UK small businesses prioritise customers over financial growth in 2024

Aircall, the customer communication and engagement platform, launches The Voice of SMBs 2024 global report.

Surveying 1,400 employees at small to medium-sized businesses across the UK, North America, Australia, France, Germany and Spain, the report explores the priorities of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) over the course of 2024 and their focus areas for efficient business growth.

Despite a challenging business climate, the report highlights that two-thirds (66%) of UK respondents feel optimistic about growth in the year ahead. The majority (58%) of UK organisations stated that the biggest growth-driver in 2024 will be increasing connections and relationships with customers – also the top growth-driver across every region surveyed.

However, when it comes to companies’ growth strategies, there’s a notable disconnect across hierarchies. CEOs or owners are much more likely to highlight increasing revenue as a key growth-driver, and less likely to highlight improved customer satisfaction, compared to more junior employees. This suggests a difference in perspective surrounding the secret to growth in general – one that comes from CEOs being typically more focussed on the numbers, and juniors at the coal face dealing with customers. To overcome this, an open dialogue is needed – one that bridges hierarchies to explore what is affecting and stimulating growth.

Enabling people power with new technologies

Both junior employees and leaders are feeling the pressure to drive success, hit goals, and deploy new technologies to maximise productivity, with speed (45%) and personalisation (41%) rising in importance. Yet less than half (45%) of UK SMBs say AI-supported tools will help drive customer satisfaction in the year ahead – the lowest rate out of all countries surveyed other than France (39%). This attitude is reflected by the number of businesses actively looking to use AI to hit targets, with the UK (44%) again second last only to France at (40%), and 11 percentage points behind Spain (55%). With 1-in-5 (20%) UK SMBs investing in AI solutions, in line with the global average, there is a real opportunity for businesses to begin leveraging readily accessible tools powered by AI. Meanwhile, a third (33%) of UK employees highlight how they want better technology, including AI, to drive efficiencies.

However, there is a need to balance technological advancements with human connection, with long-term customers the lifeblood of SMBs. Growing organisations are clear that retaining and nurturing their customer base will be crucial throughout 2024, with 75% of UK SMBs saying their main focus will be the satisfaction of their customers.

Overall, 46% of UK employees feel that meaningful conversations and connections with customers are becoming more important. Meanwhile, 44% of UK businesses worry that customers will expect them to deliver an experience that’s equal to or even better than larger competitors. In other words, SMBs will have to punch well above their weight.

Coaching and upskilling to nurture internal teams

Just as nurturing customers is vital to growth, so too is building the strength of internal teams. 40% of UK SMBs have included upskilling, training, or coaching as part of their growth strategies, far higher than the global average of 32%. In the year ahead, growing businesses will be focusing even further on reducing turnover of staff and ensuring they have the right talent at hand to deliver on their evolving business priorities.

Forward-thinking businesses are increasingly looking to retain, develop, and coach existing employees. In fact, almost two-thirds of UK employees (68%) feel that they have a good or extensive training, coaching, and development programs. However, a gulf is likely to open up between those companies that invest in coaching and those that don’t. One-third (32%) either have no training, coaching, or development program, or one that needs significant further investment

Aircall’s CEO, Scott Chancellor comments: “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.”

About Aircall

Aircall is the customer communication and engagement platform, designed for sales and customer support teams. It is an entirely cloud-based voice solution, easy to use, reliable, and integrated with all CRMs and critical business and conversational tools such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Intercom, Slack, Gong, and many others. Through a combination of its powerful software and dedicated people, Aircall helps SMBs drive productivity and turn customer and employee satisfaction into key growth-drivers. Aircall has expanded its international footprint and currently has over 700 employees from 40 nationalities spread over 6 offices–New York, Paris, Sydney, Berlin, London, and Madrid–and was named one of Built In’s Best Places to Work. As part of the Deloitte Fast 500 list, Aircall achieved Centaur status after securing over $100 million in annual recurring revenue in 2022.



In October 2023, Sapio Research conducted quantitative research on behalf of Aircall to understand business’ plans towards growth and how they intend to achieve it.

Aircall and Sapio Research co-designed the questionnaire and surveyed the behaviours and attitudes of 1400 workers in either Sales, Customer support, IT or Operations departments or roles across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

Respondents completed 21 questions; the sample spanned across eight industries, and company sizes with less than 500 employees, and all levels of seniority, from founders and C-level executives to individual contributors.