Customer expectations are continuing to grow, and the stakes for small and medium businesses are higher than ever. In fact, today’s customers are up to 78% more likely to switch brands if their expectations aren’t met! For small and medium businesses (SMBs) with time and resource constraints, keeping up with customer needs can be particularly difficult. To better understand the challenges SMBs face in managing customers, adopting technology, and driving growth, we commissioned Harris Poll to conduct our second annual “Small & Medium Business Trends Report.” We talked to nearly 500 SMBs about the obstacles they face, how they tackle growth challenges, how they’re using technology to find, win, and keep customers, and their intentions for emerging technologies like automation and AI.

Here are some highlights:

SMBs wear many hats and get bogged down by manual processes.

  • More than half of SMBs (55%) report insufficient time as a major, substantial, or moderate challenge, right after finding the right talent (56%).

  • It’s no wonder that’s the case, with 66% of SMB leaders stating they are personally responsible for three or more of the following areas of their business: customer service, finance, human resources, IT, marketing, operations, or product development.

  • SMB teams spend 23% of their average workdays manually inputting data.

SMBs understand technology can make their lives easier, but need technology that’s easy to set up, use, and maintain.

  • Only 26% of SMBs said they have one or more in-house IT staff.

  • Considering this, it’s no surprise that nearly all SMBs (95%) say ease of use is important when evaluating new technology for their companies, followed by price (94%), easy setup (93%), and easy maintenance (92%).

  • While 62% of SMBs said training would help them improve operations, businesses appear to be hampered in their ability to get the training they need. This is due to costs (60%), time (56%), a lack of available training on the subjects they need (48%), and inconvenient scheduling (46%).

Growing SMBs are more likely to prioritize CRM technology than their stagnant or declining counterparts.

  • While 95% of SMBs are tracking customer information in some way, many still use email (62%) or spreadsheets (53%). Only one-third (33%) of SMBs use a CRM system.

  • However, among growing businesses, the top reported technology budget priority is CRM. Growing businesses are 2.2x more likely to prioritize CRM (36%) than stagnant/declining businesses (16%).

  • Growing businesses are also 1.6x more likely than stagnant/declining businesses to say they’re using technology to automate business processes (69% vs. 42%).

To learn more about the biggest obstacles and opportunities SMBs encounter when finding, winning, and keeping customers, as well as how they’re thinking about AI and automation, download the full 2017 “Small & Medium Business Trends Report.”  

Salesforce can help you find customers, win their businesses, and keep them happy so you can grow your business faster than ever. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions or follow us on twitter @SalesforceSMB and join the conversation with #SalesforceGROW.