Number of businesses using social media rises almost 25%
Marked increase in use of customer relationship management tools, says report
‘Investment in technology was previously seen as a cost saver,’ says Three product portfolio manager Ciara O’Reilly
Now in its fourth year, Three’s Irish Business Mindset Report reveals a marked increase in the number of businesses using customer relationship management (CRM) tools as well as a change in how they are staying in touch with customers. “Investment in technology was previously seen as a cost saver,” says Three product portfolio manager Ciara O’Reilly. “It certainly does save money and make businesses more efficient, but firms are now saying they can use it to improve their connections with customers.”
The report draws its findings from an extensive survey carried out by Three among businesses of all sizes, across 18 different industry sectors and spanning several areas of responsibility including management, operations, sales, and finance.
“This means the findings reflect a broad swathe of businesses, making the report an excellent source of competitive intelligence,” says O’Reilly. “The findings don’t just reflect the mood among SMEs, but also shine a light on their attitudes to technology as a means of boosting efficiency or improving customer service.”
They also reveal quite pronounced changes since the first survey was carried out in 2016. “The number of SMEs using CRM tools today (40 per cent) has almost doubled when compared to 2016 when it was just 22 per cent,” she continues.
The number of businesses using social media to interact with customers has increased by almost 25 per cent since the first report. In 2016, less than 50 per cent of businesses were on social media; by 2019, that figure had risen to almost 60 per cent. By contrast, email appears to be falling out of favour for some with just 38 per cent of respondents relying on email marketing, down from 55 per cent in 2016.
“Companies might not have big systems but a lot more of them have some form of CRM system now,” adds O’Reilly. “Social media is huge. Previously, SMEs may have seen social media as a consumer technology, but they are new seeing it as a way to connect with their customers. They are also seeing digital channels as a way to respond to customers and one in four respondents are able to sell online now.”
That ability to transact online is increasingly important. “We all expect to be able to buy online now and we get disappointed if we can’t. If we can get things done in the small bit of time we have in the evening when we get home from work, we feel like a hero. Brands and businesses that allow you to do this will be the winners. Businesses understand that they will miss the boat if they don’t have a digital channel for customers to engage with.”
A new category added for the 2019 report gave an interesting result: 15 per cent of respondents have their own mobile app. “That is a game changer for businesses,” O’Reilly contends. “If a business can transact or resolve an issue for a customer on an app, they can also use it for upselling and discovery. This will make customers come back again and again.”
Failure to do this can have the opposite effect. “Customer expectations are really high. We have grown accustomed to social media and how the larger brands sell to us. We all give out about it, but we want brands to know our preferences. We expect brands to know everything about us and what we want and what we don’t want. SMEs need to do that as well.
“Salesforce did a survey of 6,000 customers and 76 per cent expected any company they deal with to understand and respond to their needs and expectations. There’s not a lot of wriggle room there. Customers expect companies to be able to adapt to suit their needs and to be able to solve their problems whenever they want them to. Companies that can’t do that will lose out.”
Another new addition to the 2019 report was the category of improving customer care when it comes to investing in new telephony systems. “This emerged as the leading reason for investing in new business telephony systems with 55 per cent of our respondents rating it as the most important factor when investigating a new system, ahead of increasing productivity, reducing risk and reducing cost, which each scored below 50 per cent,” says O’Reilly. “It’s clear that many businesses see technology as a way to help them do business better for their customers and that’s really great news if you are a customer.”