We have all been there as a customer – let down by a company when it comes to customer service. Often it relates to an issue which crops up and the issue is not dealt with in a timely and efficient manner. It can also have a lot to do with the availability of the company and how easy it is to get in touch with them. Excellent customer service is the key to repeat custom and I am sure we can all think of a time when we received fantastic customer experience and went on to tell others about it.
SMEs of course have budget pressures but good customer service is one thing which should not be ignored. SMEs are in a better position to create excellent customer service as they can really make it personalised. Our three experts offer their tips on how to create that excellent customer service.
Antoine Senkoff, Digital Strategist at Brandwidth, focuses on three points – e-commerce, AI and sales staff. He said that customers still want a physical shopping experience, as well as the convenience of online. Senkoff said: “For smaller companies that cannot compete with the likes of Amazon, adopting a ‘phygital’ customer experience can be a great way of meeting customer needs and providing them with a choice.”
Rohan Ramesh, Director of Product Marketing, Entrust, focuses on digital security and how with trust, comes loyalty. He said: “When customers engage in online transactions, they seek assurance that their personal and financial information is secure. And the risk of cyberthreats is intensifying with the rise of AI, deepfakes and other sophisticated methods to mimic and steal identities. By adopting advanced digital security measures, SMEs can foster a sense of trust and safety and offer the same type of slick buying journeys as larger competitors.”
Karl Bateson, Director of Global PR and Communications at Acronis focuses on five points – employee retention, a customer centric approach, personalisation, communication and customer support. He said: “So many customers can be lost because of just one bad support experience, so businesses should spend a lot of time and energy training their teams to help mitigate customer concerns quickly and correctly. If a customer is on hold for 30 minutes, the chances of them being agitated exponentially increases. Offer online FAQs when possible to help customers diagnose/solve their own issues.”
Antoine Senkoff, Digital Strategist, Brandwidth:
For small and medium enterprises, ensuring a fantastic customer experience is no easy task, especially as the pivot to e-commerce and digital platforms continues. While it can seem daunting to measure up to larger companies which have more resources and investment for improving their customer experience, there are three points that SMEs can focus on to provide stellar customer experience in the future.
First, it’s clear that the growth of e-commerce in recent years has led many brands and companies to pivot to digital channels and reduce their physical presence on the high street. As multinational companies continue to close physical branches and stores, there might be a tendency for smaller companies to assume that the brick and mortar model is no longer viable. However, customers still value physical shopping and the ways it cannot be replicated when shopping online. Whether it is the ability to try on clothes, see and touch items or speak face to face with an expert, the physical customer experience offers unique and important touchpoints that brands simply cannot offer online.
This year, we have seen tremendous growth in brands adopting a ‘phygital’ customer experience, combining digital and physical customer shopping journeys. It might be one where customers order online and collect in-store or a physical showroom where customers can test out products before ordering them online later. For smaller companies that cannot compete with the likes of Amazon, adopting a ‘phygital’ customer experience can be a great way of meeting customer needs and providing them with a choice.
A second point of focus is Artificial Intelligence. It might seem that AI-powered chatbots are the only ways to improve customer service, judging by how many companies have adopted them. However, for SMEs, investing in AI-powered chatbots might seem a step too far when there are more cost-effective ways of providing support to customers. Customers are clear in their desire to see more self-service alternatives when it comes to digital customer support. Providing clear and effective FAQs, knowledge bases and webinars are a great way for SMEs to meet these needs. Having effective self-service support also frees up resources for the dedicated customer support team to cater to more complex queries and requests from customers.
Finally, SMEs need to focus on creating more immersive, interactive and entertaining shopping experiences to stand out in an increasingly crowded digital space. For smaller brands, sales staff have traditionally been their key asset. SMEs can take full advantage of interactive shopping platforms such as TikTok to bring their sales staff in the digital space. The talent and expertise of sales staff in your showroom can now be brought to digital channels, engaging with more potential customers than ever before.
Rohan Ramesh, Director of Product Marketing, Entrust:
In today’s digital era, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face the triple challenge of needing to ensure transactional security, maintain customer trust and create an enjoyable customer experience. As businesses increasingly move online, the need for robust digital security and identity verification measures has never been greater. Fortunately, for smaller businesses without the resources of large multinationals, there are a wealth of viable solutions to drive digital security and customer experience.
Securing digital transactions: a cornerstone of customer trust
The cornerstone of a strong customer relationship in the digital domain is trust, particularly in transactions. When customers engage in online transactions, they seek assurance that their personal and financial information is secure. And the risk of cyberthreats is intensifying with the rise of AI, deepfakes and other sophisticated methods to mimic and steal identities. By adopting advanced digital security measures, SMEs can foster a sense of trust and safety and offer the same type of slick buying journeys as larger competitors.
This is where technology such as secure digital signing processes become crucial. By incorporating these processes, businesses can ensure every transaction is authenticated and the identities of the parties involved are verified. This authentication isn’t just a technical safeguard; it’s a visible sign to customers that their interactions are secure and protected. Such measures elevate customer confidence and reinforce the perception of an SME as a secure and professional entity in the digital marketplace.
Simplifying customer onboarding
The customer onboarding process is often the first significant interaction between a business and its customers, setting the tone for the experience to follow. Simplifying this process with digital solutions can enhance customer satisfaction from the outset. By utilising technologies that streamline identity verification with biometric technologies like document validation and facial recognition, SMEs can offer a swift and hassle-free onboarding experience across the assurance spectrum. When combined with high assurance passwordless authentication that can protect against identity related breaches such as phishing and MFA bypass, it allows for a vastly more secure and low friction way to have new customers sign-up and verify their identity when using their digital accounts.
Compliance and security: building blocks of digital confidence
Adhering to regulatory compliance is crucial for SMEs. Implementing solutions that align with state, country and international regulations not only ensures legal compliance but also builds customer confidence in the business’s commitment to security. Moreover, incorporating features like electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) practices can further strengthen this trust, assuring customers that their identity is being verified reliably and securely.
With trust, comes loyalty
For SMEs, adopting advanced digital security and identity verification technologies is not just about protecting transactions; it’s about building a foundation of trust and efficiency that enhances the overall customer experience. By focusing on secure, seamless and compliant digital processes, SMEs can strengthen customer relationships, foster loyalty and position themselves as trustworthy, customer-focused entities in the digital marketplace.
Karl Bateson, Director of Global PR and Communications, Acronis:
Research shows that SMEs make up about 90% of businesses and greater than 50% of employment opportunities worldwide. In Europe alone, SMEs represent closer to 99% of businesses and are responsible for two-thirds of private sector jobs. With SMEs facing increased competition in their relative markets, it becomes crucial to nurture a positive customer experience. To this end, we’ve identified several factors to consider.
- Employee Retention:
It’s no secret that if you are not keeping your employees happy, they are more likely to work for someone who will. In today’s hybrid world, it’s important to consider that your SME offers similar flexibility to those of your competitors. How often do they need to be in the office, are your salary and benefits competitive and are you creating a positive culture are some things to consider.
- Customer Centric Approach:
We’ve all heard the adage the customer is always right. Are they? Well, not always, but they can certainly be treated with the respect warranted. Your employees need the proper training and knowledge of customer pain points, in order to effectively solve their unique needs. A motivated employee is more likely to create a positive customer experience. So, if you are satisfying the employee retention requirements, you might also be creating an environment that creates a positive customer-centric environment. See how they are connected?
Each customer may have unique needs which necessitates a personalised approach. What products have they purchased before, how does their business use them, what pressures does this customer/industry face? If you know the answers to these questions you can customise a solution that fits their needs, instead of pushing the same solution to everyone.
Keeping customers informed of your products and value proposition is not just a pre-sale activity. If you want to maintain your customer database and help ensure future business, stay in touch. This does not mean send them an email every day, but it does mean, touching base when you can with new offerings that meet their business needs. Some experts also refer to the continual flow of information as account-based marketing. I like that, because it is indicative of a customised approach for each customer.
- Customer Support:
So many customers can be lost because of just one bad support experience, so businesses should spend a lot of time and energy training their teams to help mitigate customer concerns quickly and correctly. If a customer is on hold for 30 minutes, the chances of them being agitated exponentially increases. Offer online FAQs when possible to help customers diagnose/solve their own issues. Round-the-clock chat bots that use AI to respond to questions rapidly are also becoming more prevalent. When all else fails, someone to pick up the phone to assist the customer can go a long way in satisfying customer queries.
By combining these strategies, SMEs can contribute to a more positive customer-facing experience that helps attract new customers and also maintains the loyalty of existing ones.Click below to share this article