Big companies have a standard way to gauge how satisfied their customers are: they use a mathematical formula to figure out the percentage of customers who would recommend them to their friends in something called ‘Net Promoter Score.’

For small and medium-sized businesses, determining customer service success is even more straightforward: when customers are truly dissatisfied, they simply don’t come back.

Even worse, customers can use all kinds of technology, from social media to e-mail and chat apps to share how they feel with their friends and family. That’s why Canadian SMBs need to start using some technology of their own — cloud-based customer service and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions — to ensure that they have a holistic view of their customers so they can anticipate potential issues before they happen, act quickly on ones that have already occurred and keep their customers coming back.

If you haven’t already moved customer service and CRM to the cloud, you are likely wondering what the benefits are. Cloud computing takes away the need for your business to manage computer hardware and software so you can focus on perfecting your services and growing your business. The cloud is also infinitely scalable, meaning it can grow as your business does.

A CRM solution collects and manages a company’s key customer information in one place. It tracks leads and prospects across marketing, sales, and service, as well as tasks and performance. The right CRM can increase sales and productivity and improve engagement and retention of your customers.

That’s just the beginning, however. Over the last few months a number of research reports have started to identify some of the trends in customer service where the cloud play an important role. Use this list to build the business case for cloud and CRM and to get started on growing your sales and business and improving your customer service.

Customers Start The Research Process Early -- And So Should You

According to a survey from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, 39 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 are using their smartphones to research products, while 33 per cent are checking online reviews. And if they find inconsistencies between what’s on a firm’s web site and what they see in a physical store or what they receive via e-mail, they’re not happy.

“A disconnect within one channel can create customer confusion and potentially alienate customers before they get to the purchasing stage of their journey. When it comes to making a profit, the key is customer conversion,” the study said.

Where Cloud-Based Customer Service And CRM Comes In: The way young Canadians shop in their consumer lives will likely mirror how they research and study the perspectives of their peers before making purchases in their professional lives. The cloud will ensure all your data is one place and can be distributed effectively across CRM to get customers closer to a purchase, and have that same information handy if an after-purchase issue arises.

Social Mentions Matter -- So Customer Service Should Live There Too

In its Internet Activities report based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 Anglophone Canadians, Media Technology Monitor showed that 86 per cent have visited a social networking site in the last month. That may be an opportunity to share a status update or a photo, but it’s also a growing channel for voicing what they think about a particular product or service. If SMBs aren’t actively following those conversations, they may be missing out on opportunities to save their reputations from online ruin.

Where Cloud-Based Customer Service And CRM Comes In: Cloud-based platforms are often the only way to consolidate multiple applications in a way that’s cost-effective and simple. This includes social media monitoring within customer service tools. When paired with CRM, the cloud also becomes a way to tap into alerts and more detail about a particular purchase even when employees or SMB owners are away from the office and have nothing more than their smartphone or tablet on hand to respond to social comments.

No One Wants To Be Anonymous When There’s A Customer Service Issue

The title of Accenture’s recent report says it all: Retail Customers Are Shouting -- Are You Adapting? The global study, which included Canadian responses, showed that customers can be particularly vocal when they feel companies treat them like a number or an unknown. In fact, 45% of shoppers said a retail website that automatically tailors to “who I am, what I like and I have previously purchased” is “cool.”

“As consumers turn up the volume regarding their customer experience demands, retailers face a unique set of hurdles that will require a fundamental shift in the customer/company relationship,” the report said.

Where Cloud-Based Customer Service And CRM Comes In: In the B2B sector, CRM offers the best way to ensure SMBs can approach customers with knowledge about who they are and what they’re purchased. Cloud-based customer service takes that up a notch by allowing multiple members of the same team to collaborate on customer service issues — essentially guaranteeing that if customers come forward with a question or complaint, they won’t be left waiting around for answers. Rather than multiple callbacks or emails, customers that require assistance from more than one department may get the help they need in a single contact.

Keeping customers satisfied is half the job for many SMBs, but it’s a job the cloud and tools like CRM can make a lot more seamless.

Find out more about why your company needs CRM: