The challenge of customer service in SMEs has never been greater as technology threatens to replace or overtake human interaction.
While there is a strong case for the role of technology, Mike Anderson, Founder and CEO of the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), says that at the end of the day people buy experiences more than they buy products: “There is no substitute for this crucial element in business and for SMEs, getting customer service right will be a matter of life or death for the business.”
Anderson, who launched and leads the Small Business Friday movement, says selling an experience is the new silver bullet: “We ardently believe in the growth and importance of the SME sector, and through Small Business Friday, we encourage consumers to shop small business every Friday. It is a powerful way to drive an initiative that will assist in the growth of South Africa’s most important business sector. It can only succeed if these same SMEs ensure they offer a quality experience with each consumer interaction.”
In an era where Chatbots are becoming more prevalent, the human interaction and ability to understand the consumer’s state of mind is lost. Anderson says that while technology will inevitably address the need for a more ‘human-like’ interaction, SMEs need to focus on making customer experience an imperative: “Part of doing this well is ensuring you have an omni-channel approach and giving customers the option to define which channel they want to use to communicate with your business. It simply means ensuring you have a website, mobile capability and social media channels available. These three elements are a major part of today’s customer experience and have become a standard requisite for most.”
In a global customer survey conducted in 2017, Microsoft reported that almost 50% of customers use between three and five channels to interact with a business. The same survey also found that over 70% used social media as a customer service channel.
Anderson says that while it seems daunting, a simple check list of channels and a customer experience approach will help SMEs retain customers: “Small Business Friday aims to drive business to SMEs every Friday, but my challenge to SMEs is to make everyday a customer experience focused one. Don’t leave room for a customer to consider options, sell an experience and you will reap the rewards.”