SMMEs are feted to be the future of business, representing 40 percent of all business in SA; it has been forecast by the National Development Plan that by 2030, 90 percent of all new jobs will be in SMMEs.
It’s also a sector that faces off against risk on a continuous basis amid efforts to increase efficiency. There’s space for large corporates and SMMEs to exist, operating at different levels, and the demand for both sectors to be customer-centric in all things is critical. SMMEs must examine how they can provide top-level customer service.
The government is looking to the SME sector for job development and sustainability. The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report for 2016/17 indicates SMMEs in South Africa contribute 36percent to gross domestic product.
A hindrance to growth remains complications in establishing and growing businesses: South Africa ranked 74th out of 190 economies in the 2017 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report. There are programmes aimed at accelerating growth in the SMME sector.
If SMEs are to increase their contribution to the local economy, and in turn, the number of jobs they create, we need to ensure we have an enabling environment and entrepreneurial ecosystem that allows entrepreneurs to thrive.
Of course, the wheels of government turn slowly, and for entrepreneurs wanting to push ahead with their businesses, you may have to do what entrepreneurs do best - step boldly into the commercial environment. Intelligent partnerships at the outset can aid in promoting buoyancy in business, as does meticulous planning.
If you’re a smaller operator, you can benefit from being agile, but is that enough? Big business has access to some of the best technology available, allowing even vast corporates to be able to provide personalised service, the kind that customers want and expect. You may only have a small support department rather than a big contact centre, but this could be of benefit to you since it’s easier to roll out new solutions at this scale.
Innovation can be used so that your emerging SME can outmanoeuvre the competition and stay relevant, but first you must make sure you're on firm ground.
Funding has long been a primary concern for businesses - how to access funding, the pros and cons of leveraging debt to get started and how to turn the corner to profitability.
Investing in high-end technology is unlikely to be the first port of call for the emerging businesses, even those that have been around for a long time are seeking ways to trim operational costs.
First of all, it’s important to look at the challenges facing the company and then provide solutions. Let’s say a business hasn’t got a contact centre, but rather a few individuals juggling the customer support. It’s easy to drop balls in that case, especially if there are many different kinds of interactions the customer has, some via voice, some on e-mail or other channels.
Read also: City's R3bn boost for SMMEs
Building a powerful customer base is the bedrock for any company, and it relies on service delivery, after-sales service and the quality and efficiency of interactions. How your business does these will translate to customer experience, a direct channel to your brand’s reputation.
You can have the best product, but how you deliver around that product will make or break the business, so the support department must form an integral part of all business planning.
Ideally, your business should offer a seamless customer experience that takes the customer through their journey with you without encountering pain points such as having to make repeated contacts, impersonal service, lack of knowledge around products or lack of availability of products or information.
Since customers may want to interact with you across a variety of channels, including self-service, voice, chat, e-mail or social media, you need to make sure you meet customer expectations.
Customers will expect their interactions to be documented and accessible to all customer service agents irrespective of the contact channel used.
So if they call your business and then e-mail afterwards, and this interaction history is associated with their customer profile, this will give the agent the best possible chance of resolving the query quickly and efficiently.
With this in mind, and with many years of experience in the contact centre industry, we recently developed and released a solution specifically geared towards SMMEs.
It brings the capabilities of a large contact centre to a small contact centre or support department, aiding in the processes that go towards improved customer service. It connects the various elements that go into ensuring customers get what they want, when they want it, and facilitates the tasks your team has, making the business more efficient, too.
Affordability is a focus - so it makes sense to go into a solutions partnership with low upfront costs. Timing, too, is a consideration - your business cannot afford down time while a solution is being rolled out, so it helps if a solution can be up and running quickly.
Hosting some services in the Cloud is an additional way for businesses to keep growing, the Cloud provides immense capacity and can give your company the chance to access big business excellence without the heavy capital outlays.
That said, the solution should be capable of coping with growth as your company develops and demands increase.
These kinds of agile activities will be how SMMEs see the National Development Plan’s forecast come to life.
There’s no perfect formula for success, but all success relies on opportunity and then ensuring the customers who support your brand receive nothing but excellence at every point of contact with you.
Wynand Smit is the chief executive of INOVO, a contact centre business solutions provider.