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NEWS IN BRIEF: SMEs need to treat customer service like royalty

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5th Mar 2009
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Over half of SMEs have introduced measures to build and retain customer relationships in the past 12 months but only 39% believe Britain is getting better at customer service overall, according to a new report.

The Customer Kings 2009 report by Cisco, which aims to find the UK's most customer focused firms, also revealed that 61% of SMEs believe their approach to customer service could be improved with more time and resource to focus on quality and insight, but 52% believe customers will see price as more important than quality of service in the economic downturn.

And while 42% will be moving away from acquiring new customers in favour of improving existing loyalty, an almost equal percentage didn't know what to focus on.

On a more positive note, the majority of the SMEs surveyed said that putting the customer first was one of three key attributes needed to run a successful business, followed by flexibility to adapt to market changes and ensuring employees are professional and motivated. And a massive 88% believe a successful business is based on the 'personal touch', which was best created by positive staff attitudes.

However, technology seems to have divided opinions. While it was clear that SMEs' approach to Web 2.0 was tentative to say the least, 36% claimed retail outlets will always offer better customer service than online retailers as they offer the personal touch, with 33% arguing the opoosite.

"It is important businesses achieve a happy balance between the two - a mix of traditional values and technology that can help them do business smarter," said Bernadette Wightman, head of small medium enterprise at Cisco UK and Ireland.

"Now, more than ever, UK SME's 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."

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