Cloud technology: redressing the balance between service and cost
December 2014 | PROFESSIONAL INSIGHT | BOARDROOM INTELLIGENCE
Over the years, customer care and service hasn’t changed that much: small business customers still expect, and want, to feel that they are receiving individual and personal support. Their providers are still attempting to deliver this through face-to-face meetings, and increasingly through telephony. However, when it becomes tough to provide quality service at an affordable cost to the company, what can providers do?
Currently, most providers are only gradually changing their business model despite the fact that they are finding themselves struggling not to over promise and under deliver. Small business owners are either given named contacts that they rarely hear from, or they are passed from pillar to post and simply wind up feeling that they have wasted precious time.
There is, however, another option. It is not an instant solution to all problems, because it involves evolving what you already have – the tools you provide, the data you have and the way people can get hold of you. But by adapting how you look after your small business customers, and being explicit about what your new service model is, you have the chance of actually delivering on the promises you make.
Firstly, you need to be certain about exactly what it is your customer wants. Everyone you deal with will have different preferences for how their relationship is run. Some may prefer having problems dealt with online, others will always prefer meeting in person. Simply giving them the choice means you are starting to provide a more tailored service. Secondly, you need to find other ways to communicate – this could be online chat, email or skype, all of which are cheaper and often more efficient than meetings and phone calls. Face-to-face meetings can’t, of course, be wholly replaced – however, for solving minor issues, alternative methods can be particularly useful.
The heads of small business at these service providers must also be upfront and sincere about the costs, so that a customer will know that face-to-face meetings will cost them more. Customers may not be immediately pleased about this, but they will be aware from the start of the true situation. Even if they choose a cheaper option, they will get a service that is an accurate reflection of the price they are paying. Putting together a small business toolkit is also a good idea; such as SaaS applications that help small business owners find tools to help run their business better, which allows them time to grow their business. The key to getting it right is to provide contextual help and access to expert support, and the need for personal contact from the service provider can be reduced significantly.
If your organisation doesn’t capture information well about its customers and make it available across multi-channels, it will be tough to service customers well, let alone provide small business owners with relevant, current insights. It is also important to make sure that your CRM system is serving its role properly and you will be able to have more effective and targeted conversations.
Alongside this, as a big business with lots of small business customers, you are likely to have access to plenty of information and data that could be analysed, repurposed and then shared with your customers. Whether it is tips and advice or an insight into a particular sector, it could all help a small business owner run their company more efficiently.
And lastly, make sure you ask questions, lots of them. Surveys are an inexpensive and swift way of getting to know your customers well; this will enable you to use that information to tailor your services appropriately and you will also be able to add this information to your other data to provide insights to your customers in an engaging and personalised way.
There is definitely still room for face-to-face relationships, but they need to take their place alongside other forms of service and support. Make digital an integral part of your service model and you will find that you have the chance to build deeper relationships with customers whilst maintaining an acceptable cost to serve.
John Davis is managing director of BCSG. He can be contacted on +44 (0)845 880 8820 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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