Why SMEs need further investment in digital to win in customer engagement

With customer expectations for fast, personalised and connected engagement rising, digital technology is being deployed across small businesses to help organisations meet this changing demand. In this environment, the reluctance or inability of small businesses to evolve their service offerings can present a major challenge to their chances of success.

With the growing expectation for businesses to provide personalised experiences, customer service professionals are now at the forefront of brand experience, and innovation is required to enable them to fulfil a different mandate. However, according to the Australian Small Business & Enterprise Ombudsman, only 30 per cent of SMEs engage in product and service innovation.

The evolution of the service agent

The latest Salesforce State of Service report showed 73 per cent of A/NZ decision makers say their company’s customer service must transform in order to stay competitive, while 80 per cent agreed their job had become more strategic than it was two years ago. This is largely down to customer expectations, which Deloitte’s 2018 report, Small business imperatives for the digital age, found to be the largest threat to an SME business.

In a bid to manage this risk and shift the focus from transactions to customer relationships, SMEs need to improve skills and tools for their service professionals.

The skills race

The need for training is driven by the increased complexity of the role. Mundane tasks are now often automated, meaning a service agent can now focus on dealing with complex customer issues and interacting with new technology.

Providing the right tools and information in a centralised location can help agents operate more effectively. For example, being able to quickly track a customers interaction history and related background means time is freed up to provide the required customer counsel.

Decision-makers recognise the need to upskill service agents, with it being rated as the second highest priority for management.

For SMEs to be competitive and meet the demands of today’s connected customers, training and empowering their service workforce is more crucial than ever to driving new revenue streams, differentiating their brand and driving customer loyalty.

Customer Engagement Goes Digital and Cross-Functional

The report found companies in A/NZ are seeing increased customer engagement through digital platforms, with 67 per cent of service teams saying that they are seeing higher case volume through digital channels. For small businesses, which value customer retention as a key driver of future business growth, ensuring they are able to target customers with their preferred channel with key messages is crucial.

To ensure customer service agents have the required time to gain more knowledge about their customers, they are off-loading manual tasks to scale support and make space for more strategic work and customer relationships. Investment in training is required not only for soft skills but also how to work with new technologies like AI. Quality training and the right technology can help service teams be more engaged and productive while also delivering outstanding customer experiences.

Time to invest

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates, and the pace of innovation keeps pace, SMEs are under intense pressure to stay in the race.

The time is now for SMEs to invest in their people, processes and technology to drive service transformation. By investing in their service arm to achieve the personal approach needed in modern day business, SMEs can take advantage of being more agile than larger organisations and win the long-term loyalty of their customers.

Matt Porta, Product Leader, Service Cloud, Salesforce APAC

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