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Small business

5 ways great customer service can drive small business success

New technology and listening carefully to the consumer are just a few of the ways to increase customer retention

Businesswoman pointing while discussing with male colleague at warehouseSupporting customers’ needs with innovative tactics is beneficial for both the retailer and consumer (Getty Images/Maskot)

As e-commerce activity continues to boom, small businesses are finding unique ways to connect with their customers—and technology is playing a huge role. What started as a pandemic pivot has evolved into new lessons and opportunities for customer support, retention and relationship-building.


According to a report from PwC Canada, since the pandemic began, people who work from home shop online 12 per cent more than those who work outside the home. The increase in online shopping can be a good thing for small business, says CPA Myles Gooding, national consumer markets leader and global consumer markets advisory leader at PwC Canada.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for some of the smaller and local businesses,” he says, “because the pandemic really causes a lot of people to look inward in their society and support their communities. It creates very good synergy in terms of being able to provide the right experience to your customer and to be able to create stickiness, as well.”

The stickiness, that Gooding refers to, is what turns consumers into repeat customers.


New technology allows companies to smoothly connect with consumers. TikTok, Twitter and other social apps provide businesses with a front row seat into consumers’ worlds. “Just being able to stay in touch with your customer through new products that you’re introducing provides a seamless experience between the digital and physical worlds,” says Gooding.

Although more people are spending time—and money—online, Gooding says most shopping happens with in-app purchases on a mobile device (think scrolling Instagram, where more than 130 million users click on targeted ads each month).

“The reality is most of this is now occurring online. And that’s how your customer is starting to interact with you and the product,” he says.


The traditional points system isn’t just rewarding for the customer, it’s also beneficial for the business, as it creates that “stickiness” Gooding refers to.

According to Canada Post, 17 per cent of online shoppers will return to a retailer because of the loyalty program. While these perks allow the consumer to save money, Gooding says they also offer companies a chance to introduce targeted shoppers to new products at a discounted rate. “It keeps customers around for the next cycle,” he says.

Sarah Cheng’s company, Bluish, is known for the strong emotional connection it has with customers (Photograph by Claudine Baltazar)


Brand identity is more than just having a great product. For CPA Sarah Cheng, founder of Bluish Inc, a company that makes clothing and accessories for kids and women, the past 18 months have created an opportunity to honestly connect with her consumer base. “Most of our customers are new moms,” she says, “so we try, especially during the pandemic, to connect with them at an emotional level.”

Each item sold online is accompanied by product information and the inspiration behind it, as well as personal anecdotes from real moms.

“Our biggest thing is to bring joy and feel understood,” says Cheng, who believes that linking products to personal stories helps to create this new experience. “Customers will realize, hey, it’s not just about the products, it's about a lot more.”


Creating stories also means listening to feedback. The e-commerce explosion during the pandemic created more inquiries and feedback, says Cheng, which helped her company better understand their own identity.

“We were hearing from different customers wanting to order but were sized out,” she says. After listening to consumer feedback, Bluish increased their options from size 12 through to size 20. Since the company was already offering custom alterations, the added product sizing was a no-brainer for Cheng.

“Our philosophy is about being happy and feeling included,” she says.


Creating a differentiating experience is what will keep shoppers coming back, Gooding says. Small businesses have found niche ways to do this by capitalizing on the data ecosystem to better understand customers and offer them a superior experience.

“This is an opportunity for small businesses to bring in and capture the customer and get them away from the big box,” says Gooding. “People are interested in buying from trusted sources and supporting their community. This is a great opportunity to do that.”


CPA Canada has lots of great resources for small businesses on topics ranging from cash management to financing and strategy. Plus, see what steps are often overlooked when launching a small business.