Given today’s dynamic markets, it has become even harder for SMEs to stand out and compete against a barrage of local and foreign competition. Most SMEs think that marketing and advertisement will do the trick and push them forward, however, what most fail to realize is that most SMEs have the biggest advantage of all holstered up, their size. With a smaller size come a significant amount of advantages which can be exploited much easier and in turn will nurture sustainable growth. Here is how you can make it happen in your business.
“Customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”
Understand your business and your customers
It’s all well and good to create social media pages, websites, and blogs but who are your clients? What do they want to see? Are you on the right platforms? Are you reaching your customers? With face-to-face interactions on a rapid decline, SMEs might have a better chance of creating and building customer loyalty online, which makes these questions increasingly important but also much harder to answer. The best answer to all of this is the adoption of a data-led communication strategy that ensures your message is effectively passed to your customers in an engaging, personalized and meaningful way.
All this starts by understanding how your product or service can fit into your customer’s lives, then keep a genuine and consistent message. The best way to understand your customers is purely through client-company interactions. This data can be gathered online through analytics and with the use of physical interaction, whilst the utilization of a customer relationship measurement system can help you understand and handle your customer base much better and recognize patterns in your customer data which allows you to create predictive insights to help you with forecasting, strategic decisions and assessing your ROIs on specific campaigns. Customer data takes the guesswork out of understanding your audience’s needs.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of planning around revenue, product development and presentation but the real trick is to plan around what you’ve learned about you customer, becoming completely customer-oriented and when a company is significantly smaller, changing ways and becoming more customer-oriented is much easier both online and in person. But what does it mean to be customer-oriented?
“The focus on helping customers to meet their long-term needs and wants through the alignment of the individual and team objectives around satisfying and retaining customers.”
By starting here and using customer satisfaction as the ultimate end goal, you can then create strategies for development and marketing around the specific needs of your customer base. Given the very nature of a smaller business which has a smaller customer base, a very basic CRM could be used to significantly help the business owner/client facing employees to get to know a good portion of their customers on a more intimate level than would be possible for bigger businesses. This will end up in the creation of customer interactions which truly touch on the customer personal level and make it as easy as possible to interact with the company at every stage. This in turn will increase client satisfaction, hopefully resulting in delight which will generally mean that these clients start regarding the company and brand as if their own, heavily recommending and defending it.
“Creating a customer who creates customers.”
It’s important to note that this isn’t a one and done deal but rather a continuous process, SMEs must constantly strive to maintain a good understanding of their customer base especially with the constantly shifting expectations of markets and demographics.
Customer experience is very delicate and relatively brittle due to the fact that there are different stages of customer interactions, from the initial engagement up to the post- purchase behaviour. Therefore getting your employees on board is key, but this is easier said than done. SMEs once more have the advantage of size which will make it easier to change the culture around.
To create a customer-oriented company culture it is suggested that a top-down approach is taken, where the directors and managers of SMEs pass the culture on through example. Having said this, it is not always enough to set an example and this is where the use of CRM software and company procedures come in. If a framework is created for your employees it is easier to push them to use it, which if done correctly will result in the philosophy behind the framework to be enlisted in how your employees act and interact within the company and with clients. All of this is will ensure that no matter who the client talks to, there is always a consistent message, and level of experience.
In conclusion, small and medium-sized organizations have the advantage of it being easier to adapt and change some factors to significantly increase the level of customer experience within their company. Even though small changes go a long way, strategically changing the culture of the company and the processes will make the real difference. These changes might even sound like they are futile and regarded as “common sense” most however most SMEs are falling behind with customer expectations constantly increasing due to interactions with giants like Airbnb and Uber which are offering excellent customer experience.