I can't afford to invest in CX!

“We’re totally focused on getting our products out the door or delivering our services”, said a small business owner to me. 

In the past, if someone had said that statement to me, I would have said, “You can’t afford NOT to invest in CX”.  But lately, I’ve had several conversations with small business owners that have me rethinking my response. 

First, the facts about small businesses.  According to the US Small Business Administration, in 2018, 30.2 million small businesses employed 58.9 million or 47.5% of US employees.  They account for 44% of US economic activity.  The SBA Office of Advocacy states, “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy: they create two-thirds of net new jobs and drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness.” They are a force to be reckoned with! 

And the truth is, these small businesses are focused on producing products, delivering services, paying employees and making whatever profit is possible for their owners.  Given the choice between investing a dollar in a piece of equipment or product development versus customer experience, a small business owner may often choose the equipment or product.  While it’s easy to believe that investing in CX could be a significant expenditure, it doesn’t have to be.  Some would suggest that small businesses are better able to deliver an exceptional customer experience because they are a small organization – more nimble, agile and able to respond quickly and effectively to customers.  Any approach to CX should be deliberate and not by chance. 

There are numerous ways for small businesses to improve their customer experience that are inexpensive and effective.  Here are a few suggestions:

·       Declare your CX culture – All organizations want to be customer focused and many have it in their mission statements.  For small businesses, it’s about distinguishing your brand and declaring your commitment to customer experience.  Brand and CX are one in the same – creating a CX culture among your employees can solidify your brand promise.  Take an hour and write down your brand promise.  Spend another hour engaging your employees in defining what it means to execute that promise. 

·       Create a Journey Map – The experts say a journey map is a must have but it can be time and resource consuming.  An alternative is to identify your key customers and jot down the steps they take to do business with you.  In a previous blog I talked about stapling yourself to an order. This approach is a form of journey mapping. It lets you measure the amount of customer effort involved in placing an order or selecting your services as an organization.  Although this may take several hours, the findings are well worth it.  Once documented you’ll have a basic framework for identifying improvements in your business processes. 

·       Employ Technology – When I worked in a large corporation and wanted to implement a technology improvement, I would ask our CTO, how long would it take and for how much.  Their immediate, somewhat sarcastic answer was, “$100,000 and 6 months.” Technology can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are a variety of technology business partners that can adjust their applications to the size of your business.  First, however, it’s important to identify the need before immediately seeking a technology solution.  For some businesses, that may seem daunting.  Some prospective technology partners may help you for little or no expense in the hopes of gaining your business.  In this case, let these partners do the work for you – although they’ll need your help! 

·       Measure Customer Satisfaction – Surveys are great but can be expensive.  And even the free ones still require resources to collect and analyze data.  Asking customers when you interact with them can produce a general sense of how your business is performing.  I’m reminded of one of my first jobs where I was always told, don’t ask a yes or no question of a customer.  Fast forward a number of years and that same principle can apply.  Asking, “Are you satisfied today?”, invites customers to answer yes or no. Instead, ask, “What about your experience with us today was satisfactory?  Was there anything we could have done better?”  Collect the answers.  Start with the positive and seek the areas of improvement.  It’s qualitative but it can be very informative.  Spend an hour a week looking at the results and recognizing trends that should continue or others that need tweaking.   

·       Listen to the Voice of your Customer – What are your customers saying about you on social media platforms? Are you monitoring ratings?  Do you respond to both positive and negative reviews with a thank you or make it right response respectively?  This is a great source of information from the voice of your customer and can even help guide product enhancements and potential new sources of revenue.  Employing college interns to monitor and reply to social media can be an effective way to help your business while giving experience to aspiring future small business leaders! 

Yes, these suggestions will still take money, time and resources.  But don’t try to boil the ocean.  Make a weekly commitment to spend an hour addressing one of these suggestions.  Gradually, you’ll start seeing the benefits of this commitment and so will your customers! 

Robert Azman