These days, most of the advice we hear about customer experience is appropriate for serving larger businesses whose demands can be overwhelming if processes are not operationalized. For companies serving small business customers, delivering an exceptional customer experience is just as imperative to the overall growth cycle; and as the saying goes: "Without the customer, there is no business." That means, any customer of any size business.
Dell for Small Business has been providing end-to-end technology solutions for over two decades to companies from one to ninety-nine employees. Often times, the businesses they serve are in the middle of pivots, rapid growth, and capitalization; and sometimes they are working over time to ensure their employees and customers aren't feeling any of the hiccups that come with running a small business or startup.
Working with small businesses is different than working with full-blown behemoth corporations; and requires a varying approach to sales, customer service, and customer success. Those aspects are frequently collapsed into one touch point; thus customer experience becomes more about a holistic approach where the customer walks away feeling singularly valued, heard, and emotionally fulfilled. In other words, it is more about the relationship than the transaction.
I sat down with several members from the Small Business Solutions team, including Vice President and GM of Small Business Erik Day (who has been at Dell for eighteen years), to find out a few of their secrets for creating a successful customer experience. Let's just say, I was taking copious notes and I'd recommend you do the same. Spoiler alert: Sometimes, it's really the simple things that matter.
Emotional connections matter
In an age where technology is king, making an emotional connection still matters. In fact, it matters more than anything else. Emotionally connected customers have higher brand loyalty and often spend considerably more money with a brand than customers who are merely satisfied. By finding ways to encourage your customer service teams to tap into your customer's fundamental emotional needs, you're certain to build long-term and rich relationships with them.
Relationships lead to increased and renewed sales
Relationships are what build great companies, so it's critical to shift your customer-service approach from sales enablement to relationship enablement. It's what's going to keep your business around for the long-term. Savvy customers want help, not hard sales tactics. Like a skilled doctor, customer services reps need to develop a good bedside manner. Find a customer's pain points, propose a solution, and then allow them to ask questions, reflect, and take action.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Peter Drucker's famous statement that "culture eats strategy for breakfast, technology for lunch, and products for dinner, and soon thereafter everything else too" still rings true. In fact, it strikes at the heart of transforming your brand into a relationship-driven organization. To evolve a company from being merely sales-oriented to relationship-oriented, you've got to develop a culture of service, where building relationships is recognized and rewarded. It starts with who you recruit, hire, and promote, and is reinforced every day by what your employees and leaders say and do.
Select and reward those who value the relationship over the transaction, and you're well on your way to creating a powerful customer experience. Numbers matter, but the long-game is won by those who build relationships, and that's a cultural thing.
Knowledge is king
Your customer service teams must have sophisticated knowledge of your products and services. Even better, your representatives should be able to make the connections that customers can't, while walking them through end-to-end solutions. There's nothing more frustrating to a customer than speaking to a clueless customer service representative. Customer services reps should also be courageous and know when to say, "I need to bring in a colleague to take you deeper."
Set clear expectations and then follow through
You've got to be clear about the level of service you can provide up front. Expectations should be set from the outset so that both parties know what to expect. The easiest thing to do is to just be explicit with what you can offer a customer. Saying something like, "I'm going to find you the best solutions to meet your needs and at the best price point, and I'm not going to rest until you are satisfied that we've done everything in our power to meet both needs" is great, but then you have to follow through.
Communicate 'til you're blue in the face
Nothing impresses customers more than responsiveness and regular communication. If you can keep customers updated even when there are delays or you don't have answers, that's half the battle. Communicate often and do it clearly and concisely and you're well on your way to winning over your most difficult customers and turning them into raving fans.
Sometimes, it's nice to hear that most of customer experience has to do with good old-fashioned tactics like connection, communication and being clear; and it's a good reminder that one of the largest technology-focused companies in the world still keeps it simple. At the end of the day, customer experience is about how you serve those on the other end of the line.