Both 2020 and 2021 have been witness to an e-revolution across the entire retail landscape. While businesses and consumers had embraced and integrated e-commerce and social shopping into their company structures for some time, the last two years accelerated those efforts with dizzying speed.
In this new era of retail, small businesses are enjoying a spotlight reflective of this moment in time. Current sensibilities inspired by the ‘shop local’ movement have helped smaller or local companies take a prominent place within our collective retail culture. But in a world where consumers have instant access to a myriad of retail options and also unprecedented amounts of product information, the question of sustainability can plague the small, or local, business owner. Therefore, this is the ideal moment to harness that energy and provide a well-rounded customer experience.
Clarifying Small Business vs. Medium or Large
The connotation of ‘small business’ can be misleading. According to the Harvard Business Review, small business makes up 43% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Additionally, small businesses account for 48% of all American jobs. Piggybacking on the consumer desire to support the little guys, local or independent businesses are the beneficiaries of the nationwide community shopping campaigns. But what exactly qualifies as ‘small’ within this multinational, big-business retail world?
A company that operates independently and has fewer than 500 employees is considered small. From the gift shop on any given Main Street in America to the neighborhood food truck to family-run cleaning services, small businesses form the very fabric of a local community. Often they are the source of much innovation and creativity, which also provide solutions to and for day-to-day life.
And research has shown that a growing number of consumers expect personalized, seamless, and swift customer service. And with personalization in customer experience accounting for a possible 60% increase in company revenue, small businesses are in the ideal position to capture business by providing the modern service their customers expect.
Customer Experience Vs Customer Service
Before we look at the ways to shift from CS to CX, let’s clarify what distinguishes the two. In a nutshell, customer service is the standard exchange between a customer and a service agent. This can include questions about products, advice on a particular item, or details about a sale price. Customer experience is the whole end-to-end journey that a customer has with the brand.
5 Ways Brands Can Deliver Remarkable CX
This begins from their initial interaction (browsing or searching) and continues throughout the purchase, receipt of an item and everything in between. CX is an immersive experience with the business as a whole, while CS is often limited to a given exchange of information.
New CRM software can appear daunting and seem geared toward larger companies, however, there are many options for the small business to take.
Here are five strategies for smaller brands to deliver an exceptional, comprehensive customer experience:
- Data analytics is not just for large companies, in fact, it can be a transformative tool for small business owners. According to Score, 73% of small businesses report that attracting new customers is a top priority closely followed by customer retention, coming in at 67%. The captured information provides valuable insight into unique shopping habits and preferences allowing for a personalized, tailored shopping experience for returning customers. Additionally, the insights garnered through analytics can help a small company focus and leverage its marketing strategies specifically to attract new business. In tracking customer shopping behavior, a company is better able to understand where they are being successful as well as where there is room for improvement for new and returning customers.
- Staff training is critical for excellent customer support. Implementing the knowledge of data analytics will be of little use if your support teams aren’t trained through a customer-centric lens. In addition to general onboarding with new hires, training new staff to proceed with empathy while problem solving generates a personal touch for customers that will set their experience apart from other brands.
- Customer service protocols establish a consistent, unified approach for your team. Having standards and policies in place helps all team members stay on the same page. Service protocols also help to ensure that your customer’s brand experience remains consistent regardless of the channel they utilize. Additionally, clearly articulated standards clarify what is and is not good service and allow for benchmarks and metrics.
- Proactive customer support helps any business improve customer service by focusing on CX effort from the beginning. To clarify, a brand responding to customer outreach is “reactive” and a brand reaching out to the customer is considered “proactive.” It’s important to discern and preempt any possible problems with proactive strategies. Data-driven technology can provide insights that will help small companies decide how to better and most effectively engage with their customers. Taking a proactive approach not only supports the customer but also supports the efforts of customer service teams when they are in a situation requiring reactive customer support.
- Avoiding common pitfalls is another way to shore up efforts to deliver a great customer experience for your customers. Always ensure, no matter the size, that your team is correctly scaled to meet the needs of your customers. Invest in software tools that will provide a holistic view of the customer journey. Doing this will help you personalize your service at scale, know where you are succeeding, and identify where there are gaps in service or room for improvement. Once you’ve invested in data analytics, be sure to utilize that information regularly. Continually monitoring the insights these tools deliver can set your small business on a course for the long view rather than only capturing a transitory retail trend.
Scaling Up Your Customer Experience
Customer experience is truly a package of all customer interactions, requiring a unified strategy and protocol. The time and attention spent integrating these steps will empower your brand to reach its full potential. Addressing this aspect of your business will impact customer retention, brand equity, and can generate revenue with no additional costs.