Building a successful small business means developing a reputation with your customers that you can be proud of. When your small business understands the importance of customer orientation and acts on it, it builds a reputation with customers as being an ethical business that cares about them and provides value.


Having solid customer orientation means that your customers are the focus of everything you do. This means when you develop your products, market them, deliver them and follow up with customers, you want to provide the best customer experience possible.

Definition of Customer Orientation

Customer orientation is the belief that when your customers are happy and their needs are met, customer retention goes up and so does your bottom line. Practically speaking, this means thinking about what your target customer most wants and needs from you. For instance, if you are a baby boutique aimed at earth-conscious new mothers, perhaps your target audience would benefit from:

  • Comfortable nursing areas with beverages
  • Massage chairs by the dressing rooms
  • Free fair-trade coffee by the front door
  • Baby carriers and nursing pillows
  • Organic baby clothing

Instead of simply deciding that you want to sell baby clothes that appeal to your own tastes, your customer-oriented small business creates a desirable customer experience instead. By focusing on your customer's desires and anticipating their needs, shopping with you becomes stress relief instead of stress-inducing.

Importance of Customer Orientation

Gaining new customers can be expensive, especially for small business owners who may not have lots of extra capital to invest in marketing. If you offer barber services, it is probably less expensive to keep a satisfied customer coming back than to convince a new one to walk through your doors. When you offer exceptional customer service like Apple or incredible knowledge like Best Buy, you keep your customers coming back and engaged in what you have to offer. This means protecting your bottom line, growing it and strengthening your reputation, all without having to spend more than reasonable on customer acquisition.

Customer-Oriented Strategies

The best way to integrate customer-oriented strategies into your small business is to offer levels of customer service and care that are so incredible that your customers do not want to go anywhere else. Apple started off as a small business, but their focus on customer orientation led them to establish the unparalleled iPhone with marketing and customer care unlike anything else in the industry. Best Buy started as "Sound of Music" in a Twin Cities suburb and retains customers through training some of the most knowledgeable and helpful salespeople around. By thinking about customers at every level of your company and with every decision made, your company can be flexible and meet customer needs in similar ways.

Customer Orientation Skills

Customer orientation skills are necessary on every level of a small business, as your team members are likely all key players in your success. While a large corporation of 23,000 employees might get away with having a few employees a bit behind the curve, small businesses rely on every employee offering excellence and they really feel it when they don't. Here are some ways to incorporate customer orientation skills into what you already do:

  • Treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers.
  • Incorporate your mission and values into your customer promise. 
  • Provide customer training on product knowledge, troubleshooting and customer care.
  • Equip and empower your employees to resolve customer concerns in coordination with others.
  • Give customers a voice to share feedback, offer loyalty programs and individualized care. 
  • Keep your standards high and hire staff who believe in those standards.