America loves small businesses. Research from Gallup confirms that Americans are three times as likely to express confidence in small business as they are in big business. Still, it can be difficult for smaller companies with less staff and more budget constraints to take on large, entrenched competitors and win. But all of that is changing. Evolving tools and business philosophies are leveling the playing field in today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world. At Salesforce we call this the blowfish effect; when small businesses use their CRM (customer relationship management) tools to appear bigger to customers. Here are some simple ways for you to do it too.
Today’s consumers are used to doing their own research, in fact, they prefer it, whether it’s through your website, support portal, online communities or their own social networks. They typically don’t come to you until they’ve exhausted other possibilities. But when they do come to you with a question, they want it answered fast! But how can you do it when you don’t have fully staffed call centers spread across the world? That’s where technology can help.
Even very small companies can use automation in their customer support tool to provide fast answers to questions. And new, intelligent tools enable small businesses to respond to service cases faster than ever by automatically classifying them as they come in and routing them to the correct person. In the case of customer support, an agent can get all the information on what the case is about before picking up the phone. The solution needed to resolve cases can be instantly displayed in the agent’s console, so they’re equipped with everything they need to know before engaging with a customer. With these tools, small teams give the impression of much larger ones.
It’s no longer enough just to be responsive. To leap ahead of bigger competitors, your company needs to be proactive too. Tools are already available in the marketplace that can predict customer sentiment based on previous trends. These tools monitor how customers react after a certain event or transaction, and then predict how other customers will react after the same event.
For example, if your system spots a trend that customers who report a certain problem are likely to defect, you will know to reach out proactively after another customer experiences that problem and before they defect. Your system can also tell you which offers are most likely to help you retain the customer. Sound like something only an enterprise can do? Wrong! Intelligent tools for small businesses are available now.
Personalize Every Touchpoint
Did you know that 65% of business buyers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them? Small businesses can’t afford any turnover, let alone 65%. Luckily, you don’t need a big team with highly customized software solutions and round the clock staffing to deliver personalized responses to customers. Start by automating repetitive tasks and freeing up your reps and agents to craft personalized messages that build loyalty and reinforce your brand personality. Connecting your sales and service tools will give both teams a better view into each individual customer’s wants and needs, as well as their history with your company. When everyone has 360-degree customer visibility, sales can provide the right offers at the right time, and support can offer more helpful service. Everybody wins.
Join the Conversation
Over the past 20 years, technology has completely changed the way that customers make purchasing decisions and complete purchases. Having an online store is table stakes for even the smallest companies. Having a presence on social networks is also critical. After all, 83% of business buyers say technology has kept them more informed about product choices than ever before. You can’t be in the consideration set if you aren’t online! And more than three-quarters of online users interact on social networking sites. Their friends are there and they expect their favorite brands to be, too. And, more and more often, customers are going to Twitter and Facebook for customer service. Social media is a great place to practice the blowfish effect, no one can tell in the social world whether you have a support team of 200 or just two. You can’t afford not to be there.
For many small companies, technology is the ticket to successfully swimming with the big guys. Put the blowfish effect to work for your company, and you can grow faster than ever!
Jamie Domenici is the vice president of product and small-and-medium business marketing at Salesforce, the world’s No. 1 CRM software company. In this role, she is responsible for driving product marketing and go-to-market strategy for Salesforce’s small- and medium-sized business organization. Jamie has worked at Salesforce for five years as a senior leader in product and campaign marketing and previously led operations at Ingres Corp., an open-source database company, and OSIsoft, Inc., a real-time performance management software manufacturer.