SBOs up their service game to beat the competition

Jul 15, 2014, 07:00 ET from American Express

American Express Small Business Monitor reveals 75 per cent of small business owners believe competition makes them work harder for their customers

MARKHAM, ON, July 15, 2014 /CNW/ - Competition in the business landscape ensures small business owners (SBOs) continue to innovate, stay motivated, and provide great customer service, according to the most recent American Express Small Business Monitor. Often challenged with standing out from the crowd, SBOs say they actually rely on competition to shake off complacency within their business.

The quarterly Monitor reveals an overwhelming 98 per cent of SBOs admit competition is an integral part of any business. In fact, over three quarters (77%) of business owners state competition keeps them on top of their game and most (79%) consider it an opportunity to be innovative.

"Competition forces business owners out of their comfort zone, and that's what often makes a run-of-the-mill business become great," said Athena Varmazis, VP and General Manager of Small Business Services, American Express Canada. "It forces business owners to really define what truly sets them apart from other players in the market."

SBOs leverage service to get ahead
SBOs recognize that great customer service not only helps generate sales, but differentiates them from their competition, and while their products or services may have similarities to other businesses, it's the customer service experiences they offer that puts them ahead of the pack.  In fact, 97 per cent of SBOs believe that excellent customer service is the best way to gain a competitive edge. They understand that customer service is more complex than just one positive interaction. Outstanding customer service is about building and sustaining long term relationships, so it comes as no surprise that 97 per cent of business owners say it is their number one priority.

SBOs monitor competition big and small
While competition amongst SBOs is expected, many business owners also consider large businesses their direct competition. In fact, 35 per cent of SBOs dub this segment the most significant barrier to gaining a competitive edge.

Taking this into consideration, SBOs acknowledge the need to equip their business with the tools necessary to stand out against a larger crowd and are prioritizing tactics to flourish alongside large businesses. Over half (58%) of all SBOs monitor all aspects of their competition on a monthly basis, while 42 per cent specifically monitor their competitors' advertising. As such, it's not surprising that 37 per cent of business owners say they want to increase promotion and advertising to stay competitive in the future.

"Small business owners are eager to play with the big guys," says Varmazis. "Instead of looking at large businesses as an obstacle, they're welcoming the competition."

SBOs display a substantial increase in their business outlook
Continuing to plunge forward, SBOs experience a higher optimism level than last quarter and a significant increase from this time last year. The increased willingness to take risks also demonstrates a sense of stability from business owners.

"The drastic increase in business owners' optimism level speaks volumes," says Varmazis. "The confidence boost is the latest sign that SBOs have shifted into high gear."

Over half (52%) of SBOs report their business' current financial position has increased, a significant increase since May 2013 (39%). Almost two-thirds (64%) of SBOs remain hopeful about their future financial position, and an overwhelming 89 per cent of SBOs remain convinced that the advantages of running a business by far exceed the risks and challenges.

About the American Express Small Business Monitor
From May 5 and May 15, 2014 Rogers Custom Research and Media Insights conducted an online survey on behalf of American Express Small Business Services with a sample of 633 Canadian small business owners each employing between 2 and 100 people. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.8%, 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 or

SOURCE American Express