It’s a tough landscape for Australian small businesses.
Deloitte’s 2018 report, Small business imperatives for the digital age, with insights gathered from more than 500 Australian and New Zealand small business owners, found SME owners’ perceived business threats include changing customer expectations, local and online competition and the economic climate.
While larger businesses have the resources to manage these challenges, small business owners need to be more savvy in how they develop relationships with their customers.
By taking advantage of having less bureaucracy than larger organisations, smaller brands can win over the long-term loyalty of their customers by using a more personal approach to their customer service.
Here, we look at three methods perfect for small business owners to streamline their internal processes to ensure they can maximise the time spent on providing their customers with a customised and memorable experience.
1. Change your approach to be customer focused
It’s easy to fall into the trap of planning around revenue, product development and presentation.
What many businesses neglect to do is to start by researching their target audience to understand their needs. 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.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a one and done deal but rather a continuous process, as markets and demographics are constantly shifting their expectations.
Andrew Lester, National Sales Manager at Expr3ss!, an Australian-based HR tech company that specialises in predictive hiring technology via software that simplifies staff selection, has found that a customer relationship management (CRM) system can be instrumental in achieving this.
“We can easily capture the pain points of prospective and current customers, record what we have offered them or how we have addressed their unique needs and include any other important data into our CRM,” he says.
By keeping detailed records of client demographics and details garnered from conversations within a CRM that is integrated with other project management and electronic mailing tools, Lester and colleagues across the wider business can optimise their customer service and engagement.
“Notes are captured about every conversation I have. The same is true for our customer service team. They capture every interaction with a customer and our CRM becomes a single source of truth across the business – allowing any one of us to log in and see what the history and context is of any one of our over 8000 users. This way we don’t duplicate interactions and we offer exceptional service consistently,” says Lester.
2. Invest in your digital presence and analytic tools
Less than a third of businesses are regularly using social media, according to the Deloitte report. But with face-to-face interactions decreasing, and social media numbers rising, small businesses might have a better chance of building customer loyalty if they joined their customers online.
However, it’s not enough to just create a profile on any platform and start sending your message out – Lester recommends using a data-led communication strategy. This ensures your message is most effectively engaging with customers in a personalised and meaningful way.
Start by understanding how your product or service can fit into your customers’ lives. Then, keep a genuine and consistent message.
“We’ve got over 8000 users on the Expr3ss! platform that our customer service team work with. We keep track of conversations and can easily record whether they’re a mother or father, knowing their children’s names… we always talk about how the small things matter,” he says.
CRMs can now offer in-built artificial intelligence, or ‘machine learning’ tools, that can do the leg-work for you. These functions can set up with a few parameters in your CRM to recognise patterns in your customer data and systematically generate automated reports and 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. Some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs – think Ruslan Kogan and Jane Lu – have built their empires on the back of sophisticated data analytics.
3. Get your staff on the same page
Lester credits much of the growth of Expr3ss! in the last 10 years to the use of a CRM technology that has not only enabled the business to scale but also is adaptable enough to grow with the business.
“Carolyne Burns, the Founder and Managing Director of Expr3ss!, recognised early on that we needed a system to support full visibility of every interaction. Knowing when the person would prefer us to call him/her back, that the person only works certain days and any other preferences helps us offer better service – and all of this is housed in our CRM,” says Lester.
This transparent approach to account management has allowed Expr3ss! to operate at maximum efficiency and remain agile and lean, a distinct structural advantage that small businesses have over larger competitors.
“We’re a streamlined team because of our digital setup. By harnessing the power of an effective CRM system, we are able to punch above our weight and work in a lean but efficient manner – delivering output usually associated with much larger teams,” says Lester.
Lester points out that this company-wide visibility provides a centralised underlying structure for other software integrations too.
“The system serves as the backbone of the business in that it has the rigidity that informs the processes and procedures,” says Lester. “We don’t just have staff in Sydney, we have staff scattered nationally. To link all of that staff together, that backbone becomes quite important.”
Salesforce, the global leader in customer relationship management (CRM), empowers companies to connect with their customers in a whole new way.