SOURCE: Cisco Systems, Inc.

Cisco Systems, Inc.

February 11, 2009 03:00 ET

Customer Is King Once More, as SMEs See Tough Times Ahead

Major Cisco Research Reveals Hopes and Fears of UK Small-Medium Enterprise for 2009

SAN JOSE, CA--(Marketwire - February 11, 2009) -


Overview: The Customer Kings 2009 Report saw Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) poll 1,000 respondents in January 2009. Interviews were with senior decision makers in UK businesses with between five and 1,000 employees across a range of sectors.

The research report was accompanied by a competition to find eight of the UK's most customer focussed firms, with eight others recognised as 'highly commended'.

Interviews with the winners of this competition are available upon request.

Key findings:

  • 57% of respondents have introduced new measures in the last 12 months to help build and retain customer relationships, but only 39% say that Britain as a whole is getting better at customer service


  • 61% believe that their approach to customer service could be improved with more time and resource to focus on quality and insight


  • 52% of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) say that they believe their customers will see price as more important than quality of service in the economic downturn


  • 42% say that the downturn is moving their focus away from acquiring new customers to increasing loyalty with their existing ones. A comparable 41% said that they didn't know which area to focus on


  • Majority (44%) say that putting the customer first is one of three key attributes needed to run a successful business. Second was flexibility to adapt to market changes (39%), and ensuring that employees are professional and motivated ranked third (37%)


  • 88% say that a successful business is based on the 'personal touch' when dealing with and selling to customers. 76% of businesses surveyed said that a personal touch was best created by the attitude of staff, with 46% stating that miserable employees should be removed from an organisation to safeguard customer service


  • Technology is a point of debate amongst SMEs. 36% of respondents claim that retail outlets will always offer better customer service than Internet only businesses, while 33% argue the exact opposite. UK SMEs can also be seen to be tentatively embracing Web 2.0; 17% now say that they blog to connect with customers


  • Recession is already biting the UK's small and medium firms. 31% say that people within their organisation have been made redundant or laid off in the past 12 months

Recommendations:

  • Hunt or harvest? -- UK SMEs need to evaluate the challenges associated with nurturing existing customer relationships and 'hunting' for new revenue streams. They should then allocate resource to each appropriately rather than compromising one in favour of the other


  • Learn about customers -- better understanding customer buying behaviour and loyalty is achievable for many SMEs, but too few are investing in the tools to deliver this benefit


  • Prioritise staff motivation -- it is easy to overlook the importance of morale in a downturn, yet SMEs widely recognise that their staff are essential to good customer service


  • Capitalise on technology -- the range of IT options available to SMEs is growing, with low cost hosted models offering them flexibility, simplicity and productivity, but too few are embracing them with confidence


  • Time and resource -- ensuring that customer engagement is well resourced with dedicated focus is vital to delivering return on investment. Customer engagement cannot be an afterthought, it must form the core of what SMEs do

Quotes:

  • Bernadette Wightman, head of Small Medium Enterprise at Cisco UK and Ireland:


  • "Customer Kings was commissioned to investigate how small businesses are approaching one of the few things that they are able to control in a downturn -- their customer service. The findings make it clear that now, more than ever, UK SMEs are devoting time, money and effort to improving their customer relationships, though it is also evident that specific attention is needed to ensure that this resource is not wasted."

    "We can see a fascinating divide between those small businesses that are embracing technology, and use it as the core of building customer relationships, and those that shun it in favour of an absolute personal touch. It is important the businesses achieve a happy balance between the two, a mix of traditional values and technology that can help them do business smarter."

  • Harry Briggs, Director of Firefly Tonics (one of Cisco's 2009 Customer Kings)


  • "Even in the old-fashioned world of health drinks, technology makes a huge difference to how we interact with customers. People increasingly use the web to research and interact with brands. So if we can make that experience really engaging and personal -- delighting people in a medium where people are used to automated responses and impersonal jargon -- we hope to turn a tentative customer into a loyal advocate."

    "From simple survey software for testing our latest ideas with loyal customers, to simple CRM systems that help us get back to people quickly and personally, we feel the web ironically helps us to be more 'human' with customers than we could ever manage in the physical retail world."

Keywords / tags:

Customer Kings, customers, small business, SMB, SME, research, Cisco, customer service, customer engagement, personal touch, downturn, technology

Links / URLs:

  • TBC, Cisco.com

About Cisco:

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