Cheering for the underdog is a trend du jour in business, with banking leading the way as customer satisfaction levels at smaller banks top the big four, according to a recent survey.

According to the latest statistics from Roy Morgan Research, satisfaction levels for smaller banking operators reached 86%, up 0.5% in the six months to July 2015, while Teachers Mutual Bank remained the best performing bank overall with 95.1% of customers happy with their service.

The big four banks lagged behind their smaller competitors at 81.3% for customer satisfaction overall, with Westpac in particular dropping to 80.1%.

This trend is becoming more popular among consumers, whereby many shoppers are leaving behind the super stores in favour of local vendors that appeal to them on a more personal level.

Beat the big guys in the adaptability race

Big corporations often have less room to move, due to risk control and internal processes. As a smaller operator, you can move and groove with your market; stay relevant and keep ahead of large competitors by being more flexible.

SMEs can respond quickly to customer feedback and make changes without having to cut through departmental agendas and swathes of red tape. SMEs operate at the coalface and are thereby able to improve user experiences by implementing updates fast, while multi-nationals may spend months executing modifications.

Shopping for quality

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths hold the vast share of consumers at about 80% between them, according to a report by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). However this isn’t the whole picture and refers to packaged goods overall.

Dissecting this information tells a more complete story. Only 45% of consumers purchase their fresh produce from Coles and Woolworths, according to a Roy Morgan Supermarket & Fresh Food Currency Report.

IGA holds the most loyal following over these conglomerates, with 30% of shoppers who mainly shop at IGA choosing to only shop at their local independent grocer.

A quick glance at many social media posts will attest to the popularity of “spray-free”, “organic” and “locally grown” produce. While the prices may be slightly higher, people are prepared to pay for organic whole foods, rather than the genetically modified and chemically sprayed fruit and vegetables that are noticeably lower in quality.

Organic farming and organic crop farming, which use no chemicals and ripen under natural vitamin-infusing sunlight, combined make up an $809 million industry in Australia. Surprisingly this is almost the equivalent of hydroponic crop farming, at $819 million, which is the chemical and mineral-added greenhouse growing process that is favoured by the big supermarket chains.

Shoppers are turning to local markets and stores for their clothing and household goods, rather than battling the busy car parks and bustling escalators associated with department store shopping. The $18 billion industry has slipped during the past year, dropping to 0.9% annual growth.

The relaxed outdoorsy vibe, promise of live entertainment and drastically lower overheads that filter into discounted prices are a big appeal for visitors to community and farmers markets. You can deal direct with suppliers who are passionate about their produce

The cheaper wares and welcoming, friendly flavour are huge drawcards to shoppers who’ve tired of the inflated prices, harsh fluorescent lighting and unenthusiastic sales staff associated with shopping malls.

Be the best at customer service

Owning the store, or working in the market stall, you’re able to talk face to face with customers to hear what they really think about your products and services. Being small is also a bonus when you’re dealing with clients over the phone.

Consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with having to jump through numerous automated hoops for customer service calls. Sometimes the automated responses end up sending you to the wrong department and customers have to explain their plight over and over again to phone operators who aren’t in linked departments.

As a small business, you’re accessible to customers and your staff are likely to be more sincere about your brand, therefore offering helpful information and a more valuable customer experience overall.