Communication Challenges for SMBs in an Amazon World
Amazon may be best recognized for raising the bar for all online retailers through its Prime next-day delivery, but they have also done so when it comes to customer communication expectations. Their focus on providing a seamless, self-service support model that is as fast or faster than their Prime delivery institutionalizes them as best-in-class when it comes to automated customer interactions.
For customers, benefits include almost real-time order status updates, fast automated response to inquiries and even instant refunds on returns – before their warehouses even receive the product back!
Amazon’s customers approve. With a Net Promoter score of 25, (beating the online retail industry average by 6 points,) customers take advantage of automated and online support options that result in customers not having to call in for routine inquiries. This reduces Amazon’s operational costs while improving customer satisfaction.
Yes, the bar is set high. Consumers are now expecting more from all the businesses they deal with. This includes from the SMB.
Take Full Advantage of Marketing Spend
SMBs spend a lot of money on marketing. Much of that is online driving new and repeat website visitors to their business. Many SMBs understand what their customers expect and try to serve them well. They also appreciate the need to retain their customers and the value of getting new referrals.
Still, there is always room to improve and converting a website visit into a customer is often the most mishandled aspect of marketing. This could be due to a lack of available staff, a lack of fast response, a lack of follow-up or inability to respond during off-hours.
Top Pain Points Consumers Express Regarding SMB’s
SMB’s have customer support challenges similar to those of large businesses. For the SMB, it’s a vicious circle. The lack of manpower & automation creates extra work, loss of productivity, and loss of revenue.
What do customers complain about the most?
- Waiting for information or a return phone call
- Inefficient & fragmented communication
- Inability to communicate via alternative channels
- Limited access to reach the business
Consumers Driving Change
There is a trending shift in consumer preference from phone-based communication to text, chat & online communication. Even email-based communication is less preferred as consumers expect instant responses.
Responding faster to a potential customer than your competitor can make all the difference in getting the job. Answering the phone on the first ring every time. Responding to all emails within minutes. Providing online chat. Using SMS text. What seems like common sense can still be an insurmountable task resulting in stagnant or declining business growth.
The SMBs who acknowledge this trend and do something about it will win.
For those that don’t, the challenges are acceptance, education and technology.
What Does Winning Look Like?
Increasing numbers of SMBs use the following channels to communicate with their prospects and customers:
- Landline phone
- Contact Us forms
- Online Help desk & FAQ’s
- Websites & Google My Business pages
- Social media – Facebook, Twitter Instagram, Pinterest
- Online booking engines
- Personal mobile phone
- Review management systems
- Surveys and newsletter
Many of these communication channels are not integrated and the vast array of them makes the job that much tougher. SMBs are challenged with managing communications independently on each channel. This fragmentation and inconsistency opens the door to miscommunication and wasted time.
Communication Automation Drives Success
Technology solutions that can respond in a timely manner to all inquiries across multiple channels mitigates customer frustration and the potential loss of new ones. However, this increased need for automation is frequently thwarted by the SMB’s lack of time or know-how to choose and implement the right solution. On top of that, those technologies are oftentimes out of the reach of the typical SMB as enterprise-class solutions can cost thousands of dollars to implement.
However, there are options designed for the SMB that do help. SMB-specific automation eases staff workload, enables customers and prospects to self-service effectively and drives greater customer satisfaction.
Popular solutions that cater to customer preferences include:
Chatbots. Using AI driven conversation flows, chatbots are an increasingly effective way for businesses to communicate with customers 24/7. The best chatbots are highly customizable yet easy to implement and manage. They can also answer many of the most common questions permitting prospects and customers to get what they need from the SMB – fast.
SMS Texting. Communicating with customers on-the-go has never been more important. SMS provides convenience for the customer and opens up new support and marketing channels for the SMB.
Online Booking. For service-based businesses that routinely operate via appointment setting, online booking engines are a great way to minimize the number of conversations required to lock in revenue. The more common online bookings and reservations become, the more consumers expect them.
Welcome to the Jungle
Amazon may be the leader in the online consumer jungle, but that doesn’t mean that SMB’s can’t adapt and also take advantage of automation. There may be reluctance to take on a new operational cost but solutions designed for small businesses enable them to handle more customer inquiries faster and more effectively resulting in greater revenue – new and retained.
To learn how ultra cost-effective Agentz SMB customer automation solutions can increase the productivity and customer satisfaction of your business, go to www.agentz.ai.