How Small Businesses Can Improve Their Customer Experience

How Small Businesses Can Improve Their Customer Experience

By on Apr 5, 2024 in IT Consulting

Digital technology has reshaped how customers learn about and engage with professional services firms in dramatic ways.

On one hand, the standardization and commodification of the legal, accounting, marketing, and other professional services fields means that these businesses are under greater pressure to differentiate themselves, keep profit margins high, and remain competitive.

On the other hand, digital technology has opened new channels and opportunities for businesses to reach, engage, and delight client. This capability is often referred to as “customer experience,” (CX) and it’s quickly becoming a critical means to sustained growth and stability among professional services firms.

Here’s what small-and midsized businesses in Ohio can do to stay ahead of this important trend.

Recent research from Salesforce found that one-third of firms expect 75% of or more of their revenue to come from digital channels in the coming years, a three-fold increase from just a few years ago.

A Brief History of Customer Experience

The term customer experience originated in the first marketing and customer service theories in the 1960s. Specifically, it was Lewis “Lou” Carbonne and his 1994 article “Engineering Customer Experience” in Marketing Management magazine that was the formal birth.

In the 1980s, the rise of customer relationship management (CRM) systems began to take hold, which later developed in the 360-degree view of customer interaction, and later the idea of the “omnichannel” experience in the early 2000s.

Today, customer experience refers to the customer’s entire journey with your company, from the first time they heard of your brand until after they’ve made a purchase from you. With the advent of new technologies like AI, advanced automation, and remote work, CX is no longer just something you can tack onto your business; it takes a ground-up reappraisal of how you deal with customers.

Why Is Customer Experience Important to Growing Businesses?

Your firm may be thinking, is customer experience really a problem? We’ve done well so far. Is there any way to relate CX in any real way to my business’s growth or profitability. While much of the dialogue around customer experience is centered around enterprises, it’s just as important for small and midsized businesses to start thinking about it as well.

“In the U.S., even when people love a company or product, 59% of consumers will walk away after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience.”

“Nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.”

-PwC, Future of Customer Experience Report

There are four key ways that providing a better experience can help growing businesses in Ohio, which are:

Smoother Operations – Once you set yourself on the customer experience path, you’ll begin to uncover areas where data-driven insights and analytics can yield real business benefits.

Positive Word of Mouth – When customers enjoy working with your business, the chance that they recommend you to their personal network increases dramatically.

Competitive Advantage – Because many small businesses haven’t started to take CX seriously, it is an opportunity for the company that do, providing an opportunity to capture more market share.

Improved Customer Retention – It is 5 times cheaper to keep an existing client than to acquire a new one. Good CX establishes deeper trust and ensures customers feel supported, improving customer lifetime value (CLV).

How Can Professional Services Firms Improve Customer Experience?

Professional services are particularly sensitive to customer experience because the relationship that you build with your company will have a direct impact on how loyal your customers and staff are to your firm, your reputation in the market, and how effective you are at earning repeat business from your customers.

According to Bain and Company, businesses that excel in designing great customer experiences grow revenues 4%–8% above their market average.

Start by Empowering Your Employees
Empower your customer-facing staff with the right tools and data, so that when they do engage with a customer, they have everything they need to give them excellent service quickly. Company intranets and knowledge management systems are powerful tools that help to unify your customer service processes, keep your messaging consistent, and get people the information they need fast.

Implementing these tools is a good opportunity to think about data more holistically in your organization as well. Think to yourself, are there ways that you can be managing information more effectively, or provide greater transparency to clients?

Build Stronger Communication
One of the major benefits of digital technology is the ability to be responsive to client demands. Helping your team provide faster responses to client questions and service requests across multiple channels, including voice, email, and online chat, is a great way to make them feel valued.

Technologies like voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phones are a great way to do that. VoIP systems are a major upgrade over traditional business telephone systems that can help you intelligently route phone calls to remote employees, forward missed calls to alternative numbers, provide analytic insight into your customer service, and much more.

The human touch is critical; 54% of customers are frustrated by how many questions they have to ask an AI chatbot before reaching a human.

Improve Security
When companies choose a service business to work with, there is an expectation that the partner is going to take their data security and privacy seriously. If you can prove to your clients that you have best-in-class data protections tools and processes in place, that’s a great way to learn their trust and loyalty, while establishing your brand as trustworthy.

Secure client portals, encrypted communication, and convenient file sharing systems are powerful ways to demonstrate to your clients that you value their privacy and won’t be the next victim of an attack that puts their personally identifiable information (PII) at risk.

Build a Culture of Customer Experience
This last one isn’t a technical fix, but it’s critical.  No matter what technology you’re using, it won’t be sufficient unless you create a top-down culture of customer experience. That means aligning your business and technology, ensuring that the technology that enables your customer care is well maintained, and educating your team on the importance of customer experience and client expectations.

IT Services Partnership to Modernize Your Professional Services Business

For over 20 years, the Astute Technology Management team has been helping businesses in Ohio plan their IT strategy, support their technology and team, and be more productive. If you’d like to make the most of your digital transformation investment and stand out with exceptional, technology-driven customer experiences, speak with our team to find out how at [email protected] or 614 389 4102.

We look forward to speaking with you!