Can SMBs engage customers better?


Stijn PhotoBy Stijn Hendrikse, CMO of MightyCall

As customers get in touch through multiple channels, SMBs are turning to cloud-based call center technologies

to create deeper, more meaningful engagements.

Companies big and small know how a momentary lapse in customer service can have huge consequences. Keep a customer too long on the line and he hangs up. After that, he goes on to Facebook and Twitter to share his poor experience with hundreds of followers.

While companies with sizeable budgets can hire entire teams to handle voice calls at a call center and still respond quickly to customers on social media, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are often constrained by cost, manpower and know-how.

Opportunities are lost when calls from customers are missed. Worse, complaints online that are not responded to spread over time and deepen feelings against a company because only one side of the story would have been told.

In a consumer survey by research firm Harris Interactive in 2011, 79 per cent of those who shared complaints about poor customer experience online had their complaints ignored. In the United States, 89 per cent of consumers took their business elsewhere due to a poor customer experience.

Indeed, in an age of instant gratification, responses are expected to arrive without delay. Besides getting back to customers fast, companies have to get their multi-channel efforts together in a clear, coherent manner.

So far, many companies that have jumped onto the multi-channel bandwagon end up having disparate systems, with silos of business intelligence not fully tapped on. Many rollouts are not as robust and scalable as desired.

Just 14.5 per cent of those that have deployed multi-channel customer service technologies see their self-service capability as being ahead of the pack, according to a recent Dimension Data report.

Only 47 per cent have a single view for tracking customer data, the research firm found. Fewer than 33 per cent share the data they have throughout the organization, according to the survey of more than 800 participants across 11 industry sectors in 79 countries.

A single-view system, where companies can view the various interactions with customers in a simple, easy-to-understand manner, would bring the biggest advantage to a multi-channel engagement efforts.

Companies seeking a multi-channel transformation also have to ask which customers they want to engage. Without this, they are missing the biggest piece of the puzzle – the audience.

For younger Generation Y consumers, electronic messaging, social media and smartphone applications are preferred over traditional voice calls when interacting with a company, according to Dimension Data. Even older consumers from Generation X, the company’s researchers added, are beginning to shift towards the newer, digital channels.

The good news is that technology is a great equalizer. Just like how cloud technology has made it possible for SMBs to run sophisticated accounting tools or store fronts that cater to thousands at any time, it is transforming how they interact with customers.

With the cloud, SMBs can run a sophisticated contact center that provides critical 360-degree business intelligence without hefty upfront investment in infrastructure. Just like a website can be running from any location in the world, a contact center can function virtually online, 24/7.

This also means not being stuck in a physical contact center. With easy-to-use yet powerful mobile apps that provide information on each customer interaction, SMBs can always keep connected to customers, even on the go.

As the researchers from Dimension Data point out, cloud technology could be the game changer in the years ahead. Not only does it reduce cost to serve, it is enabling deeper customer interaction.

In its survey, 65 per cent of organizations already using hosted or cloud technologies say they have provided new and enhanced functionality, while 64.8 per cent say they have improved flexibility.

As customer service becomes an increasingly important factor in buying decisions, SMBs that are able to get the most out of their contact center technologies will come up winners in a contest to offer deeper, more engaging experiences.

That means being agile, scalable and mobile. Cloud-based contact center technologies, already well known for transforming businesses everywhere, look to be a key differentiator and enabler for SMBs in the years ahead.

Stijn Hendrikse is CMO and Managing Director of MightyCall, a Seattle-based Cloud technology company that makes software to help companies be available to their customers regardless of where, when, and how they choose to reach out.