Woman in a denim jacket in a crowd
Service providers need to deliver compatible and effortless SMB customer experience. PHOTO: Mike Wilson

In today’s digital-first world, consumers demand personalized service in the palm of their hands.

Across industries, these changing expectations present a unique opportunity for service providers to reaffirm their customer relationships. But despite many providers’ investments in expanding programs, products and digital services, small and medium business (SMB) customers remain largely untapped and detached.

Compatible SMB CX

To drive improved customer engagement and satisfaction within this segment, providers need to focus on delivering a compatible SMB customer experience.

These customers are generally time-starved, risk averse and emotionally invested in the success of their business. They are looking for providers to understand and appreciate their businesses vulnerability and resource constraints – to help them grow with less risk and less effort.

Service providers who do not invest in helping their SMB customers grow will see their customer base become more and more disengaged.

For instance, in the energy industry, changing customer expectations are colliding with a changing market.

Options like distributed generation, solar and microgrids are becoming more readily available and giving customers more options than ever before when it comes to sourcing their energy. Without a trusted utility partner to provide advice and guidance, these complex choices can lead to resistance and inertia rather than action.

3 Ways to Improve SMB CX

Providers can overcome this inertia by becoming a compassionate partner that creates an effortless experience for SMBs throughout their customer journey.

By delivering compatible and effortless customer experiences, service providers can increase customer engagement, satisfaction and loyalty. To deliver an improved experience, providers should focus on three key areas:

Nail the first impression

  • Deliver effortless onboarding. Time starved SMB customers do not have the time or expertise to become experts in their providers’ product and service offerings. In the energy industry, for example, utilities can deliver useful and timely communications about energy use, spend and savings opportunities, fostering goodwill and earning their customers’ trust. 
  • Provide snackable reinforcements. JD Power has found that the most effective onboarding programs reach a customer between six and nine times over the first six months of the relationship. 
  • Be relevant. SMB owners make decisions based on their operations as a whole, making their industry niche more relevant than their company size in many cases. Providing business-specific information, and demonstrating savings opportunities in terms of relevant business drivers, such as revenue per additional gallon of milk sold at a convenience store, will help boost customer satisfaction.

Cultivate the customer relationship

  • Invest in your customers. There is no better way to earn customer loyalty than by investing your customers’ success. Be proactive in helping SMBs cut their costs by using digital assets such as videos and webinars to educate them with tips and advice.
  • Instill confidence by removing obstacles. SMBs are time-starved and want to take the path of least resistance when resolving issues. Help them by providing online solutions to their questions. Take the risk out of exploring alternative rate plans by explaining projected cost implications.
  • Be fair and predictable. Providing customers with consistent, honest service will help manage customer expectations and increase satisfaction. Deliver regular training to front line service representatives to ensure customers have a consistent experience across the board.

Build a community

  • Connect key stakeholders. Even in small businesses, there is often more than one influencer involved in decisions. Make information shareable and accessible using digital tools such as online portals and email alerts.
  • Open up dialogue. Create a loyal customer base by educating customers through open dialogue. Provide online forums to support SMB communities, send surveys to gather feedback and reward participation.
  • Build the experience from within. Put onboarding and on-going training programs in place to ensure your customer service representatives and account managers are confident, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your SMB base. These teams are the first point of contact for customers, and the experience starts here.

Understanding SMB Objectives

For SMB customers, a compatible and effortless experience means one that accommodates their diverse business constraints, appreciates their vulnerability and enables their success.

Focusing on the unique pain points and opportunities in the SBM customer experience will enable service providers to deliver targeted messages and build stronger relationships.

By nailing the first impression, cultivating the customer relationship and building a community, service providers can deliver a powerful customer engagement strategy that creates a winning situation for everyone involved — from internal teams to the end customer.