Small businesses in the UK place little importance on customer engagement. That's according to recent research, carried out on behalf of Epson as part of the Epson Business Council project. The survey found that only 29% of small British firms believe customer service would help them stand out from the competition in the recovering economy.
This figure is really low compared to counterparts in Spain and Italy where 84% and 77% respectively rated customer service as a vital factor in bouncing back and growing.
Despite this, the research also found that two thirds of UK firms thought that customer acquisition would be a key factor in achieving growth in the current challenging economic environment.
"Companies are still not placing enough emphasis on customer service despite the fact that it's a key driver of growth today," says Neil Colquhoun, a director of Epson UK. "UK managers and owners are currently only spending 28% of their working week in front of customers, which simply isn't enough if they are looking to expand and offer the support many customers demand."
Technology is another area of concern for small businesses in the UK - they simply fail to capitalise on new technology that can help them improve their customer engagement. In Europe 75% of small businesses consider modern IT equipment as vitally important in helping this area, but only 49% of those in the UK thought technology to be important.
Sara Murray, the founder of two web businesses confused.com and buddi.co.uk, believes her fellow small businesses need to change their mindset. "No product or service is likely to succeed if the intended recipient is not factored into planning and development stages from the start so UK businesses in particular should look to address this as a matter of urgency," she says.
Those who don't focus on the customer are missing a trick. "This year will be incredibly competitive for small businesses," says Colquhoun. "They should look to all resources available to help support their existing and potential customers and drive growth."
To find out more about the issues and challenges faced by small businesses across Europe and get insights from top entrepreneurs, follow @EpsonBizUK for the lastest information from the Business Council. Visit the Epson Business Blog for more advice.