Stratospheric satisfaction: How the fastest-growing SMEs turn customer service into growth

customer service growth

LVLY co-founder and CEO Hannah Spilva, Tangerine Telecom CEO Andrew Branson and Plenti co-founder and CCO Ben Milsom on how to make customer service a tool for growth.

What does it mean to delight rather than simply serve your customers?

And how can you go beyond the simple demands of customer service to customer excitement?

In this article, we examine three of Australia’s fastest growing SMEs of 2020-21, and break down exactly how their customer service strategies have adapted to changing customer demands, while keeping their standards exceptional.

It’s all about benchmarking your results to set the bar and aim it higher as you mature, and giving customers more flexibility in how they can contact you.

Empowering your staff in e-commerce

If there’s one business that encapsulates the value and growth potential of exciting your customers in challenging times, it’s same-day flower delivery business LVLY.

Growing its revenue to $13.9m in 2020/21 from $3.8m in the previous year, it both rode the wave of home-deliveries and e-commerce, and the need for people to stay connected and share good moments throughout the pandemic.

For co-founder and CEO Hannah Spilva, your customer service strategy isn’t limited to a single department, it should inform every decision throughout the business.

That starts with hiring the right people.

Spilva says, “It’s difficult to imprint an attitude or value set if they don’t have it. You can always teach the skills.”

Then, LVLY gives their staff the ability to make their own judgement calls, almost carte blanche to go above and beyond to solve customer issues, rather than forcing customers to jump through hoops.

“We rip up the rule book about being specific about when we will or won’t give a refund. Delivering flowers is time sensitive, and highly emotive. So getting it right carries a lot of weight,” says Spilva.

Personalisation is a key part of the LVLY customer experience too. Personalised notes and printed labels on their glass jars that they deliver with the flowers all add to that moment of happiness for the customer.

If your business delivers products to an end user, consider how you can make it feel more personalised with a simple note. It’s definitely the thought that counts.

Letting customers communicate how they want 

Tangerine Telecom’s customer service strategies are more than validated by their extreme revenue growth rate of 1138% over the past three years, making them the second fastest growing SME in the SmartCompany Smart50 Awards 2021.

In industries like telecommunications, where the incumbents can be notoriously poor with customer service, SMEs can really differentiate themselves by giving customers freedom and flexibility to communicate with them on the platform they prefer.

As Tangerine Telecom CEO Andrew Branson explains, giving customers choice drives down the need for phone conversations, and helps to get the issue resolved at the first time of asking. The business offers phone, email, WhatsApp, and live chat on the website.

“If this works well, we keep customers happy which in turn leads to further growth for the business.”

If you’re scaling your business, consider how much you can reasonably offer, and add more as you go along.

Some research shows this too — with one poll demonstrating that 72% of customers believe text-based message support would improve their experience.

Plenti of reviews

For financial services business Plenti, which offers loans, the five-star customer review is a key selling point. 

Its 2,250+ five-star reviews on, 1,324+ five star reviews on Trustpilot, and 500+ on Google Reviews are the first thing new customers will see when opening the website.

The company purposefully solicits reviews as soon as new customers receive their money. If you request a review right at the point of successful interaction with a customer, when you’ve met their needs, you’re likely to get the best result.

You also need to be more flexible with customers and understanding of individual financial situations in periods of downturn.

Ben Milsom, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Plenti, notes, “The pandemic has brought its own set of unique challenges — for employers and consumers — and while we still maintain an incredibly high credit performance, of course we’ve needed to pay special attention to hardship requirements that have been brought about by the disruption of the past two years.”

Sustainability and transparency are a winning combo

Customers increasingly expect brands to be sustainable in how they conduct business, with the pandemic supercharging an already growing trend.

For larger businesses, consider how you can partner with other SMEs that are solely in the business of sustainability. If you’re an SME, there’s value in partnering with bigger enterprises to expand your impact.

Consider the partnership between Officeworks and Worlds Biggest Garage Sale (WBGS). The startup has worked with the retailer to collect, repair and repurpose returned or damaged products for the past three years, and Officeworks has recently bought a 21% stake in the business.

WBGS co-founder and chief executive Yasmin Grigaliunas says consumers want transparency, and that means there is financial opportunity, especially in the retail sector, where customers actively seek out sustainable brands.

“They want their dollar to have impact,” she adds.

As Jessica Richmond, GM Marketing and Insights, Officeworks, puts it, “It comes down to trust. This has been an opportunity to deepen that trust, to be in stock, to shop safe, to live those great experiences and service opportunities when customers really need them.”

And while customers are more understanding that the pandemic is a tough time to do business, with lots of factors out of any businesses’ control, the principles of good customer service haven’t changed.

“You need to apologise when it goes wrong,” says Richmond.

What do the experts imagine our next normal will look like? Watch our recent SmartCompany webinar in partnership with Officeworks, available on-demand now.

NOW READ: Marketing in confusing times: Six pro tips for growth in 2022


Officeworks is Australia's leading retailer of office supplies, technology, furniture, education resources, art supplies and Print & Create. Officeworks offers more than 40,000 products on its website, catering to micro, small and medium business customers to help them start, run and grow their business. With everyday low prices on quality products and services, including tech-support by Geeks2U, you’ll find everything you need at Officeworks.

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