How Businesses Can Rethink Customer Engagement

July 02, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly everything about the way small companies do business. Social distancing, means in practical terms that small businesses can’t connect with their customers in the same ways they’re used to. Either by shifting from in-house service and shopping to curbside pick-up, or simply through disruptions to customer communications processes due to remote working, the traditional avenues to maintain contact with customers have changed, or even disappeared.

Some small business owners may even be unwittingly making the problem worse. Businesses that have had to temporarily shut doors, for example, maybe disconnecting phone lines — what may have been considered a quick solution to realize short-term savings — is consequently leaving customers who want to get in touch or find out information about the business with one fewer way to do so. By not being available, not posting updates, and not maintaining a digital presence, customers may assume small businesses are shutting down. This can be an expensive prospect, as it’s much more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. Small businesses need to ensure they don’t break the lines of communication, which could ultimately lose customers.

As the traditional means of customer communication change, there are innovative ways for small business owners to keep customers engaged through technology:

Know the power of voice

Even in an increasingly digital marketplace, your phones can still serve as the main lifeline to your customers. Whether you’re in your physical business or at home, during business hours or on nights and weekends, having a phone line that rings endlessly, or worse, leads to an error or disconnect notice, indicates to your customers that you don’t care to hear from them.

To ensure smooth customer experience with your phone system, take these key steps:

  • Make sure that every single call is answered in one fashion or another. Make sure voicemail is enabled after hours or when you are unavailable, and utilize readable voicemail to understand customer needs and concerns quickly.
  • Use call forwarding to route calls to the right people, especially in remote work environments. Routing calls on an employee’s office phone to their mobile number ensures that customers are able to reach the right person, when they need to.
  • Leverage automated assistants to help customers get the information they need and triage calls to the appropriate person. By arming automated assistants with important information like web and email addresses, hours of operation, and any new policies and procedures, you can ensure important information is reaching customers in a timely way.

Maintain your digital presence

If you aren’t communicating face-to-face with your customers as much as you used to (and even if you are), you should have a digital experience that’s reflective of the atmosphere of your business: helpful, caring, and active. Here are some actionable steps you can take to build and maintain presence online:

  • Always keep your website updated. Especially under today’s circumstances, where hours of operation and processes might be subject to changing state, local, and federal guidelines and regulations, customers need to be able to rely on the information they find on your website.
  • Do proactive outreach on social media and through emails to your customer base, keeping them apprised of any important updates and maintaining both channels as open lines of communications for customers to get in touch with you.
  • Roll out new solutions, like free appointment-scheduling apps, to make your services easier and more convenient to use.
  • Make sure all of your digital profiles (Yelp, Google, etc.) list accurate contact information and hours, including your phone numbers, hours of operation, service and delivery areas, menus, lists of services, and more.
  • Set up a splash page for your guest WiFi network that serves logged-in customers with needed information about your business.

Keep your employees engaged

Your employees might be remote, but that doesn’t mean they have to be any less connected. We already discussed using call forwarding and routing to enable them to continue to address customer questions and inbound calls, but there are other steps you can take as well:

  • Leverage Unified Communications tools as a means to empower team communication and foster community and culture. Real-time messaging ensures employees can collaborate in the moment and keep productivity on track. One-touch conference calls mean you can get everyone in the same place without fumbling with messy dial-ins and get valuable digital face time with customers.
  • Make sure employees have the bandwidth they need. They’re likely jockeying for data alongside kids, spouses, or roommates, and the last thing they need is for the connection to drop when they’re with a customer. Evaluate your needs to see if business-grade Internet at home is necessary for you and your team.

Innovative ways for small businesses to keep their customers engaged through technology.

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