Carol’s recent post on the Nextiva blog talks about one of the competitive advantages of being a small business – the ability to be flexible to accommodate changing customer needs.

The flipside is you don’t want to turn yourself or your business inside out for every request because you’ll make yourself nuts.

In “5 Ways to Make Your Business More Flexible to Generate Customer Loyalty,” Carol shares some great tips for what you should and should not do. She begins:

Most business owners might agree that flexibility and agility are essential for success. When your flexibility helps you to meet changing customer requirements, you can earn a competitive advantage over competitors. But, agility can also be a curse when a lack of resources leads to reduced quality, missed deadlines — and an eventual loss of customers.

Even flexibility requires planning and forethought. Here are five agility techniques that meet client needs without turning your business into an out-of-control, wheel-spinning whirlwind.

1. Identify true customer needs

If you can pinpoint what your customers truly need and when they actually need it, there is no need to say “no” to their last-minute requests. For example, consider a customer that has suddenly increased next month’s order of your product from 100 to 1,000 due to a sudden flurry of customer demand. With a quick phone call, you will probably learn that they don’t need 900 more items on your traditional first-of-the-month shipping date.

With that knowledge, you now have choices. You might arrange to split the excess product shipments over two or three weeks. Your customer still gets what it needs when it needs it, but you now have the staff and time to ensure that you continue to ship a high-quality product, and you don’t have to send other customers to the back of the line.

2. Proceduralize emergencies

For most businesses, similar types of emergencies come up again and again. While you can’t predict every specific issue, you can proceduralize enough aspects to help you retain high quality, even at a rushed pace.

You can read the rest of the post here.