Learning from the customer intimacy of small businesses

30 April 2020 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read
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As society becomes ever more digitised and individualised, creating unique and differentiated ‘customer experiences’ combined with a ‘personal connection’ is more important than ever. Brendan Maree, Vice President Asia Pacific at SaaS provider 8x8, on how large companies can imitate the customer intimacy of small businesses.

In an era in which mass market advertising has been superseded by personalised marketing and customer experience, being tuned in to your customers can be a powerful business advantage. 

Many Australians have a very soft spot for that long-established little business, be it a coffee shop, accountancy practice, hairdressing salon or garage, where they’re greeted by name, their order is remembered off the bat and family members are asked after by name. 

Historically, that kind of ultra-personal vibe has been tricky to preserve or replicate, in enterprises operating on a larger scale. But harnessing the joint power of customer relationship management (CRM) and cloud communications software can make it possible, even when employees number in the hundreds, and customers in the tens of thousands.

Small businesses stand out in customer intimacy

It’s all about the experience

Why does it matter? In 2020 Australia, building stronger relationships with buyers, by creating ‘customer experiences’ that exceed their expectations, has become critical to business success. Customers experience refers to the total sum of the contacts a customer has with a business during their purchasing journey. 

The latest ‘Customer Experience Excellence Report: Australia’ from KPMG highlighted the fact that personalisation – the use of individualised attention to drive emotional connection – is the most critical component of customer experience today. 

“It involves demonstrating that you understand the customer’s specific circumstances and will adapt the experience accordingly”, the report states. “Use of their name, individualised attention, knowledge of preferences and past interactions all add up to an experience that feels personal.”

Thus far, relatively few local enterprises have created customer experiences that stand out from the crowd. Maree Mamo, a partner at KPMG in its customer brand and marketing advisory practice, observed: “Overall, we find there is still limited competition on customer experience in Australia, which provides an opportunity for brands to disrupt the market and build a lasting competitive advantage.” 

Capturing the details

Every successful small business has a database or two. Often, they are also known as the owner’s and employees’ brains – sophisticated repositories for thousands of salient facts and snippets about the collection of customers who represent their bread and butter. 

Integrating the communications system with the company’s CRM platform can enable larger enterprises to amass a similar amount of detail about their customers, over the course of several interactions, irrespective of the outlet they visit, or which employee attends to them.

Having that information at their fingertips can enable employees to greet repeat buyers like old friends – and the valuable customers they are – even if it’s the first time they’ve interacted with them. When a call or email comes in, employees are able to see the customer’s name, a history of their interactions with the company and every piece of information that’s been gleaned about their circumstances, budget and purchasing pattern.

“Delivering a highly personalised, small business level of service should be the holy grail for larger companies.”
– Brendan Maree, Vice President at 8x8

Armed with that data, employees can start the conversation or interaction in a personal way, by demonstrating how well they know that customer and their needs. They might, for example, make reference to their most recent purchase, or the individual to whom it was sent. 

Being clued in from the get-go also means employees won’t waste both parties’ time by asking unnecessary questions or making inappropriate suggestions. Like the customer’s favourite barista, hairdresser or mechanic, they ‘know’ them well enough not to do so. 

Time to make customer experience count

In 2020, Covid-19, challenging economic conditions and intense competition from established players and digital upstarts is making life challenging for Australian business owners across many industries. Presented with a plethora of broadly similar options, today’s customers are increasingly differentiating between them on the basis of the customer experience they receive. 

Delivering a highly personalised, small business level of service should be the holy grail for enterprises which hope to survive and thrive. Against this backdrop, tools and technologies which make it easier to do so may deliver an impressive return on investment, for businesses of all stripes and sizes.