At Vodafone, our Ready Business team knows small business. Our national team of specialists listen to small-to-medium-sized enterprises (or SMEs) all day – their pain points, their secrets to success, and what they need from their telco to grow. Again and again, the key to unlocking an SME’s potential is personalised service.

Let’s take a look at how SMEs can give personalised service to their customers, how that can grow their business, and why, in turn, small businesses must demand personalised service from their providers.

Why getting personal means business

For small business success in the digital economy, keeping up with mobile technology is critical. But what if your secret weapon, the offering that distinguished your business from others, was altogether more ‘old school’ than technological capability? I’m talking about personalised service, the oft-overlooked business trait akin to ‘the human touch.’ When competing against big business, and their bigger budgets, it is often this – personalised service – that can be what sets you apart.

Consulting firm Genesys surveyed almost 9,000 consumers about what mattered to them most when it came to doing business with companies. Almost 40% of responders – more than double that of the next best answer – said “better human service”.

While personalised service, both in name and nature, means different things to different people, it may be understood to consist of three core pillars.

Three core pillars of Personalised Service

  1. Empathy

One advantage that small businesses have over bigger ones is the relatively close proximity of leadership to the customer, and of senior staff to the front line. Don’t underestimate what a difference this makes to your customer. “Empathy should be embedded into the entire organization,” writes Belinda Parmar in the Harvard Business Review. “There is nothing soft about it. It is a hard skill that should be required from the board-room to the shop floor.”

For entrepreneurs, it’s likely that the business was born out of frustration in a time when they were themselves the customers they serve today. For this reason, SMEs are likely to operate with empathy from the outset. According to OPEN Forum, companies that have emotional intelligence skills like empathy hardwired into their business DNA see new opportunities more quickly, have gut-level intuition about their customers’ needs, and maintain the courage to see good ideas through to fruition – even if they don’t take off right away.

  1. Flexibility

After all, the upside of small business, as you’re likely to have heard time and again, is that being small means that your business can be nimble and quick to respond to changes in the marketplace. Making the most of being relatively unburdened by ‘red tape’, however, can be difficult. For one, equipping your team with the right tech – and the right tech know-how – can make transactions not only seamless but inexpensive, ensuring your customer experience offering is as smooth as that of your bigger business competitors. Remember that flexibility means your customers have the freedom and choice to use your services in the ways they want to use them, and that experience can be a real differentiator in the market.

  1. Humanity

In an age of chatbots and self-serve customer interactions, it’s the humanity in personalised service that can be the real point of difference. More than anything else, it’s important to listen to your customers. Use their names, and give them yours. Several studies have shown that customer interactions in which parties use their real names (and, better yet, put faces to names) increase conversions above and beyond anonymous interactions.

But listening isn’t enough. Once you’ve listened to your customers, it’s important to really learn from them. Record your customer interactions in a CRM (customer relationship management software) and build on that rapport, that knowledge, and that history in the next interaction. Treat the data you have about your customers – records of sales and past interactions – as if it’s real knowledge you’ve acquired about them in person. These records soon become a scaled-up version of the one-to-one relationships developed over time in the local corner stores of the past.

A recent study by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia sought to uncover both the emotional and rational drivers behind the ‘perfect’ customer experience. Titled CommBank’s Retail Therapy, the report found that 84% of customers were more likely to purchase from a business when they felt connected to it in a meaningful way; similarly, 82% of responders stated that they were more likely to spend more money when they felt like a valued customer.

Why small businesses need Personalised Service most of all

For small businesses, no two days are the same: teams change, overheads fluctuate, and ‘steady growth’ can often seem like a mirage. Small businesses need a flexible approach from suppliers, and an empathetic approach to their fluctuating needs.

At Vodafone, we know that personalised service is critical to small businesses. That’s why we offer dedicated Business Specialists, Local service, and Personal Managers for businesses with ten or more connections.

We’ll give your small business the kind of TLC you give your customers, because we know that’s what SMEs need from their telco to succeed.

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Kelli Gale

Head of Retail Marketing, Brand and Communications

Kelli Gale,
Head of Retail Marketing, Brand and Communications