Eighty percent of small businesses are facing ‘cost-of-working’ crisis

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And it revealed that companies in the energy, telecoms, and water sectors were found to be more likely to let down their small business customers. The survey said two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) work with suppliers who cite the pandemic as causing poor service, despite it being six months since the last set of Covid-19 restrictions ended.

The issue has meant SMEs are unable to focus on economic challenges presented by the cost-of-living crisis – such as rising costs and inflation – with eight in 10 small businesses describing a “cost-of-working crisis”.

On average, SMEs spend 16 hours a month calling supplier customer service teams, which 62 percent have said results in less time spent focusing on their core business, according to the poll carried out for telecommunications provider TalkTalk Business.

The most common issues faced include not having issues dealt with in one call (44 percent), being kept on hold (55 percent) and being passed to customer service agents (48 percent) by suppliers.

Businesses surveyed said support including speaking to the same agent (41 percent), speaking to a human customer support worker over an automated one (54 percent), and
talking to someone who understands their company ethos (36 percent) would enable them to effectively overcome cost-of-working issues.

Just four in 10 independent firms said the customer service they received had improved since the pandemic.

Richard Jeffery, national director of The Growth Company – a social enterprise that aims to facilitate growth in the small business sector – said: “In these challenging times it is critical business leaders are able to devote their full time and attention to the core issues surrounding their organisation.

“This report shows the impact of poor customer service and the amount of time SMEs spend dealing with it – time which would be better spent focused on their business.”

The study was conducted by Mortar Research among 510 SME business owners and decision makers in June.

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