In a challenging economic climate, small and medium businesses (SMBs) face the struggle of growing their business while dealing with shrinking margins. Unlike large businesses, SMBs have limited resources to weather economic downturns or explore new revenue streams. Therefore, companies that cater to SMBs need to offer solutions that reduce administrative burdens and provide tangible value. Given that SMBs contribute 44% to the US GDP, they cannot be overlooked.
By adopting these four best practices, enterprises can invest in the right technology and leverage advances in generative AI to offer unique services to SMB customers.
1. Create personalized experiences for SMBs based on qualitative and quantitative data
As SMBs become more cautious with spending, service providers need to drive value through increased personalization. To achieve this, technology systems should have a centralized customer journey log that tracks interactions, sentiment, and next steps across every touchpoint. However, qualitative customer information alone is not enough. Generative AI tools like IBM watsonx.ai can analyze customer trends, market forces, customer data, and historical transactions to recommend products that meet each SMB’s specific needs. Data-driven personalization is crucial in today’s business environment. With 89% of digital businesses investing in personalization, those that neglect it risk falling behind.
2. Provide tailored support for SMBs adopting new products
SMBs typically lack large tech teams to support the adoption of new products and services. To ensure successful product uptake, service providers must offer appropriate tech tools to help SMBs understand the value of these products and facilitate testing and implementation. Generative AI can turn SMB needs into product use cases, while tech systems enable SMBs to test products in a secure environment. Additionally, generative AI solutions like watsonx™ Code Assistant can meet the technical needs of enterprises, leading to a 30% reduction in development effort or a 30% increase in productivity. This enables enterprises to serve SMBs more effectively and efficiently.
3. Strategically align pricing models to SMB needs
Usage-based pricing models or fixed time-based pricing models, such as monthly subscriptions or one-time payments, allow enterprises to meet the distinct needs of each SMB. With usage-based pricing, SMBs only pay for what they use. This requires clean data flows from central sources of truth to accurately track and reflect usage. Watsonx.data enables enterprises to centrally gather, categorize, and filter data from multiple sources. With workload optimization, watsonx.data can reduce an enterprise’s data warehouse costs by up to 50%. Paired with IBM’s data consulting services, enterprises can leverage watsonx.data to track usage, generate dashboards, and enable strategic decision-making. Alternatively, fixed time-based pricing allows SMBs to pay a predetermined cost based on affordability and fully utilize the product or service within the purchase period.
4. Offer a digital experience with increased self-service options
SMBs are lean operations that prioritize efficiency, with less than 15% wanting to interact through phone or automated voice systems. To cater to this demographic, enterprises must create end-to-end digital experiences, from research to post-purchase support. Self-service platforms make small tasks easy, allowing SMBs to update billing information and contact details without needing to contact a provider representative. Conversational AI solutions can reduce call wait time by 30% and provide up to a 370% three-year ROI. IBM watsonx Assistant can address complex tasks by providing intelligent customer care across all touchpoints, learning and improving with every interaction.
Meeting SMB needs benefits service providers
If implemented correctly, these technologies can bring value to both SMBs and the enterprises serving them. As an SMB grows, the enterprise can meet its evolving needs through cross-selling of solutions. This allows the SMB to stick with a trusted enterprise for operational solutions, while the enterprise maximizes the customer lifetime value by providing solutions throughout the SMB’s growth stages.
Even if an SMB isn’t aiming for growth, the enterprise can still offer strategic solutions to increase operational efficiency, such as generative AI for CRM, faster sales closure, smart replies, and self-service options. By offering powerful generative AI solutions, enterprises can address their SMB clients’ specific needs and help them succeed.
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Senior Managing Consultant, Customer Transformation, IBM Consulting
Senior Consultant, Enterprise Strategy, IBM Consulting
Senior Designer, Customer Transformation, IBM Consulting