How Businesses Can Rethink Customer Engagement
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
The pandemic has changed nearly everything about the way companies do business. The ebb and flow of social distancing measures means small businesses can’t always connect with their customers the way they used to. But as businesses have found their footing this year and changed processes from end to end, they’re now looking for ways to pivot to what comes next.
If there’s one thing 2020 has driven home for small businesses across the country, it’s the need to be agile. In an environment where the traditional avenues to customer engagement have changed or even disappeared, small business owners are reimagining the ways they connect with customers, tapping technology in a small business environment that’s gone increasingly virtual. And this trend is expected to hold as businesses navigate the busy holiday shopping season.
If the traditional ways you communicate with customers are disrupted, here are ideas for business owners to keep customers engaged using technology:
Make sure customers can call on you
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:
- To ensure that every single call is answered in one fashion or another, have voicemail 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.
- Make sure all of your digital profiles (Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.) list accurate contact information and hours, including your phone numbers, hours of operation, service and delivery areas, menus, lists of services, and more.
- 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. Make it easy for customers to understand your policies for online ordering, curbside pickup, etc.
- Roll out solutions to enhance customer experience, like free appointment-scheduling apps, to make your services easier and more convenient to use.
- 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
Some or all of your employees might be working 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 facetime 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.