It may seem simple, but a smile may be the secret to small business success.

A recently released study from London’s Kingston University found that a smile and a friendly greeting were the most common reason why shoppers felt loyalty toward independent businesses. The study examined more than 2,000 consumers and 1,200 small- and medium-sized businesses.

While great customer service seems like a no-brainer, only half of the businesses surveyed said a smile and greeting were a common practice for their staff.

Lead research Professor Robert Blackburn said small businesses are in a “unique position to embrace these traditional values of personal customer contact and loyalty.” Given that the study also found that three in five shoppers were willing to pay more for a product from a small business rather than a large corporation, Blackburn noted that it is even more important for small businesses to “build on their natural competitive advantages.”

Need more proof that customer service matters? The study found that more than one-third of shoppers come back to stores because of great service, and 20% say having a salesperson remember their order is important.

That said, only half of businesses kept a record of customers’ orders, which would help salespeople interact with customers in a more meaningful way.

"While the majority of decision makers recognise the importance of personal relationships with customers, they are failing to develop their own customer loyalty strategies," Professor Blackburn said.

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