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Your Small Business Clients Want Telecom Automation, Not Outdated Tech

Woman smiling in a bakery, wearing a green apron, holding a tablet and learning more about how automation from the communications industry can help her small business.
SMB clients expect the same personalized service as personal consumer and large corporate accounts. Digitization can help you provide this. [JLco - Julia Amaral / Getty]

While telecom companies have revolutionized what they offer to enterprise and everyday consumer clients, it’s time to show that same love to small and medium business clients.

The communications industry has made great strides recently in modernizing their offerings for enterprise clients. However, your small and medium business (SMB) clients may feel left behind, especially when it comes to technology like automation. 

Improving support to your SMB clients is critical to building a solid relationship. But with many SMB offerings now outdated, this is a perfect time to examine how you can bring them up to speed — and boost your own efficiency, too. 

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SMBs have historically been caught between the needs of enterprise and the needs of the everyday consumer. For too long, they’ve had to use products that aren’t a great fit for their own needs, relying on outdated legacy systems.

Keeping your offerings for SMB clients the same as they have been for years just leads to a fragmented and frustrating experience for them.

By building more automation into your SMB options, personalizing your customer service and improving the product catalog, you can help these clients gain an edge on their competition.

“SMBs tend to fall in the middle between enterprise and the consumer side,” said David Fan, vice president and general manager of communications at Salesforce. “They share the same requirements from the consumer in terms of speed, but they also involve complexity that you see in the enterprise side.”

SMB clients expect the same personalized service as personal consumer and large corporate accounts. Digitization can help you provide this. Automation allows you to design, create, and tailor process flows toward your SMB clients. This includes more tailored product offerings. 

Automation doesn’t just help provide better service, it allows you to do it more efficiently and effectively.

Automation can help the communications industry better serve SMB clients

Today’s SMB customer expects fast, efficient service — an improvement upon what they’ve dealt with for years. However, the reliance on manual processes makes this almost impossible. 

Sales reps have to spend more than half their time on manual tasks like generating quotes or proposals, basic administrative work, logging data, and more. This is time they could (and should) be spending on building valuable customer relationships.

Disjointed systems and data silos are killing the customer experience. The lack of a consistent automated process means that the customer journey is entirely dependent on the individual actions of employees. There’s no consistency, no transparency, and tracking order status is near impossible. 

Implementing automation allows you to unify data, so that everyone across your organization has access to the same information. In short, housing all data in one central location negates the need for customers to repeat themselves, as well as the need for your employees to chase down information. It puts an end to wasting time and money, and puts the focus where it should be — on your customers.

Improving your tech helps you personalize your service 

We know that more personalized service creates more loyal customers. However, many providers in the communications industry are still using old-school marketing methods that don’t resonate with SMB customers. 

Digitization turns your traditional marketing operation into a fully automated machine that enables you to better manage leads, make more informed decisions, and uncover new opportunities. 

It provides insight into what works and what doesn’t. You can see what actions led a customer to purchase a product, understand what that customer’s unique needs and challenges are, and figure out what type of messaging might resonate with them in the future. 

It also enables you to track sales, service calls, and customer behavior so that you can better refine things like SMB-specific product offerings, marketing journeys, and service center call scripts.

In short, automation activates your data, by centralizing what you already have. Unifying databases (marketing clouds, service software, and ecommerce engines) gives your marketing teams a complete picture of the customer journey as it happens. They can then use that to better serve your SMB customers. 

These data-driven insights help you act based on what your customer needs now, not what they needed when they first signed on. You likely already do this for your commercial customers; now you can offer this same level of personalization to SMBs. 

Reimagining the product catalog

A centralized product catalog creates a single source of truth for all commercial and technical product information. Data entered in one system immediately updates in all the other systems, letting providers rapidly configure and introduce new products and promotions. 

Simplifying product management, order fulfillment and automation means an 80% faster time to market, according to Salesforce research. A modern catalog driven architecture increases agility, drives operational efficiency and improves customer and employee experiences. 

Perhaps even more importantly, it allows you to create, manage and offer products specifically geared toward SMB clients — no more forcing SMBs into products meant for consumers or enterprise businesses.

Automating the quote-to-order process is key to serving your SMB clients

Order management is the backbone of a great customer experience, and the key to your ability to truly deliver for your clients. 

Automating the quote-to-order process should be the foundation of your digitization efforts. If orders can’t be fulfilled efficiently, you’ll continue to have unhappy clients. Your SMB customers expect the same type of personalized, frictionless service as your large enterprise accounts. An automated quote-to-order process assures that they receive this kind of attention. 

Companies across the globe are doing this and seeing the benefits. For example, PLDT, the largest telecommunications operator in the Philippines, saw a 50% increase in order completion after automating their quote-to-order process.

Automation simplifies the buying and fulfillment process by making sure your team has the information they need from the start. Fast, efficient workflows provide sales teams and service agents with step-by-step processes so that they can easily help SMB clients get a quote, place an order, update their package, or service a current package. 

Automation also streamlines the employee experience. Rather than have to manually keep track of each and every order, service agents and sales reps are notified of any additional or missing information needed to provide the requested service. This allows your agents to focus on building relationships, and gives them the tools to provide proactive service. 

Capturing information up front also means less back and forth, less stalling and less need for the client to deal with multiple salespeople or repeat information. And, because unserviceable orders are caught early, no one wastes time or money trying to fill an impossible order.

Lastly, automation creates consistency. It provides service center employees with comprehensive scripts that take the guesswork out of customer interactions. This means that no matter who your SMB customer may talk to, they’ll have an efficient and consistent experience.

Your SMB clients crave convenience — digital tools give it to them

The vast majority of B2B decision makers prefer remote interactions or digital self-service, and yet many in the communications industry only accept B2B orders over the phone. Or, even worse, they send a service agent to the site with a stack of papers to manually complete the process. 

SMB customers want to operate when and where it’s convenient for them. You can meet this need by offering remote and digital self-service options, in addition to over the phone help. 

Your SMB customers expect a consistent experience when they do business with your company. But it’s hard to provide this without a fully automated back office. Infact, automation is key to providing not only consistency, but the kind of experience that works for SMB clients on their terms.

Automating processes makes information accessible both internally and externally, creating the transparency your SMB customers expect. When journeys are fully automated, it’s easy for both employees and clients to tap into them at any time. 

Clients can use self-service or assisted channels to check order status and make any necessary changes. And internal teams (like sales and service reps) can spot and troubleshoot problems before they occur.

At the end of the day, investing in digital self-service tools benefits your SMB customers, your employees, and your bottom line. When customers have the ability to self service, they can handle simple tasks on their own. This frees up service agents to focus on more complex cases, making your service center operation more productive and efficient.

SMBs tend to fall in the middle between enterprise and the consumer side. They share the same requirements from the consumer in terms of speed, but they also involve complexity that you see in the enterprise side.

David Fan
VP, General Manager of Communications at Salesforce

Automation can help you gain insights for better cost efficiency

Automation turns your customer relationships into strategic partnerships. You can serve up more relevant products, call out potential issues before they happen, and help clients make decisions based on data, not estimations.

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) give you both large and small scale insights into your SMB clients, allowing you to zoom in and out as needed to adjust strategy, sales tactics, or service. 

You can zoom in to track metrics on individual accounts, or see which customers require the most assistance. Or, you can zoom out to track information across larger customer segments to garner important behavioral insights.

Access to these types of insights enable you to grow your reach beyond the individual SMB customer. You can use this information to spur larger scale initiatives like deducing whether it’s worthwhile to install fiber in an area where you have a lot of SMB customers, uncover opportunities for partnerships based on common customer needs, or see how changes in company policy or contracts may affect clients’ business.

Building a foundation for long-term SMB relationships

Just like your enterprise accounts, your SMB customers deserve personalized service and digital tools that help them stay competitive.

Automation makes this possible. It closes the gap in service and lays a foundation for better relationships between the communications industry and SMB clients. It allows you to marry what you know about your customers with what you’ve learned from past experiences to tailor marketing materials, services, and recommendations to each SMB client. 

The result is a more efficient operation, more productive employees, and more loyal customers.

Put your customers front and center

Discover how communications service providers can unify teams, partners, and data sources to improve the customer journey.

Oisin O'Connor
Oisin O'Connor

Oisín is a senior director, leading go-to-market activity for communications in EMEA, at Salesforce Industries. He has over 20 years of communications industry across GTM execution, ABM, product marketing, product development and product management through leadership roles with MATRIXX Software, Openet (acquired by Amdocs), eir, 3 UK and VHA Australia (now TPG Telecom).

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