A new study from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) shines a light on the impact of inflation on small businesses in the U.S. According to the NFIB, 22% of small business owners report inflation as their single most important business problem. That’s the highest inflation has ranked on the list in over 40 years. Along with staffing shortages and supply chain constraints, rising inflation poses a significant challenge for small businesses.
Higher prices, lower inventory levels, longer lead times on product orders, and longer wait times for live support impact the customer experience.
Customers are feeling the effects of inflation, too. Higher prices, lower inventory levels, longer lead times on product orders, and longer wait times for live support impact the customer experience. In turn, customer frustrations are taking a toll on employees, contributing to the Great Resignation. Service-reliant organizations have been impacted particularly hard by the record number of employee departures over the past 18 months.
So how can small and medium businesses (SMBs) manage customer expectations and add value to experiences despite these ongoing issues? One option is to invest in digital customer support tools. Here are five additional ways SMBs can leverage technology to improve the customer experience:
1. Make it easy to find answers
Today’s customer loves self-service. Help them help themselves by offering online help articles or a frequently asked questions section (FAQs) to resolve the most common queries. Customers get what they need when they need it, and self-service help reduces caseload for your time-strapped team, to boot.
Giving employees the bandwidth to dig in and solve customer problems has dual business benefits.
Pro Tip: Automating responses to simpler customer inquiries frees up time for your team to focus on complex issues and go deeper with customers who need it. Giving employees the bandwidth to dig in and solve customer problems has dual business benefits. It helps reduce employee burnout and strengthens customer relationships.
2. Respond instantly with service bots
Have you tried using a chatbot on your website? It’s a lot easier — and less expensive — than you might think! Chatbots are a great first line of customer support. A good artificial intelligence (AI) service bot can respond to customers instantly, automate routine interactions, and triage straightforward inquiries while directing more complex customer needs to a live agent.
Service bots may be the ultimate way for service-reliant organizations to relieve the pressure on their team. Bots improve employee efficiency and scale service operations — that’s a win-win.
3. Get social
Do you know the adage about meeting your customers where they already are? They’re already on social media, so why not offer support through those channels?
Offering support via social empowers customers to move at their own pace, and lays the groundwork for long-lasting relationships.
Providing support via social, SMS, and chat shows your business is all about fulfilling customer needs. Offering support via social empowers customers to move at their own pace, and lays the groundwork for long-lasting relationships.
4. Keep customers in the loop 24/7
You may not be able to fix inflation and supply chain issues, but you can keep your customers informed. Feed their need to stay informed on the day of service with real-time updates on expected arrival time, who is coming to help them, and the location of the en-route mobile worker with appointment assistance. Keeping customers in the know in real-time is a great way to leverage technology to build relationships and make customers feel taken care of.
Whether they’re on-site or between service calls, mobile keeps your team in the loop to eliminate unnecessary visits when schedules change at the last moment.
Pro Tip: Take your service game to the next level with the right field service management solution. Keep your technicians up-to-date on key internal information with real-time notifications and updates via their field service management mobile app. Whether they’re on-site or between service calls, mobile keeps your team in the loop to eliminate unnecessary visits when schedules change at the last moment.
5. Streamline the curbside pickup experience
Run a retail operation with buy online pickup in-store/curbside (BOPIS)? Make a good thing even better by giving your curbside pickup experience a makeover to improve the customer experience. Coupons that incentivize users to try curbside service, and SMS updates alerting customers when their orders are ready for pickup, are strategies that have proven successful for retailers.