Our latest research says 55% of consumers want small businesses to prioritize their safety. Not only that, but 63% of millennial consumers — the largest consumer segment —  say they’re now more likely to support small businesses with a digital presence. As a small business owner, you might be wondering: How can I keep up with these rapidly evolving customer expectations?

We spoke with small business leaders across different industries – including retail, professional services, and manufacturing — about what they’re doing to successfully navigate change and prioritize customer experiences during this time.

Here are their top takeaways to inspire your small business to successfully adapt in the new normal.


1. Think safety first

Regardless of which small business leader we talked to, all mentioned prioritizing safety. Sonali Lamba, co-founder of retail small business Brideside, shared how her business reopened in-store experiences by focusing on the health and safety of every customer and employee.

She says the safety of her employees translates to the quality of the customer experience. “It’s definitely been a team effort following guidelines that seem to be changing all the time. I’ve found the more comfortable the team is, the more comfortable the customer feels.”


2. Enable your employees to serve customers from anywhere

Greg Howell, President of small business manufacturer Flexo Concepts, shared how his team has been working towards a digital transformation for many years. But they’ve continuously worked on a rigid 8am-5pm, in-office schedule.

When the majority of his office staff began operating remotely due to the pandemic, he noticed employees were able to be just as productive — and meet customer requirements — regardless of whether they were working at home or in shifts at the office. The company’s employee culture became more flexible due to the pandemic. The best part? They were able to accelerate their digital transformation.

“We used to talk about how someday we might have an environment where folks could come and go as they please as long as the work got done and the customer requirements were met,” Howell said. “We’re starting to have those conversations today that we thought we might have 10 years from now.”


3. Find new ways to foster customer relationships

Meggie Palmer, Founder and CEO of PepTalkHer, a small business and professional services company on a mission to close the gender pay gap, notes how her team needed to find new ways to engage customers during the pandemic. They pivoted to hosting daily live conversations with experts on how their audience can become better negotiators during a pandemic, automate finances, and more.

Her team’s new series not only allowed PepTalkHer to gain more exposure and capture new audiences, but it also enabled her team to foster closer relationships with customers.

“I’m not quite sure exactly what the future will look like,” Palmer said. “But one thing I do know for sure is that relationships will continue to be absolutely crucial to our business.”

Looking for more ways to help your small business solve top priorities now and in the future? Check out our new industries guide for small businesses; it showcases customized solutions for small businesses in professional services, manufacturing, retail, financial services, and media communications.

Salesforce helps you find more customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can succeed. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

For more business and leadership inspiration, check out our entire Leading Through Change series.