The Impact of Adding a Personal Touch

Reputation is important for any business, and especially so when selling through an online platform only.

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By Emily Washcovick

Top 10 Collectibles

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Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Adding a personal touch to the customer experience is a great way to keep a local business flourishing and inspire customers to leave positive reviews. But what if your business is only online? How do you give customers a personal touch without being in person?

Tony LoMenzo, owner of Top 10 Collectibles, knows that building a good reputation is key. After working for years in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail environment, Tony branched out on his own to sell collectibles online, starting with collectible shoes and now concentrating mostly on sports memorabilia.

Building a strong online presence and reputation can take time for a new business, and as Tony learned, it takes time to catch up to bigger, more established companies who may have a 15- or 20-year head start on you.

Despite the challenges, investing in your business's reputation is important for any small business enterprise, especially when exclusively selling through an online platform. Since customers can't enter your storefront and meet you in person, finding a way to make a good impression is crucial to business longevity. One way Tony builds relationships and makes his transactions memorable is by adding a personal touch.

"Entrepreneurs, and small business owners of any kind, can eventually create their own personal touch," he said. "So one thing that I do—and it does take time—is handwritten thank you notes with every single order."

This is part of Tony's process whether a customer spends two dollars or a thousand dollars. The important thing, he said, is "just to make sure people truly appreciate their support of a small business owner."

By connecting with his customers in a personal way, Tony has built a solid reputation that keeps customers coming back. Not only do the thank you notes humanize his business, they serve as encouragement for customers to leave a review.

On top of the personalized notes, Tony will also add a free item to larger orders to show his appreciation for the customer's trust in his products.

"Something I've really come to appreciate is if people are gonna trust me on that higher level, I always try to think of little things I can add in, where it's not maybe as cool or valuable to me, but I know that even thinking of adding anything extra in today's world, the buyer's highly likely to at least comment on it. And there's obviously not usually gonna be a bad comment.

"They're gonna say, 'Wow, this person not only wrote the thank you note, they added in extra stuff they probably had on their store and were selling, but they thought it'd be a better idea and more kind to add something extra without me even asking for it.'"

Despite the anonymity and depersonalized nature of online interactions, Tony likes to peel back the facade and show customers that they are seen, heard, and valued as a person.

"I like to do a little bit of the opposite of [what you'd expect on the internet]. I stay on top of responding to people and showing them that, regardless of the price point, they get a service that's unique, and it can be personalized to try to help them."

Building a business from the ground up benefits from a personal touch, even when you can't engage with your customers face to face. Other takeaways from Tony's interview that could help your small business include:

  • Reviews matter. Having customer reviews (and responding to them) is an important part of building and maintaining your online reputation. When you happen to receive a critical review, consider taking a break before replying to ensure you're coming from a place of understanding (instead of possibly from anger or resentment).
  • Offer solutions to customers who have a negative experience. When a product doesn't meet the expectations of buyers, Tony tries to find a way to make the customer happy without impacting his bottom line.
  • Small changes in your operations can mean big savings. Switching to a thermal printer was a more expensive initial investment, but the cost savings on ink changed Tony's business expenses overall.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Tony, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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