The top 5 business tactics for competing effectively

POLL: How firms stay on top of rivals

Great customer service is the best way to distinguish yourself from the competition, taking precedence over even a superior product. That’s one of the key findings of the latest instalment of the American Express Small Business Monitor, which polled 661 Canadian firms with fewer than 100 employees, and found nearly three-quarters of them consider excellent customer service to be among the leading tactics for combatting competition.

Chart showing the top five tactics for competing against other businesses.

READ: The 4 Fundamentals of Great Customer Service »

When asked to rank their top three methods for staying ahead of rivals, an additional 36% said attracting quality employees is a priority. When taken together, those two numbers suggest that 81% of small businesses consider some part of customer service to be among their top three priorities, compared with the 47% who see superior products as among their best wards against competition.

READ: Why hiring the right employee is about to get even harder »tracking-competition-2 tracking-competition-3

And yet, respondents also indicated they want to improve their products further in order to gain a competitive edge. For example, 34% of respondents said they’d like to increase the quality of their offerings, while a third wish to focus on innovation. A further 16% said they’d prefer to concentrate on more competitive pricing. Promoting products is also a popular tactic, with 37% saying they want to focus on advertising.

READ: To Find and to Keep: How to Recruit and Retain Good Employees »

The survey also found small businesses are feeling increasingly optimistic about the future. Fifty-two percent said their financial positions are improving—a seven-percentage-point boost from one year ago. Meanwhile, 64% said they are “hopeful” about their company’s future, a six-percentage-point leap.