Customer experience solutions for SMEs: how important is it? 

Customer experience solutions for SMEs: how important is it? 

Consumer values are continuously evolving and are vital to any business, especially to SMEs. Chris Sparling, CX Strategy Director at Reputation, talks to us about why customer experience matters and how start-ups can provide a positive one.  

Customer experience (CX) is a vital part of any business and for SMEs with relatively smaller customer bases, it is particularly important. Understanding how your brand is perceived is crucial to understanding your business’ strengths and weaknesses. Once those are established, you’re on the route to acting and planning for success.  

The importance of CX for SMEs 

In the UK, complaints have reportedly risen to their highest level on record – in part due to staffing shortages. Handling this issue alone is costing British businesses £9 billion a month in lost staff time.  

For companies of all sizes, the pandemic put CX at centre stage. With employees and customers based at home, businesses invested in digital channels, leading to more online traffic and therefore a greater need for better customer engagement. Ultimately, CX has become vital for keeping customers on-side and reinforcing your business’ relationships. 

Understanding customers and digital audiences can be complicated, but it is essential. Bad reviews can cause long-term business damage, severely impacting your reputation and revenue. For smaller businesses, it might only take a single negative customer review or social media comment to spiral a business into a crisis. While larger household names may have the benefit of sweeping one negative comment under the rug, a high number of visible complaints can still have permanent negative effects on a brand’s image.  

One thing I always drive home to my staff and clients alike is that your business is only as successful as its least happy customer. Actively and accurately listening to your employees and customers is essential. One way to improve this is through technology. Having the right tech in place enables teams to respond and take action faster. 

No business is immune to the impact of poor CX. The right response to a moment of crisis can ensure your company continues to be viewed as honest, trustworthy and reliable – traits highly regarded among both customers and employees.  

Customer and employee experience as one  

An overwhelming 95% of customers believe customer service is essential to brand loyalty and research indicates that 50% of consumers would switch to a new brand after just one bad experience. But have business leaders considered that the same relates to their own employees too? 

Feedback doesn’t just affect your brand; it impacts employee motivation and your company’s general mood too. 

Happy employees deliver better customer services. Research shows that when looking at Millennials’ and Gen Z’s values, nearly two in five say they have rejected a job or assignment because it did not align with their beliefs. Similarly, those who are satisfied with their employers’ societal and environmental impact and their efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture are more likely to want to stay with their employer for over five years.  

HR leaders play a part in the overall CX  

Would you decline a job offer if you discovered the business had a bad reputation? Current and prospective talent may have reservations about working for organisations with tarnished reputations or ones whose personal values don’t align with their own, or if they have concerns about how they may be perceived by peers, family and friends. 

Employee engagement in a remote-first world has become a priority for many HR leaders. But gathering and digesting employee feedback is essential for taking the next step and turning it into meaningful action. 

In the current climate, with The Great Resignation rolling on, organisations cannot afford to deter talent or lose employees. A survey from McKinsey showed that during the pandemic, 24% of SMEs were concerned about retaining their employees, and according to a survey by Vistage, 62% of UK SMEs said that their current hiring challenges mean they cannot operate their business at full capacity. 

The Great Resignation has taught HR professionals one important lesson: the employee is in control. Even amid economic uncertainty, HR leaders must keep the employee experience top of mind, as employee feedback across channels can directly impact a brand. Employees are not afraid to speak up about their experiences, with social media and forums like Glassdoor and Indeed making it easier than ever.  

Rather than avoiding all feedback, or only focusing on the positive comments in employee satisfaction surveys, HR leaders and their teams must take the time to analyse and understand all of it — the good, the bad and the ugly. Using that feedback can be used to celebrate and encourage the culture you are starving for. 

The employee experience 

Protecting a business’ reputation doesn’t just rely on good customer feedback, it also means being attentive to the employee experience.  

Transparency within the workplace is essential to retaining talent. Fostering a culture of trust drives a positive atmosphere, which in turn motivates a team and contributes to more successful business outcomes.  

Mirroring customer experience by creating closed loop feedback is one way to start that mindset shift while reviewing sentiment data and using it to enhance employee engagement surveys could be another. 

At Reputation, we believe data derived from feedback is a business’ most important form of currency. Just as customer expectations are complex, so too is unlocking the business insight from data that comes from customer interaction. These channels can be private to the business, such as net promoter score (NPS) review surveys and chatbots, or through public touchpoints, like social media and review sites.  

From listening to acting  

It is critical that businesses employ the right tools to ensure they can properly capitalise on employee and customer feedback. For any successful business, ensuring you remain aware of the perceptions and ideals of your customers and employees is a full-time job. Because it is not just about listening to what they’re saying, but also reacting to what you’re hearing. The key for small business is not to over complicate it, particularly where they may not have the sample size to delve into the insights. Focusing on the basics, listening to feedback and taking real time action are the drivers for success. 

For local businesses like bars and pubs, dips in positive reviews caused by poor customer service or increased wait times could make all the difference when trying to maintain a loyal customer base. Similarly, noticing emerging trends, like attention to corporate social responsibility practices, can help businesses direct their communications.  

Consumer values are continuously evolving. It is only through careful monitoring of feedback from customer experience programs that businesses can properly align with their customers’ values and expectations.

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