What every SMB retailer should put on their wish list

In the small-business retail ecosystem, a great customer experience is the gift that keeps on giving.

By Tara Ramroop, Staff writer

Last updated January 13, 2023

It's go time for retailers, and no one hustles harder than small businesses getting their brand out there during the holiday season. But those on the small-but-scaling side of retail don't have to hustle on their own, especially when it comes to delivering an efficient, scalable customer experience through the high season and beyond.

That kind of customer experience is well within reach — and well worth the investment, according to fresh data from the 2022 Zendesk CX Accelerator report.

The CX Accelerator report showcases insights from nearly 5,000 customer service professionals all over the world. Using a framework of CX maturity — where businesses are evaluated as Starters, Emergers, Risers or Champions — the report quantifies which companies are going above and beyond, and which ones are still rising through the ranks.

Small retail, big reach

Smaller retail companies have made big names for themselves, in part for their ability to deliver a customer experience that is seamless and tailored to customer needs. Resolving to meet customers where they are, subscription beauty service Birchbox adjusted and evolved their support channel mix over time, providing chat and a robust help centre alongside phone and email support. This made customers’ initial experiences with the brand even better. For UncommonGoods, an online retailer specialising in unique gifts, the shift from email to a CX solution was the game-changer. Since implementation, they experienced a 72 per cent reduction in email volume — through smart filtering and building out their help centre. With 2,400 emails coming in peak season, a less clunky and manual CX solution was necessary to keep business moving.

On the other side of the coin, retail companies have also experienced some of the greatest volatility. The 2022 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report found a huge increase in customer engagement on retail support channels — up 38 per cent more than any other surveyed industry.

The most recent CX Accelerator data and insights suggest that mature, well-oiled CX machines are the solution for good problems — a growing customer base and relationships that need tending — and not-so-good ones: pandemics and supply-chain issues that stymie even the most prepared businesses.

How to uplevel your CX organisation (or help ensure you stay at the top of your game)

  • Scale CX for volume and growth
  • Enable agents to help drive the business
  • Let your CX organisation drive customer retention and loyalty
  • Deliver better results, faster

Is your retail CX on track?

Small retailers can make a big impact by delivering a great customer experience. But where do you stand today, and how far do you have to go?

Scale CX for volume and growth

The benefit of a scalable CX solution is that it can be dialed up for seasonality and dialed down for normal volume. This helps ensure small businesses can meet current needs, while still having room to grow within the platform. Leaning on chatbots and AI features can be a lifesaver for small retail businesses that are scaling their customer experience. This was the case for Tile, another small company with a big name known for its slim-profile electronic trackers. After implementing an Ada chatbot within their Zendesk CX platform in advance of the holiday season, the company reported a decrease in support volume almost immediately.

Scalable CX solutions go hand-in-hand with integrations that support the needs of the business. For retailers with small teams and less headcount, e-commerce and point-of-sale platforms like Shopify must be seamlessly integrated into the entire experience. That means that a flexible solution that plays nicely with others in the CX retailer's toolkit can be the standout option for companies on the smaller side.

But CX scalability comes in many shapes and forms. For example, deflecting common customer enquiries with a chatbot or integrated help centre is known to free up agents' time for more complex issues that need a 1:1 touch.

Small business Champions resolve 37% more of their chat enquiries without human involvement compared to Starters, according to the report.2022 Zendesk CX Accelerator report

Enable agents to help drive the business

Agent productivity and ease of onboarding supports healthy bottom lines all year round. Deflections mentioned earlier can improve productivity, but so can the agent dashboard itself: by providing additional customer context and reducing the need to switch between different dashboards and tools. A unified workspace also means all agents can lean in where they're needed: on a live chat window, responding to asynchronous messages on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, managing the email support queue or talking customers through issues on the phone. According to the data, 8.1 times more Champions than Starters rate their organisation's performance as "very strong" in terms of shifting CX staff across channels to meet demand, suggesting that operational agility has an impact on the level of experience a company can deliver.

The possibilities open up further when the teams interacting with customers 1:1 are fully integrated into the rest of the business, including sales. Chupi, a Dublin-based jewellery company, is just one success story. With Zendesk, their customer care team was able to bring potential customers over the finish line by providing virtual consultations and post-consultation followup. By tracking, nurturing and following up with potential sales leads, the company saw an impressive 300-per cent increase in care-based sales in 2020 — which translates to one million euros in sales directly from the customer care team.

Champions are 64% more likely to be well trained to look for sales opportunities during customer interactions compared to Starters. Champions are also 1.4X more likely than Starters to have their CX engagements uncover new sales opportunities.

Don't stop at customer acquisition — let CX drive retention and loyalty

Having worked so hard to build up their customer base, small businesses know firsthand the importance of customer retention and customer loyalty. A true sign of a maturing CX operation is an organisation that resolves customer questions quickly, with a personalised touch. This is only possible when agents can access a complete history of a customer's interactions with the company.

Corkcicle, purveyor of sustainable beverage containers, saw an impressive 10-per cent year-over-year increase in return customers after improving the quality of their customer service. With their Zendesk CX solution, in place since 2019, the company was able to scale; emerging channels like chat helped customers get support quickly and easily from the website, while a help centre deflected frequently-asked questions away from the ticket queue. In Corckcicle's case, an easy ecommerce experience paired with efficient, personalised customer service keeps customers coming back.

63% more small business Champions report being effective at keeping their online help centre up to date compared to Starters.

Deliver better results, faster

Delivering a better CX quarter-over-quarter or year-over-year matters for all sizes of business, but their ripple effects can be felt even more strongly in smaller outfits. The first step in understanding the impact of a CX investment is regularly analysing performance data to understand how the customer experience is resonating and supporting customers, as well as where it has room to level up. The data suggests that intentional and consistent data analysis pays off, as small business Champions are 12.3 times more likely to have CX metrics reviewed by senior leadership daily compared to Starters, according to the 2022 report.

Scaling small business retail with CX

By scaling CX operations for volume and growth; enabling agents to help drive the business; letting CX drive customer retention and loyalty; and delivering better results faster; small retail companies can maximise their potential for the long haul.

Is your retail CX on track?

Small retailers can make a big impact by delivering a great customer experience. But where do you stand today, and how far do you have to go?

Is your retail CX on track?

Small retailers can make a big impact by delivering a great customer experience. But where do you stand today, and how far do you have to go?

Take the assessment