The three steps for SMEs to drive customer excellence through targeted communications
By David Mills, CEO, Ricoh Europe
Ricoh Europe, 5 April 2016 – Exceptional customer service is the hallmark of the SME. A smaller client base often makes it much easier to know individual customers and understand their specific needs. How SMEs look to communicate with their customers should naturally be an extension of this service, a lesson which is clear in recent research sponsored by Ricoh Europe1.
According to the new research, six-in-ten consumers would stop being customers of a brand if the communications they received from that business were poor. In addition, two-thirds feel less loyal and would spend less with brands sending them irrelevant information. The research implies this is no idle threat: nearly one-in-five consumers said they have actually taken their custom elsewhere after being spammed by irrelevant material from product and service providers.
Alienating existing customers can have an immediate impact on a company’s revenue and cash flow, while irritating potential customers erodes its pipeline. It takes a long time to gain a customer’s trust, but generic and impersonal communications can destroy that trust almost instantly. For small businesses in particular, this should be treated as a warning that irrelevant communications can not only impact their future growth, but their very survival.
However, rather than focusing on the potential impact of poor communications as a risk to their businesses, SMEs should treat the personalisation of communications as a huge opportunity. Often more agile than larger businesses, SMEs are in prime position to react to customer feedback faster, change their communications strategies more quickly and win customers off bigger competitors. Taking advantage of the opportunities more personalised communications can bring should be a priority. As a next step, key areas of focus should include the following:
- Stitching customer data together - The information smaller businesses hold on their customers and prospects is often scattered across the company, and frequently isn’t stored digitally. As a result, SMEs will likely find it difficult to alert consumers to relevant deals and offers with a high degree of accuracy. To learn more about their customer base, SMEs must firstly focus on what information they currently hold. Connecting and compiling siloed data from across the business into one source to gain a complete picture of their customers should be an initial priority, and something which is much easier to put into practice now before they scale in size.
- Don’t be afraid to seek outside help - The printing and mailing of material is rarely co-ordinated, which leads to customers getting bombarded with information. SMEs should engage with an expert consultant to digitise both their customer data and the methods used to collate it. Easier to handle in a digital format, data can be quickly analysed to effectively tailor communications. In addition, production and posting costs will be kept to a minimum if unnecessary communications are eliminated from the system. Ricoh’s Business Process Services, for example, will help streamline operations so they are more efficient and embrace the multi-channel communication formats demanded by customers today.
- Seek feedback and tweak - Being one step closer in their relationship with consumers, SMEs shouldn’t be afraid to ask their customers to feedback on the communications they receive. With 57% of people claiming the quality of printed materials they receive directly impacts their perception of a company, knowing where to make improvements is critical. Setting up a simple feedback system online, in-store or in-branch will go a long way in helping customers feel valued and aid repeat business.
Nurturing key relationships is critical to business growth and SMEs should trade on what they do best; knowing their customers. Standing out from the competition by tailoring communications will help make a real impact and take their businesses to the next level.
1 Ricoh Europe – Communications Crackdown