For British marketers, the last decade has brought about major changes to the way they do their job and the skills they need to carry out these tasks effectively. The reasons for this are manifold – a major factor is the increasing willingness of consumers in B2B and B2C to switch provider or service depending on how well they feel their current one is performing.

This trend, and the commensurate decrease in brand loyalty, means businesses need to do more than ever before to keep their customers onside.

A recent study from Expert Market suggested that all firms across the UK – but small to medium-sized enterprises especially – need to up their game when it comes to communication and engagement or risk losing out to their savvier counterparts.

It’s about your priorities

“Many business owners lack the incentive to dedicate funds to customer service. It’s not always obvious where their money will go or how efficiently it will be used, making the decision to invest much more difficult for smaller businesses,” said the report.

This is a trend often seen in the world of CRM, with smaller companies uncertain what benefit they will gain from utilising the software and dismissing it as something more suitable for their larger counterparts, who have the spare funds to invest in ‘soft’ areas such as engagement.

However, this complacent response will almost certainly create problems further down the line, with Britons demanding a high level of customer service and responsivity whatever the size of the firm involved.

Reflecting this attitude, 93 per cent of respondents to the Expert Market survey said good performance along this metric makes them more likely to remain loyal to a brand or company.

“Most small businesses believe that they aren’t big enough to require a full-time customer service agent, however this is far from true. Whether you have a small bricks and mortar shop, or a large multichannel operation, your customers will inevitably hit a stumbling block in their purchase path and require assistance,” explained the study.

For ambitious operators, using the human touch in conjunction with a well-integrated CRM service can ensure they provide strong levels of support to their buyers throughout the sales journey without breaking the bank or leaving workers clogged down in mundane, non-value-adding tasks.

Fix it or they leave

The biggest pain points identified by respondents were waiting times and calling charges.

While the latter may be unavoidable, making a concerted effort to drive up efficiency and ensuring that operators have the right technology available to them (as well as sufficient training in its effective use) can prevent customers from going through frustrating delays.

And given the willingness to switch discussed above, doing so could pay real dividends when it comes to brand loyalty and developing a reputation for quick, helpful customer service.

Simply dealing with issues at the point of demand is not the only problem facing firms, however, if they wish to retain consumers. Targeted marketing campaigns and well-focused information offerings can help build up a sense of loyalty and prevent people from looking to other providers.

Big data analysis can play a role in this, although sifting out the most important information can be a major challenge when it comes to producing high-quality engagement programmes.

Having an effective CRM system in place will make it easier for you to keep track of customer behaviour and encourage your sales teams to respond to it, thus driving up levels of engagement among this group.

Finally, multichannel marketing is also crucial when it comes to forming strong relationships, even for relatively small firms that may struggle to bring in the expertise needed to produce strong social messages.

“In an increasingly digital world, the majority of customers are choosing channels such as the web, email, Twitter and chat to communicate, engage and interact with brands,” said a recent study from Eptica.

Again, CRM can provide your marketing team with the tools they need to take part in this conversation, even if you have relatively little experience in social.

Customer engagement white paper