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Data and Goliath: How data is empowering SMBs in the battle against big brands

(Image credit: Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay)

It’s a common misconception that only big companies can benefit from big data analytics. Well, it’s time to set the record straight. Whilst SMBs may lack the same resources and budgets as larger companies, by taking the time to understand data analytics best practices, smaller businesses stand to outperform larger competitors where it matters – on customer experience.

Today, quality of service is the battleground on which SMBs can win against established competitors. After all, according to our report on the impact of Customer Experience on SMBs in the UK, 97 per cent of us report having had a good customer service interaction with a small business, and 77 per cent are prepared to pay more for the great service provided by a small business.

As both customer demand and experience-driven decision making surges, SMBs often lack the tools and the time to follow the breadcrumbs left by every unique customer interaction - which, when aggregated, can lead to larger insights and trends. With limited time and resource, it can be difficult to identify the necessary tools to make sense of these signs. The question is – how do they do it?

Make the most of technology

SMBs are expected to visibly respond through many channels. While phone and email remain popular tools, two-fifths of UK consumers would prefer to communicate via live chat, and one-fifth through social media – an email inbox alone doesn’t cut it.

There is a misconception that to be responsive across channels requires the kind of constant vigilance and size of team that only a large business can afford – but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Monitoring all the available channels individually is needlessly inefficient for small business operators, who instead can rely on omnichannel platforms that are entirely agnostic to the medium customers prefer to use.

Omnichannel tools empower customer service agents to meet customers where they are, provide faster resolution to their problems, and do so without increasing the strain on their time. A small team of agents, or even just a single person, can be in several places at once – without losing sight of a single thread.

Empower your customers to help themselves

Once customer enquiries are centralised, it becomes easier to derive patterns in their questions and pre-empt their concerns. UK consumers in particular prefer to use self-service options wherever possible, yet only [9 per cent of small business teams] provide this functionality.

Providing [self-service options] can have a dramatic effect on the ticket volume a small business’ staff has to manage on a daily basis. If a business has a high volume of inbound messages regarding delivery time, for example, they know to put delivery information front and centre on their channels.

When customers can find answers for themselves, they are typically more satisfied – they get faster and more accurate issue resolutions. Having answers prepared to common questions can help to lighten the load on agents – such questions can be answered via chat recommendations that can be entirely automated, with an agent ready to step in if required for more complex and nuanced tickets.

Furthermore, more than half (57 per cent) of those surveyed in the UK expect better over-the-phone service from a smaller company than a larger one. By proactively solving simple enquiries through self-service or chatbots, a phone call is only necessary for more complicated ones. The time saved can be devoted to more complex cases, providing a competitively high-quality experience compared to a company that is inundated with inbound calls.

If a business is prepared to spot and plan for recurring queries, they can give ownership of solving queries to customers with rich, robust, help channels on owned media. Not only does this give your customers the seamless experience they’re looking for, it frees up agent time for other tasks. Put simply, it’s a win-win situation.

Demystify the data

The keystone of both approaches is data. Quantitative insights and integrations should be at the heart of a small business’ customer service team in order to maximise efficiency and deliver quality, transformational experiences – treating each customer individually doesn’t mean starting from scratch every time. 

Collecting the necessary data doesn’t have to be onerous. Chances are, an agent dashboard full of customer queries contains untapped insights waiting to be understood.

Omnichannel tools can help to aggregate and demystify that data, giving insights in context. This doesn’t require the manpower of a larger business, just a strategic approach to customer experience and a willingness to embrace the technology. After all, customers already actively want to support smaller businesses – with a little insight, they needn’t fear the big brands.

Garrett Lawlor, Senior Director, SMB, EMEA, Zendesk

Garrett Lawlor is the Senior Director, SMB, EMEA at Zendesk.