Running a small business is a risky business. The probability of a small business lasting for more than five years is about 15% according to Doug Hall, author of “Jump Start Your Business Brain”. But, there are tactics and strategies that, when diligently implemented, will substantially increase your odds of success.

Perhaps the best way to increase the odds of success is by providing your customers with a unique customer experience that will dramatically differentiate your company from the competition. This alone, according to Hall, will increase your probability of success to 53%.

Bernd H. Schmitt author of “Managing the Customer Experience” says, “In a recent survey, customer experience was identified as the single most important differentiator between the best and the worst in an industry.” 

The customer experience movement was led by major corporations such as Disney, Bass Pro Shops, Southwest Airlines, Zappos.com, Amazon.com, Nordstrom and many other creative businesses. But in reality, it’s the small business community that can more quickly exceed the needs of consumers. 

As a small business owner, you know that you cannot outspend the competition, but can certainly out think them…and, that’s all it takes to create a memorable experience that turns your customers into your sales force. 

How do you get started? Bring together a handful of your best customers, a couple of suppliers, a few business owners from other industries and, of course, your employees. Provide them with pizza and beer and you now have the makings of a fun-filled brainstorming session. Then ask them to help you answer one simple question, “What can we due to add value to our customer relationships by providing them with an unforgettable experience every time we have contact?”

The answers to this question will bring measurable results as discovered in these recent surveys: 

• 80% of Americans agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses. (Source: American Express Survey)

• 3 in 5 Americans would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.
(Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

• Almost 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience (Source: Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow)

• 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. (Source: American Express Survey)