2021 Defines A New Role for Small Business – by Kelly Davison

The scares and scarcities of 2020 ignited a renaissance of self-determination and self-realization that is changing the role we, as consumers, are now asking businesses play to play in our lives.

I feel deep compassion for the small businesses that have struggled so hard to survive over the past year. The incalculable impact of the pandemic upon our communities and families has been reason for me to stop and make sense of what I sense is a shifting role for small businesses.

Seeing Both Sides

As we begin 2021 with some optimism and much hope, my continued conversations around customer experience fully recognize the desperation of business owners that persists today. For some businesses, 2021 may mean starting from scratch. For others it may mean figuring out how to do better with less. I hope to offer here a perspective as well as tools that may spark that optimism and hope. Although I am speaking to business owners here, I want to appeal to all of us as consumers as well. Allow me to explain.

Small businesses have always been a unifying fabric and pillar of our neighborhoods. They are why we choose to live where we do and shape how we live the way we do. The impact of the pandemic has shuffled lives, refocused priorities, and heightened awareness of what matters now to our personal wellbeing.

The New Significance of Everyday Tasks

There is something extraordinary transpiring around us today, a new opportunity for intimacy with consumers – an already coveted position for small businesses. It is an ever-present (albeit stronger than usual) force that is not driven by innovation or corporate strategy. It is – refreshingly – springing from human nature itself!

Having been deprived of our usual social interactions for so long, the opportunities we do have are valued as true “occasions.” Elective activities, even under COVID constraints, like ordering out for food, indulging in a spa treatment, casual retail shopping, and other luxuries are taken less for granted because they have become a more critical means of connection, of joy, of escape.

The uncertainty and loss of control experienced by all of humanity during the pandemic has given new symbolism to even our most basic and routine tasks. Getting the car repaired, air conditioner installed, or shopping for supplies from the local market are not just routine trips or necessary evils anymore, but have become a lifeline to maintain a basic level of security, stability, and comfort. These “accomplishments” reinforce our personal sense of empowerment – one thing that has been somewhat diminished over the last several months.

With a limited opportunity to get out and mark our passing days, weeks, and months, there has evolved a valuable new “invitation” for businesses to show up and help us create those special moments – to transform what was once routine into something meaningful.

This year we are evermore grateful for anything that helps us maintain our livelihoods – however different they may look.  As we are forced to limit our social interactions and dodge the wrath of a virus, what we choose to do each day means and matters more. If our experiences as customers are disappointingly bland or add to our already overwhelmed sense of confusion, frustration, or fear, we are less likely to be tolerant or loyal. In fact, you may notice that friends and family are more aware than ever of what brings them joy; who is a contributor and who is not.

Empathy is the Key to “Getting it”

Now, back to you – the business owner. Rebuilding the customer experience in 2021 is about understanding what it feels like to do business with your company. There is an opportunity to BE the moment or create the occasion people are seeking. Accept the invitation. In 2021, a true blend of value and empathy must dictate the operational blueprint. Tune-in to customer behaviors and motivations. Recognize the significance of every interaction.  Regardless of whether your service is “essential,” the humanity you bring with it can make their day.

Ordering take-out food was once a convenient substitute for a full dining experience. Now, it is often our only option to “dine out.” How might this event fulfill our need to have a special night with a loved one, to create a connection with others, to make us feel alive? (For a great example, read Touting the Takeout Expereince in our blog.)

How Peachy Can Help

Honestly, though, as a business owner, you have to “get it” and want it. The door is wide open to make an impression – to show up more powerfully than ever before. Peachy can help you find your secret sauce. My job is to facilitate a balanced group conversation, to extract internal and external insights you can use, to help you connect meaning to mission.

Peachy offers a lower-cost, downloadable activity eBook called Building an Empathy-based Customer Experience and complimentary tool kit that walks you and your team through specific exercises. This is a DIY approach you can do at your own pace. Check out the limited-time offer. Business recovery in 2021 starts with empathy. Remember, your business exists for your customers. Your success is a sign of how much your customers agree. What will you do next?