The importance of communication - Image credit: Анастасия Гепп from PixabayAircall, the customer communication and engagement platform vendor, has published a comprehensive piece of research that looks at the priorities of SMB organisations. The Voice of SMBs 2024 Report is based on a survey of 1,400 employees across the UK, North America, Australia, France, Germany and Spain.

The 40-page report makes an impressive read. It is well laid out and has a good mix of data, data visualisation, commentary, analysis and action points for the reader to consider. Some of these are often missing from other reports.

The report highlights a range of insights. Some key findings include:

  • 64% of businesses are optimistic about growth in 2024 (UK 66%, France 56% and Germany 56%)
  • The top priority for SMBs is improving customer experiences (61%)
  • 48% said AI-supported tools will help drive customer satisfaction in 2024 (69% in the Software/IT sector)
  • 62% of organizations agree that factors like talent access are key growth barriers

What else’s is in the Aircall Voice of SMBs 2024 Report

Scott Chancellor, CEO Aircall - image credit: LinkedIn
Scott Chancellor, CEO Aircall

There is far more in the report, as Aircall’s new CEO, Scott Chancellor, commented, “I joined as Aircall CEO at the end of 2023, and this report excited and surprised me as soon as I saw it. Like Aircall itself, I am passionate about small businesses, and The Voice of SMBs 2024 isn’t just a report — it’s a resource-packed guide with actionable insights and tips that will help SMBs problem-solve, adapt, and respond to the shifting business landscape they find themselves in. With the correct strategies in place, SMBs can navigate tight budgets and big competition — and unlock a kind of growth to be proud of.”

After an introduction led by Chancellor, the report is divided into four sections, each with an insight.

  • Growth beyond the numbers
  • AI as your sidekick
  • The art of human connection
  • A focus on coaching

Each section provides data points and commentary, including relevant quotes from industry leaders. While these do not indicate the research having a qualitative element, they do provide welcome context and evidence for the points made. The author also includes some quick tips within the section before finishing each with several suggested actions that business leaders can undertake. That is what makes this report powerful. It is not just an analysis of the survey data. It also provides eleven actions that the reader can undertake.

Growth beyond the numbers

While SMB leaders are optimistic about growth, the research found that priorities are not solely about increasing revenue. However, it lies second (43%) behind improving customer satisfaction (45%). The report focuses more on how organisations prioritise in order to grow. A key driver for this is increasing the connections and relationships with customers(54%). To achieve that, organisations must consider omnichannel communications.

Organisations also need to improve communication with all stakeholders, as the example of Rhys Powell, CEO of Red Rabbit, demonstrates. The recommended actions were to start with your people, align teams and set clear targets. The authors provide a brief explanation of how organisations get started to improve them.

AI as your sidekick

There is an increasing importance for the deployment of AI across organisations. With 68% of respondents saying that to hit targets they need to rapidly personalize customer interactions, AI might provide the answer. It quotes Rebecca Feiten, Director of Enterprise Sales, 6Sense, who said, “In the current climate, we’ve firmly moved from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Every interaction is crucial, and the trend around growing buying teams is only persisting. AI is likely the only way that we can scale effectively while keeping buyer and customer experience at the forefront of our engagements.”

The recommended actions were to consider how AI complements the tech stack of your organisation, be sceptic, don’t overthink things and listen to your people. On the last point, I might have expanded this to listen to all stakeholders — employees, partners, suppliers, trusted customers, non-execs and even peers. The authors provide a brief explanation of how organisations get started to improve them.

The art of human connection

Where the report fails slightly is only a single mention of Customer Success. Instead, it focuses on customer satisfaction. It is also focused on customer interactions with Speed/time to resolution (48%), Personalisation with interaction (44%) and Collaboration with internal teams (40%), as the top three most important facets.

Talking to people is critical, and the authors state that “growing businesses are conscious of striking the right balance between customer convenience, employee productivity, and building human connections that help the business thrive.”

43% agree that meaningful conversations and connections with customers will only become more important. The second highest, at 42%, believe that meeting growing customer expectations will be fundamental to business growth.

The recommended actions were: personalisation, balance, consistency and efficiency. The authors provide a brief explanation of how organisations get started to improve them.

A focus on coaching

Talent is critical for every organisation. Only 46% of respondents believe their organisation cares about and invests in a variety of employee retention policies. This cry is well-worn, and the authors advocate for greater coaching within firms.

James Mensforth, Sales Director UK&I, Aircall, noted, “Companies need to connect the dots between engaged, high-performing individuals and engaged, high-performing sales teams. Today’s sales environment is about more than just hitting the gong, and leaders must squeeze more from their teams. This comes down to coaching, not pressure.

“Leaders must take a step back and ask, “What does an ideal conversation look like?” and then give their sales teams the tools to make them a reality. It’s no secret that SMBs today have to do more with what they have, but coaching is how this alchemy happens — and rewards the business, the employee, and the customer in the process.”

The suggestion actions provide a three step approach on how to build better coaching within an organisation.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This is a very readable report that is worth spending the time to go through. There are some excellent tips, which, even if many of them are common sense, are worth repeating like any leadership training.

While at times the authors allude to the phone and communication platform that can help bind sales and customer services teams with their clients, as one might expect from an Aircall study, the advice is generic.

The report itself does not dive into the differences between regions. Expect Aircall to use the data for future blogs, to highlight the differences.

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