The National Retail Federation estimates around $678 billion in retail sales will occur during the November and December holiday. Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration shows that small businesses account for just 54 percent of those sales.

That's quite the split.

So, while it's true that small businesses cannot compete on the scale of industry titans, owners can still deploy powerful strategies to capture market share over the holiday while also making a strong impression that lasts long after the Black Friday-Cyber Monday rush.

And perhaps the most powerful strategy you can use to compete--or, better yet, beat out--the big companies is through good customer service. That's because most companies rely on stringent processes when it comes to helping customers. Herein lies your advantage.

You can capture customer hearts and minds through a more nimble, two-pronged approach to customer service: part personal empowerment, part personal touch.

Personal Empowerment

According to January-February 2017 article in Harvard Business Review " 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative."

Shopify is one online sales platform that makes the customer empowerment process easier thanks to their broad selection of customer service applications. Let's look at two examples offered by the platform:

  1. Returns Center by After Ship is one such way to empower your customers, allowing them to handle much of the returns process themselves.
  2. Tracking and Delivery Updates is another way, this application allowing customers to track their packages from the moment of purchase up to delivery, all right from your website.

So, for Black Friday-Cyber Monday, empower your customers with on-site tools to handle key customer service functions themselves. If your online store allows customers to create accounts, make sure they can do more than just store delivery information with them. Give them the tools to handle key functions themselves.

Personal Touch

According to this 2017 large-scale study of more than 24,000 domestic and international consumers, 79% want the human touch to remain a part of customer service. So, for Black Friday-Cyber Monday, make it easy for customers--humans--to connect with other humans, not just auto responders, recorded phone scripts or generic F.A.Q. pages.

Here are two examples of how to provide personal touch on Black Friday-Cyber Monday:

  1. According to that same  study, 74% of consumers don't like to deal with a website that doesn't clearly display a phone number. Uline is a great example of a company that makes it easy to always reach someone. Despite their size, there's no robots to deal with when you call them. Just a kind "Hello, how can I help?" 
  2. Other ways to provide that personal touch include using personalized post-purchase thank you videos and even handwritten notes. Happy Email is another Shopify application you can use to do this at scale.

But heed this: if you're looking to really surprise and delight customers, sometimes you have to do things that are difficult to scale. That effort you put into making a personal touch will pay off in the long-term, as more than fifty percent of customers will reward you with your loyalty if you do it right.

Published on: Nov 22, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of