BEING an SME isn't easy - especially in Singapore where competition is keen. Consumer purchasing tends to be more risk-averse and towards more established brands.
Trending up is the use of the term customer experience (CX), with companies like Apple, Amazon and Tesla focusing heavily on this. CX is increasingly rising to the top of most organisations' priority list. SMEs can likewise capitalise on CX for that competitive edge.
Here are five ways to create a great CX:
- Understand customer behaviour
"You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards" - Steve Jobs
In other words, the best companies begin with an idea to solve a certain problem. Once the problem has been properly identified, it is important to assess how the customer behaves today and how the product or service can accommodate this. Developing something so radically different may result in losing customers rapidly, or not having any to begin with.
There should also be a strong focus on user interface and user experience not just for tech companies but for all companies as this can make or break a company.
- Don't just build products, build communities
"Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing" - Rollo May
With understanding of customer behaviour, it can be assumed that both customers and prospects will love the great product developed. Creating a community for this audience - such as through forums, conferences, and online discussions - can be beneficial from both a marketing and sales perspective.
Word-of-mouth communication remains the most effective way of marketing a product, and being part of a community is essential in letting your ideas gain traction.
The effects of communities are even more pronounced if they can be self-developed and allowed to grow organically. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great examples of this.
The flip side to this is that negative reviews spread faster than positive ones. Navigating this is a function of your marketing strategy, which brings us to the next suggestion.
- Content marketing is important
"Telling is not selling" - Brian Tracy
The game is changing for salespeople. The traditional method of approaching someone and disseminating your entire product and feature catalogue is dying.
This has evolved into asking questions as to what a customer wants or needs, and activating these needs to close a deal. Content marketing is playing a bigger role as well, where delivering value to the prospective customer in the form of engaging content has become even more effective in selling them a product. If companies can create compelling content, they are more likely to be approached by prospects, rather than needing to seek them out!
- It's all about actionable intelligence
"It's important for business leaders to understand that big data means nothing unless you can process it fast enough and bring the right information to the right person at the right time to make better decisions and improve outcomes." - Keith Carter
What we do with data is more important than the size or amount of data we have. Part of CX is understanding what the customers want, and intelligently packaging what you have to fit their needs.
Actionable intelligence can be applied to both external marketing efforts and internal product development. Leveraging on big data analytics and applying actionable intelligence help a company have a better idea of who their customers are, where they are and what they want. The company can then iteratively continue to develop its product around this and constantly fine-tune its marketing efforts accordingly. In other words, you go where the data tells you to go.
- Getting customers is tough, but maintaining customers is tougher
"It costs 6-7 times more to attain new customers than retain an existing one" - Bain and Co
So many companies overlook having strong customer retention strategies, and they stop listening to their customers once the deal has been closed, resulting in high churn rates. Churn can be measured via actionable intelligence, and is a good indicator to assess a company's success, especially in an age where barriers to entry are declining due to lower switching costs and declining customer loyalty (think of the changes from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook as an example).
This has led to the establishment of customer success department in many leading firms including Google and Facebook.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou
CX might just seem like another term to emerge in an era of buzzwords, but its importance cannot be underestimated. SMEs benefit from smaller-scale and closer interactions with their customer base. They therefore need to embrace CX throughout the whole customer cycle as it is not only vital to an organisation's success, but also to its very survival.
Robin Andrew Sean-Loong Lee and Sharifah Nursyafiqah are head of customer success and analyst, respectively, at Datarama Technologies Pte Ltd.
Keith Carter is visiting fellow at National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School. He is also the author of Actionable Intelligence: A Guide to Delivering Business Results with Big Data Fast!
The opinions expressed are those of the writers and do not represent the views and opinions of NUS.