilities are endless.

So, to the person who asked the question, thank you! Rest assured, this won’t be the last time you hear from me on the topic of small business customer experience.

But for today, I want to keep things really simple and focus on the lowest of the low-hanging fruit — and I’m going to do so by asking you a question that will sound funny, but I’m dead serious:

What’s your small business’s homemade chips and salsa?

Let me explain:

Here in San Diego, we have many amazing Mexican restaurants. Virtually all of them offer complimentary chips and salsa before the main course, but some of them go the extra mile and make their chips and salsa from scratch. They’re such a massive improvement over the mass-produced options, yet they’re not terribly expensive to produce — and that’s the key:

This is about small gestures that have a huge return on investment because they far exceed the baseline expectations of the customer.

Small gestures can be the difference between a four-star and five-star Yelp review — or a customer who comes back occasionally vs. a raving fan who comes back regularly and brings all their friends.

So, back to my question:

What’s your small business’s homemade chips and salsa?

In other words, assuming your core products and services are already good, what small, value-added gesture will make them great?

Some examples:

  • If you’re a hair stylist, don’t just give your clients a haircut. Offer them some coffee, tea, or bottled water while they wait. Maybe go even further by asking them what kind of music they’d like to hear during their styling.
  • If you’re a massage therapist, don’t just give your clients a massage. Offer them a choice of essential oils to mix into your standard oils so the massage fits their preferences and mood. Doing so will transform their massage into an experience.
  • If you’re an accountant, don’t just do your clients’ taxes and hand them the same generic forms and cover letters that all accountants use because it’s autogenerated by industry-standard software. Provide them with a nicely-designed, one-page cover sheet that visualizes the most important financial details from their tax return via helpful charts and infographics. 
  • If you’re an insurance broker, don’t just sell insurance policies. During COVID-19, send your customers facemasks screen printed with your company name and a clever tagline like “we’ve got you covered.” It’s not only a helpful gesture, but also a good marketing opportunity.
  • Finally, back to restaurants: I get it, times are tough during COVID-19, especially if you’ve been forced to scale back to takeout only. The reality is, you would be out of business if it weren’t for the loyal folks who have continued to order takeout during the pandemic. So, thank them! Take one of your lower-cost desserts, divide it up into small sample-size cups, and throw the samples in their next to-go bag with a brief thank you note. Surprising them will delight them and keep them coming back for more.

Make sense? Even the smallest gestures can really put a smile on a customer’s face — and in the midst of COVID-19, I guarantee you many of your customers could use a smile right about now.

Again, there’s a lot more to CX and UX than small gestures, but they’re the perfect starting point for your small business’s efforts because:

  • They’re relatively inexpensive.
  • They’ll show your customers that you care more than your competitors.
  • They’ll lead to increased customer loyalty, repeat business, and word-of-mouth advertising.
  • They’ll make your future CX and UX efforts more successful because there’s a “multiplier effect” when a customer is pleased with one amazing experience after another.

Bottom line: Small gestures mean big wins for everyone involved.

What other questions do you have for me?

Or, what ideas do you have for Friction Fixer? Anything you’re currently struggling with? Tell me about it, and I may feature it in a future article.