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2014

Customer loyalty reigns supreme for business growth

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American Express Small Business Monitor reveals SBOs are committed to their community

MARKHAM, ON, Oct. 15, 2013 /CNW/ - Staying small is a big priority for Canadian small business owners (SBOs), who value the factors that differentiate them from large companies in a country with a burgeoning appetite for shopping small. But remaining in the small business category doesn't preclude growth for SBOs, who are placing a higher emphasis on outstanding customer service and believe their company's success will come as a result.

In fact, the quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor reveals an overwhelming 94 per cent of business owners believe their ability to satisfy their customers is what is most important, not how large they are. With this, SBOs believe loyalty leads to longevity and are confident in their customer-first approach.

Business owners are taking a slow and steady approach to fostering growth. A vast majority (94%) of SBOs believe the growth of their company is based on maintaining loyal customers, and are continuing to prioritize personalized customer service, as it is often a differentiator for small businesses and a top factor for growing their business.

"It's clear that small business owners make it a priority to put their customers first, and it's working" says Athena Varmazis, VP & General Manger, Small Business Services, American Express Canada. "They seem to understand that it's important to invest in growth, but not at the expense of their customers. As such, business owners are using this knowledge to help direct their everyday business decisions."

Going above and beyond for customers and providing outstanding service not only helps SBOs retain loyal customers, but attract new prospects. Nearly half of Canadian small businesses (44%) expect organic growth among current clients/customers, and that same number (44%) expects growth to come by expanding their current client base.

This customer-first model seems to be doing the trick. SBOs reported a healthy average of growth (14%) over the past three years and expect to see this number increase to 19 per cent over the next three years. Most (57%) identify growth as a top business priority and almost three-quarters (71%) feel equipped to grow their business.

Part of the success of this customer service-driven approach to growth rests in the majority of SBOs' continued passion for owning their business (81%) and having a company that allows them to do what they love every day (84%). SBOs also have a strong sense of community, with almost three-quarters (73%) believing it's important that their business remains connected to their local community.

SBOs are cautious when it comes to making business decisions
While they're eager to grow, Canadian SBOs continue to make thoughtful and reserved decisions when it comes to business growth. This quarter's Index results revealed a continued decrease in their business outlook, returning to a lower optimism level than last quarter. Although nearly half (44%) of SBOs remain hopeful about their future financial position, there has been a decrease (11%) from last quarter.

While 36 per cent of SBOs report their business' current financial position is improving, this number has also continued to decline from August 2012 (46%). With less than one-fifth (18%) of SBOs willing to take above average or significant risks for their business in the next six months, also down over the past year (August '12, 27%), SBOs are showing signs of reserved and thoughtful decisions for the remainder of 2013.

"Over the past quarter, we've seen a drop in optimism levels amongst SBOs. As a result, SBOs are more mindful and cautious as they wrap up the year," says Varmazis. "While the Canadian economy has been doing well, the uncertainty with the US and European markets have likely caused business owners to carefully plan for the future."

About the American Express Small Business Monitor
From August 19 and August 27 Rogers Connect Market Research conducted an online survey on behalf of American Express Small Business Services with a sample of 529 Canadian small business owners each employing between 2 and 100 people. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.3%, 19 times out of 20. In order to ensure the results are representative of the entire population of small business owners in Canada, the data have been statistically weighted for small business by region according to Statistics Canada. Respondents were located across Canada and came from a variety of industries, including health, social services, education, tech, sales and skilled trades. Due to rounding, some results may add to over 100 per cent.

About American Express Small Business Services
American Express Small Business Services (SBS) is dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. SBS supports business owners with exceptional service. We offer tailored products and services that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, cash flow management and rewards to help customers run their business. Specifically, business owners can leverage an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings, including charge and credit cards, robust online account management capabilities and savings on business services from an expanded line-up of partners. To obtain more information about SBS, visit www.amexforbusiness.ca or www.facebook.com/AmefforBusiness.

SOURCE American Express



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