Business development · 28 August 2015

Good service and familiar staff mean customers feel happier buying from small businesses

Over three-quarters of people said they would put their trust in a small, local chain when making a big purchase
Over three-quarters of people said they would put their trust in a small, local chain when making a big purchase

Brits feel happier shopping with small businesses than they do with larger brands, as personalisation helps less established names trump big companies.

Over 80 per cent of UK consumers said they felt happy buying with a small firm, compared to 53 per cent who were content when purchasing with large businesses, according to new research.

A study of 2,000 adults by web-to-print service Avery WePrint found that not only does shopping with local businesses support the economy and encourage more diverse high streets, it also makes customers feel happier. A quarter of Brits said they felt good about themselves when buying from a small business and this extended across a variety of purchases – from haircuts to groceries to furniture.

There’s also loyalty and a sense of reliability established with local brands – over three-quarters of respondents said they would put their trust in a small, local chain when making a big purchase.

Avery WePrint’s Fiona Mills, said: “The research shows just how much the British public likes the service they receive from small businesses.”

She added that it was cause to celebrate, as local firms tend to develop reputable and reliable brands with customers. “If you’re proudly independent or a passionate small business that really cares, it’s worth communicating this in everything you do – from your business cards to branding and marketing materials, your packaging, presentation and your customer service,” Mills added.

While a third felt small business owners were trustworthy, this dropped to five per cent when it came to CEOs of big companies – in part coming back to the increased distance and lack of communication. Three quarters of customers said those operating small brands were hard-working, while a fifth felt the same about those at the helm of big names.

Over 60 per cent of customers said the personalised service offered by micro and small firms was the key distinguisher when it came to competing against big companies. Similarly, good customer service, feeling valued and being able to deal with familiar staff were all cited as positives showcased among local businesses. Comparatively, 58 per cent were frustrated with poor customer service at the hands of a large organisation – waiting on hold for more than 30 minutes, nobody getting back to them as well as excessive cold calling.

The most frequently cited grievances with big companies’ customer service were unpleasant staff, being ignored and receiving an impersonal service.

Mills thinks this reflects big names can learn from less-established brands. “What’s important as a business grows is not to lose sight of the values and service levels that were there in the beginning. Customers say they feel valued by small companies and that’s something every business should be trying to emulate,” she pointed out.

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Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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