Gratitude can be expressed in different ways in a business relationship. How small businesses demonstrate their gratitude to customers through support processes and systems are directly tied business issues such as account growth, customer retention, subscription renewals- among others. Businesses wanting to show true gratitude towards their customers allow them to engage anytime, anywhere, on any device. Businesses that fail to deliver what is known as an omnichannel service experience put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Customers expect their service interactions to be easy, personalized, in-context, and across all channels. Businesses that seek to push digital-only channels or focus on traditional contact center interactions struggle to deliver the experiences their customers want—or, to put it a different way, to show appropriate gratitude toward their customers. A recent study shows that the majority of customers—both B2B and B2C—remain dissatisfied with the engagement options offered by businesses:

·       50% feel frustrated that they must repeat information as they move across engagement channels

·       48% indicate responses by customer service agents are too slow

·       43% note they cannot use their preferred channels of communication

·       41% say engagement responses are not consistent across touch points

Enterprise and mid-size businesses must evolve to meet these new business realities. Those running their own contact centers must reassess their technologies, people, information, and processes. In some cases, the ensuring projects to address related deficiencies are quite daunting. Top obstacles they cite include:

·       Lack of system functionality (73%)

·       Engagement channels that are not integrated (68%)

·       Inconsistent responses across touch points (44%)

·       Inability to share data across business systems due to the lack of integration (39%)

What small businesses often fail to recognize is that the incline they must scale to tackle these challenges are often less severe than the incline facing their larger counterparts. Services like Davinci Live Receptionists, Auto Receptionists, and Live Web Chat enable them to outsource customer service engagement. They can look and act like much larger competitors.

So, for small businesses looking to engage an external third-party provider for customer service, what are some of the things to consider?

1. Multiple engagement channels. Finding a provider that offers engagement across multiple channels is critical. Forcing customers to use one or two engagement options of your choice will aggravate many—and not just Millennials—and result in them taking their business elsewhere (upwards of 60% saying they will do so). This means that you need to provide engagement through phone, email, social, text, and live web chat. And with growing numbers of customers preferring to start with do-it-yourself (DIY) channels such as forums, knowledgebases, etc. before engaging directly with businesses, this is an area that requires exploration and thought (viz., what they want, what their typical journeys look like, etc.).

2. Integrated systems and processes. Customers don’t want to repeat themselves as they move across engagement channels. For example, if they start with live web chat but need to move to phone, they do not want to spend the first five minutes of conversation updating the customer service agent on the interaction that took place via live web chat. And for any who think customers only use one or two channels, you need to think again. Millennials use an average of five channels when engaging with a brand for customer service, and while that number drops for other demographics, it remains in the multiples—even for those age 65+.

3. Cost-effective solution. Most small businesses don’t have the resources to pay for dedicated customer service agents. Instead, they need to find third-party providers with teams of customer service specialists who concurrently serve multiple clients and are experts on multiple engagement models. This is where solutions like Davinci Live Receptionists, Auto Receptionists, and Live Web Chat services enable organizations to achieve scale.

4. Extension of your team. Outsourced customer service engagement doesn’t mean there should be any sacrifice of quality or expertise. Customers should never get a sense that your customer service agent is anything but a full-time paid employee. As a result, small businesses need to look for providers with systems and processes in place that provide checks and balances and customer service agents who are at the top of their profession.

5. Escalation channels. Sometimes your first tier of customer service cannot answer a customer’s question or resolve their issue. Small businesses need to ensure that there are clear escalation paths and processes when those instances occur.

The holiday season is a time when individuals and businesses take a moment to show their gratitude. If you’re a small business that is falling short on giving your customers the right engagement experience, now may be the time to show some gratitude towards them.