Survey: Are Small Business Owners Investing in the Right Tools?

Early in 2020, we surveyed owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) as well as their customers to get a feel for what both groups value when doing business. We were interested to see how well small businesses know their customers and their particular needs.

We found that while both groups have similar views on what’s important, how SMBs invest in their technology isn’t always a reflection of those views.

Consumers and business owners want great customer service

More than one-quarter (28%) of consumers cited “continually great customer service” as the primary reason they remain loyal to the small businesses they support. While customer service is usually cited as a reason for customer loyalty, it’s interesting to see how many noted it as being the most important reason.

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The belief that customer service is a strong driver for sustained loyalty is something we’ve seen in our other surveys as well. Small business owners recognize this dynamic — among the owners we surveyed, improving customer experience was their No. 2 concern, just behind growing sales.

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Owners and customers also recognized the importance of word-of-mouth, cited here as the primary way customers learn about small businesses. This is important for SMBs to consider for both their marketing and customer service efforts — for example, how word-of-mouth is supported over different marketing channels (48% of customers prefer to learn about small businesses over social media) and how great service drives the loyalty that leads to good word-of-mouth.

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SMB tech investments aren’t always customer-centric

Our survey found SMBs aren’t prioritizing tools designed to improve customer service or to manage customer relationships. They report that their priorities are buying software for office admin and payroll — important tools for keeping the lights on, but ones that aren’t necessarily customer-centric.

This contrast seems out of step with the acknowledged priorities of growing sales and providing better customer experiences, as well as what leads to good word-of-mouth. Customer relationship management (CRM), a tool designed for better customer experiences, ranked near the bottom with only 15% of small business owners citing it as a priority.

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How SMBs invest in the customer-centric tools is an important consideration in 2020 and beyond, especially as customers cite the need for more digital experiences and interactions. Meeting customers where they want to be met helps ensure the loyalty and good will that SMBs need for success.

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