5 questions that customers expect an answer to

Small business customers are our favorite kind of people.

They’re also the most demanding.

Given the notoriously bad customer service experiences they’ve had with large companies, it’s not surprising. When someone deals with a small business, they generally expect more in terms of personalized service—and they’re less willing than ever to compromise.

According to research from Salesforce, 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services, with 48% citing poor customer service as their reason for switching brands.

How can your company best meet the expectations of the people it serves?

By anticipating their needs—not just responding to problems.

Here are 5 trust-building questions you can answer for your customers before they ever get the chance to ask:

1. Why should I buy from your company?

This is the question occupying every would-be buyer’s mind, whether it’s conscious or subconscious.

They may worry about the legitimacy of your company, the authenticity of your claims, or your team’s level of industry expertise. For example, if you run a law firm specializing in personal injury law, is your brand’s digital presence an accurate reflection of the work?

Whatever the scenario, ambiguity breeds doubt, and doubt doesn’t sell. Here’s what does (and how to answer this crucial question):

Communicate your brand’s unique value proposition.

You should already know what makes your product or service special, but is your company effectively communicating that to prospects? Take inventory of your brand’s customer-facing messaging across owned and paid channels. Is it consistent? Does it align with the value prop outlined in your business model?

Humblebrag about your company’s track record.

Not every small business is an early-stage startup. If your company has helped customers win for years while remaining small, it’s probably worth bragging about. Just remember to keep things balanced. Relying too much on past wins sometimes makes brands seem dated or out-of-touch.

Showcase your support.

The best way to communicate that customer service is a priority is to make it one. Don’t just say your company offers excellent support, show it by making contact options obvious and available wherever potential customers lurk.

Whether that means providing a phone number, contact form, email address, in-app self-help, live chat option, or a combination of these, making it easy for customers to get in touch builds trust.

Let your happiest customers do the talking.

Social proof is seductive. When prospects see you’ve helped others solve similar problems, they’re more likely to believe you can help them do the same. Share customer reviews, testimonials, and/or case studies that support your unique value proposition.

2. What makes your product or service different?

While very similar to the first question, this customer concern deals more with how your solution might help them win. Here are three ways to address it successfully:

Take a customer-centric approach to product and service talk.

Whether you’re selling home services or software, prospects respond more positively when you speak their language. Often, that means ditching overly corporate, company-centric talk in favor of messaging that addresses the value customers should expect from your product or service.

Communicate quality in no uncertain terms.

People are often attracted to smaller companies because they believe they’ll have a better experience, not just with customer service, but with the actual service or product. The savviest small companies know this—and they make it a point to describe what makes their solution superior (which is exactly what prospects want to know).

Highlight key differences between your company and competitors.

You don’t necessarily need to call them out by name, but if you want to get ahead of customer questions, you should probably acknowledge how your product or service differs from its most relevant competitors.

Some companies are very transparent about highlighting differences, creating comparative SEO-optimized landing pages (often with tables) to address customer questions outright. Others take a subtler approach, referencing key differences whenever appropriate (website copy, blog content, ads, etc.).

Many companies are reluctant to mention competitors and instead try to replicate whatever their competitors are doing. Don’t do this. Whether you approach differentiation directly or indirectly, remember: it’s not always a bad thing if a competitor offers something your company doesn’t.

3. Can I trust you?

Establishing credibility takes more than having a cool product or unique value proposition. It also rests on appearances and perceptions. Here are three ways to answer a question your prospects will never ask directly:

Make customer reviews prominent and/or easy to access.

As a small business, every customer review is valuable: The bad ones are instructive, and the good ones signal that your solution is at least worthy of consideration. Make sure your reviews live in places where customers will find them. Bonus points for responding publicly to negative reviews.

Optimize your website with contact options.

It’s not uncommon for a small business to have a simple website, but a lack of engineering resources doesn’t justify making things difficult for prospective customers. Unless you’re running a speakeasy, there should be no mysteries.

Make sure your website includes:

  • Contact forms
  • Search bar
  • Physical address (if applicable)
  • Menus and submenus
  • About us page
  • FAQ page
  • Copyright information

Put your best digital foot forward.

Attention to detail can make all the difference for customers on the fence. For example, if two companies are offering very similar solutions but one has a website with notable typos, which would you choose?

Review your copy across channels to make sure your grammar is on the up and up. If you can, ditch low-res or stock photography for custom art customers won’t see anywhere else.

4. What happens if there’s a problem?

This is the ultimate test of your customer service operation: What happens when something goes wrong? The more transparent and explicit you are about what customers should expect when problems inevitably occur, the better.

Here are a few ways to alleviate their concerns:

Provide multiple ways to get in touch.

It may not make sense for every company to field support questions on social, but you should ideally provide at least two different ways to get in touch—like email and phone or email and live chat. Whatever you choose, encourage customers to seek help from the channel of their choice by prominently featuring the option.

Offer a guaranteed first-response time.

No one likes waiting indefinitely. That’s the psychology behind first-response time guarantees: They set expectations from the start.

SaaS companies with different pricing tiers (freemium to paid) often offer shorter guaranteed first-response times to customers who purchase higher tier subscriptions to ensure their biggest spenders are confident they’ll get prompt help when they need it.

If it makes sense for your business, consider borrowing from the SaaS model.

Broadcast your return policy.

Nothing says “no thanks” like a strict or convoluted return process. In addition to including your return policy on product pages and in FAQs, consider also making it as generous as possible to reduce anxiety among prospects.

5. How will this purchase make me feel?

Buying and emotion go hand-in-hand. According to one Harvard professor, 95% of our purchasing decisions result from unconscious urges—emotions—not logic.

This is fun to spot in advertisements from the 1950s and ‘60s. Take this vintage 7UP ad, for example. Two children, presumably brother and sister, dressed up like mom and dad.

If you’re a kid, it evokes the desire to behave like a sophisticated adult. If you’re an adult, it reminds you of playing house as a child.

Now imagine an alternate version of the ad where the focus is squarely on product specs. Today’s health-conscious consumer might respond well to facts about the drink’s ingredients, but ultimately, they’re still looking for a feeling.

No matter who you serve, every customer has emotions around the problem they’re trying to solve. If you can tap into those feelings, you’re more likely to make the emotional impression needed to propel them to buy.

If you sell a complex product or service, case studies and customer stories are a great way to illuminate your process, product, and results. Highlighting happy customers also works if you’re selling something more straightforward.

Alleviating doubt is tough—but worth the effort

The best customer service is proactive, not reactive. Get a leg up on what today’s customers really want in our insight-packed call trends report.