Customer engagement means connecting with buyers on their favorite communication channels. If you want to help folks talk to you via SMS chat, webchat, or a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram, a customer-engagement solution is the way to go.
The challenge is picking the right customer engagement tool for your needs. Big businesses need elaborate platforms, while small firms need purpose-built customer-engagement software that does a few things well.
If you have a small business (fewer than 50 employees, for example), then this customer engagement solution buyer’s guide is for you.
Understanding customer engagement software for small businesses
Let’s say you opened a new ebike shop last year. Your busy customers want quick tips for fixing flat tires, tweaking drive systems, and improving battery performance. Younger customers crave SMS chat; affluent retirees visit your Facebook page. Knowledge workers ask questions on web chat during their office coffee breaks.
Bigger businesses typically handle these interactions via contact center as a service (CCaaS) platforms that deliver all the customer service capabilities of a corporate call center. CCaaS has a raft of features for managing phone calls, text messages and social media interactions.
But in the meantime, you’re looking for something simpler to engage with customers on their favorite communication channels.
How customer engagement tools work in the real world
Customer engagement technology for small businesses typically starts with a cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. It’s hosted in the cloud, so it works on any internet-connected device.
There’s no on-premises technology to install, and the service provider makes sure the software and hardware are secure and up to date. You pay a basic monthly fee which includes your SMS allocation.
Scenarios for your ebike shop:
- A customer removed the rear tire on their ebike to fix a flat. Now they’re afraid of messing up the drive train when they reinstall the tire. They contact your shop via Instagram and a staffer replies with a video from the manufacturer walking them through every step of the reinstall.
- You’re putting ebike accessories on sale next Monday: You schedule the delivery of a mass SMS text to everybody who bought a bike in the past six months. People who don’t want future texts can opt out.
- Two weeks after your promotion, accessory buyers’ questions flow in from multiple channels. You manage these communications via a common inbox that all your staff can use to engage with buyers.
Must-have qualities for small-business customer engagement software
Some customer-engagement providers can’t help themselves: They throw in everything that any business might need. The platform might not include the kitchen sink, but it’s apt to be complex to operate and expensive to use.
If you don’t have a lot of time, money, IT knowledge, or patience for new software platforms, then these customer engagement features and qualities will be most helpful:
- Simplicity. The customer engagement solution should be cloud-based, simple to set up and operate, and easy for your staff to learn. It should have the channels you need most, like SMS, web chat, and a couple of social media platforms. Look for a communication hub that lets everybody handle messaging from one place.
- Economy. Base prices should be affordable. You may pay a bit more for additional communication channels, but the cost should not trigger sticker shock. Look for providers who bundle multiple users in your package and do not charge a per-agent fee, which can quickly add up.
- Data. Your software should include information on your previous customer interactions.
- Flexibility. The software should be readily scalable and agile enough to plug into a unified communications (UC) platform and an existing business phone system. A UC platform integrates videoconferencing, voice calling, and text-based communications.
- Support. Your vendor should have strong training and customer-support operations to ensure your people have all the tools they need when interacting with customers.
The best vendors make it easy to plug customer-engagement software into their voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services and cloud-based platforms for call centers and unified communications.
A sure sign that you need a customer engagement solution
Small businesses often accumulate a hodgepodge of customer-engagement tools: one for chat, another for social, etc. These single-purpose tools may be cheap, but you pay a price when your staff has to constantly pick their way through apps with different user interfaces and learning curves.
Ready to learn more? GoTo’s Customer Engagement solution gives you all the tools your small business needs to simplify every customer communication.