Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) take for granted the level of investment required to build and maintain a good reputation.

There’s growing acknowledgement of the importance of becoming a Customer Experience (CX) leader to help build that reputation, but too few are taking appropriate steps to embrace and prioritise a true CX culture.

Delivering exceptional CX requires that every part of the business is in sync and enabled by the right technology.

CX is an important part of managing and growing a company, yet, it is one of the most understated business priorities. Customer service is the level of service that customers expect to receive in exchange for their money.

CX, on the other hand, is how customers feel when they interact with a business. From researching the product to the actual purchase and use, it spans the entire customer buying journey.

Customers, now more than ever, will never return if the initial interaction is poor. CX is therefore a key element of customer retention – and a key differentiator.

What’s the fuss about CX?

CX encapsulates the holistic perception of a customer’s experience with a company. It is the result of every interaction, from researching the product to purchasing and using it.

The 2019 Digital Trends report found that companies that prioritised technology were 64% more likely to meet and exceed their business priorities.

According to the same report, 36% of large companies are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve their data analytics.

These companies believe that data is a game changer, and that its ownership, control and use is a strong source of sustainable competitive advantage.

There is a misconception that investing in CX is expensive and delivers little return.

A recent PWC report found that satisfied customers are willing to pay a premium of up to 16%; proving that positive experiences lead to greater loyalty.

In addition, around 32% of consumers reported that after just one bad experience, they were most likely to abandon a brand they had preferred.

These data points demonstrate the importance of intentionally pursuing a customer-centric strategy. The net impact is customer satisfaction, higher sales and stronger long-term customer relationships.

In difficult times, such as the tough economic climate caused by the COVID pandemic, CX is at the heart of sustaining a business.

Steps to improving CX

SMEs often juggle multiple priorities with limited resources. Balancing operational priorities and implementing CX strategies can be a real challenge. Here are some practical ways of improving CX for SMEs:

  1. Implement additional support channels to make it easier for customers to interact with the company. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for automation, SMEs can provide self-service options that make it easier for customers to track their orders independently, enabling a self-help approach that improves efficiencies and lowers costs.
  2. Prioritise your website as a different way of interacting with customers 24/7. SMEs that did not have online stores could not continue trading under lockdown conditions. Moreover, adding a Frequently Asked Questions section can empower customers to be self-sufficient, allowing the company to refocus valuable human resources on income-generating activities and innovation.
  3. Adopt technology-driven query management processes that are customer-centric and cost-effective. Using AI, SMEs can develop chatbots that handle repetitive functions such as order delivery queries.

How technology enables great CX

A recent study by Qualtrics and Forrester Consulting that looked at Return on Investment from deploying CX solutions produced some interesting findings:

  • Customer care: companies were able to gather actionable insights that enabled them to institute measures that reduced the cost of incident management by shifting incidents to a self-help platform.
  • Customer retention: aligning the company on key metrics and shifting to a customer-centric view of data had a positive impact on CX. Companies reported an increase in customer satisfaction and more personalised experiences and customer buying journeys that led to higher customer retention.
  • Data and customer-centric culture: companies were able to create standard, consistent, and trusted data sources across departments, resulting in a unified view and measure of CX throughout the company.
  • Business outcomes: companies were able to identify things that needed to change quickly. While some seemed mundane, they had a meaningful impact on customers and resulted in quick wins.
  • Better insight and decision-making: companies benefited from having a centralised database for all customer insights, enabling them to move quicker and provide better insights for decision making.

CX is about proactively managing and curating the entire customer buying journey to ensure that customers walk away with a feel-good experience.

Delivering a positive CX requires a customer-centric strategy that is underpinned by the right technology investment. Technology empowers all companies, of all sizes, to connect with current and prospective customers.

SMEs now have the ability to accurately predict future needs of their customers, enabling them to be proactive and attentive to ever-changing conditions. In an increasingly unpredictable and competitive business environment, the emotional connection between the customer and the brand can be the difference between survival and prosperity.

In a recent survey by Oxford Economics and SAP, 39% of small and medium sized companies said that improving customer experiences is their top priority over the next three years – even ahead of increasing profits or reducing costs.

I thought it would be interesting for you to discover how these companies are managing customer experiences through improved technology and organizational strategies by reading the study here.

***Qualtrics is a wholly owned SAP company that provides solutions for monitoring, analysing and managing feedback to improve CX, employee experience (EX) and product experiences (PX).