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Why SMEs should focus on retaining customers in an uncertain operating environment

  • Last Updated : June 12, 2023
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  • 3 Min Read

Analysis of the findings of a 2019-2020 survey conducted by emerging technology analyst firm, Telsyte.

COVID-19 impacted every part of our economy, making it harder for businesses to earn new customers. There was a time when you only had to convince buyers that your offering was worthwhile. Now, you're fighting to attract buyers who're constantly re-prioritising their purchases. It's no longer about who runs the most engaging marketing campaign. It's about who can offer the type of service that earns customer loyalty.

Prioritise customer experience

According to a recent Telsyte survey, apart from reducing costs and increasing revenue, most small businesses cite their top priorities as improving customer experience, acquisition, and retention. Small businesses know the value of keeping customers happy. That's probably why many are implementing new strategies to improve customer experience, like a flexible return policy or an extended free trial of a product.

How to improve customer experience

As soon as COVID-19 restrictions came into place, small businesses across the country went online. One in three SMEs surveyed by Telsyte said they've invested in digital delivery services for customers to limit any impacts of future disruptions. The pandemic may have forced innovative solutions, but businesses soon discovered that customers preferred this change.

From a local fruit vendor to a certified gluten-free muesli retailer, everyone embraced the convenience of online retail. Some businesses went even further. They offered delivery and in-store pick up options, set up a help desk system to answer order enquiries, integrated payment gateways for multiple payment options, and even considered free returns and shipping. All of these made buying easier and more consumer-friendly.

Businesses that offer services rather than products have focused on strengthening their delivery systems. Many have accomplished this using remote productivity tools for online meetings, appointment scheduling, instant messaging, emailing, document management, and project management.

Simultaneously, social media marketing and website management became mainstream. Facebook and Instagram introduced additional features for selling on their platforms. Website monitoring tools like Zoho SalesIQ empowered businesses to observe visitors' behaviour on their websites, follow up with leads, and even set up in-site chatbots to address customer concerns. Businesses now have countless options to serve a global audience effectively and efficiently.

As a result, 44% of SMEs now expect most of their customers to come from online channels, with two in five business leaders also expecting international customers because of their extended digital presence.

Most SMEs surveyed believe their shift to a digital-first business will help them understand customers better, with a fifth of small businesses using customer advocacy metrics such as reviews, satisfaction ratings, referrals, and testimonials to measure their success.

This digital adoption hasn't changed the sense of community Aussies love and cherish. In fact, it's improved the way we engage with our neighbourhood SMEs. Sure, we love a good chat with Tony at the markets, but because he now offers online ordering for in-store pickup, we can have our cheese and wine while reducing the risk for everyone. Tony's elderly parents would be happy about that too.

Read more about Telsyte's study and how Zoho apps can help with your digital transformation journey.

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