The data shows that today’s consumers demand top-notch customer service. If they don’t receive a high level of service from one company, 62% of customers won’t hesitate to try another. According to the 2022 Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report, today’s consumers also expect world-class support in all the major communication channels, be it in person or via digital devices, such as phone calls or messaging on social media channels.
It wasn’t always this way. The pandemic rapidly changed customer expectations for the speed and quality of online service, from the corner office to the corner shop. Now that in-person interactions are back, those same expectations need to be met everywhere. As the country faces a recession, SMBs must channel the pressure to retain their customers and preserve their revenue into getting the customer experience right.
Traditionally, small business owners must wear many different hats: CEO, CFO, CTO, CISO and head of customer support. There’s online and offline business to worry about, perhaps field service and an entire back end to support while on-the-go. Given their smaller budgets, non-traditional work hours and limited headcount, handling customer inquiries can present challenges. However, customer engagement increasing 14% year-over-year means that the growth and survival of SMBs depends on adapting to the latest digital trends. In addition to meeting customer expectations, SMBs that provide agile, omnichannel customer service can distinguish themselves in the market from rivals.
That also provides significant benefit to the business itself. With 90% of customers willing to spend more on a brand that personalizes their service, SMBs must take advantage of the fact they often know their customer better on a local level than anyone else. These businesses have an opportunity to hyperscale their growth because of how well they know, and serve, their customers.
The key is to shift to a mobile-first approach for customer service — one that makes it easier for SMB leaders and customer experience teams to take the pulse of customers, serve them from anywhere and drive the biggest impact to the business while protecting customer data.
Improving the employee experience at SMBs
Small and midsize business leaders and their employees need the flexibility to provide elite-level support from anywhere: out in the field, behind the counter of a brick-and-mortar store or between meetings with investors and vendors. Many founders I’ve worked with say that using mobile-native customer support lets them and their employees leave the office to go to dinner with friends, stop by a sporting event or attend a child’s recital and rest assured that they can still address urgent customer needs.
Additionally, digitization has changed how people work. As “customers” in their own lives, people use their mobile devices to order cabs, manage home security technology and keep up with friends on social media. Why shouldn’t employees expect to have the ability to serve customers in the same way, without being tied to a laptop?
Employees at SMBs not only need the reassurance that they can connect from anywhere, but that new technology will improve their own overall experience. As Gen Z joins the workforce, they’re increasingly driven by the desire to have meaningful connections with customers. They don’t have the patience for clunky tools that slow them down, and they want to be empowered to solve customers’ issues independently.
To make this happen, leaders need to ensure their teams have real-time visibility into customer inquiries, without having to run to the office or boot up a laptop. That means using mobile-first technologies to power customer support interactions, with standard interfaces that are easy to operate while on the move. The more complicated it is to serve customers on the back end — with multiple devices, numerous apps and complex workflows — the harder it is to be responsive and interact with customers. This is especially true for the people running a small business, who are experts in their field, but not necessarily in customer service. Technology should provide the flexibility that enables them to work from anywhere and do what’s important to them: spending more time with customers.
Take, for example, a whose primary job is working with multiple customers to answer questions and make sales, both in-store and online. Their goal is to build customer loyalty and use data-driven insights to make solid decisions, but they can’t be stuck in a back room, hunched over a laptop. Instead, they need to be able to offer personalized experiences to customers and collaborate with other salespeople quickly. Mobile-first customer service technology allows reps to take advantage of customer data, be flexible and deepen customer loyalty.
Create a mobile-first customer experience that works for SMBs
When it comes to building a flexible, mobile-first work experience for entrepreneurs, all SMB leaders — regardless of their growth expectations for the next year — should keep a few things in mind:
- Set clear goals and objectives for what the organization intends to get out of the mobile experience. There are infinite ways to scale and develop a mobile-first experience, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Entrepreneurs and business leaders need to set specific goals for what they want to achieve with this strategic shift, whether it’s an increase in return customers, decrease in time to close service tickets, or reduction in hours spent on customer service tasks that feel like busywork.
- Adopt technology that is no-fuss: easy to use, easy to give support. Whether it’s the entrepreneur themself or a team member handling customer service, the odds of the point-of-contact having extensive technical expertise is lower. And frankly, the day-to-day work at an SMB doesn’t leave much time for learning new software; it needs to be ready to use immediately.
- Enable omnichannel support. Whether via a company’s website, social media, phone or email, customers should be able to reach the business in their preferred manner – and SMBs should ensure they build workflows that can respond back via those same channels.
- Balance convenience with compliance and security. When working from mobile devices, security and compliance concerns become more complicated. Make sure apps and workflows have regulatory requirements built into them from the beginning to protect customer data in the cloud. Since SMBs often don’t have significant IT resources, they must ensure partners and solution providers they work with are prioritizing data governance, multifactor authentication and API security.
Leaders who employ technology or strategies that address their primary business priorities will have far more success creating a mobile-first experience.
Customer first, always
Ultimately, SMBs need to make both their customer experience and the back-end work of serving customers as frictionless as possible – and going mobile-first is a big step in the right direction. Mobile-first technology can help SMBs and entrepreneurs carry out great customer support in a tough economic climate, whether by making existing employees more effective or leveraging automation & self-service to bring efficiency to operations.
By putting the customer at the center of everything — on whatever channel, at whatever time — and empowering employees with the flexibility to serve them, startups and SMBs set themselves up to successfully meet customer expectations.
Kristen Durham is the Senior Vice President of SMB & Startups at Zendesk, where she helps startups and SMBs manage the business and technical challenges of customer service that drive customer growth and retention. She is also a mentor with numerous startup accelerator programs, such as UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck and Endeavor. She’s served in previous roles supporting founders including Chief of Staff to Zendesk Founder/CEO, as well as a director for startups and VC funds in Latin America and other emerging marketplaces at Silicon Valley Bank Financial Group. Kristen earned her master’s degree in energy and resources management from the University of California at Berkeley and her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri at Columbia.