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Unified Communications and The Customer Experience for Small Businesses

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 90

Competing with larger businesses is a lot easier than it used to be. In the past, it required a great deal of money to break into an industry and overtake the leader(s). One of the things you need is a great product or service, the means to deliver it and a little luck. The second thing you may need to do is transform your business around the customer experience. All too often, many small businesses fail to think about their customers and what it is like for their customers to do business with them. There is a great reason large enterprises invest heavily in Unified Communications (UC) and the answer is "it works." Therefore, if you want to compete against large enterprises and win, your business will have to incorporate UC solutions that help by improving the customer experience. Every small business needs a UC strategy.

Never rely on a single way to communicate with your customers. It does not matter if you use a telephone, email or ICQ chat. Try to have multiple methods for everything your business does. For example, I am always bothered by businesses that do not accept credit cards. I hardly carry cash and it is very taxing for me to get cash to do business with them. Another example is invoicing. You may decide it is best to mail invoices to your customers. While mail may be okay for some, others may prefer e-mail or a PDF attached to an e-mail. You need to have the ability to invoice your customers in several ways to ensure you are creating a positive customer experience. How do you decide and track what method(s) is best for each customer, use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application.

A good CRM tool should be included in your unified communications solution. It should integrate into your e-mail solution and your telephony solution allowing you to click to initiate contact with a customer. if you want your business to compete against large enterprises you must find a way to track customer feedback, implement marketing campaigns using the information gathered, track results and measure your effectiveness at improving the customer experience. A great product or great service is important, your customers feeling good about doing business with you is more important. a good CRM tool will allow you to track information about your customers to improve the customer experience. In addition to phone numbers and e-mail addresses, keep track of birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and graduations. The tools should allow you to create marketing campaigns based on information that you have gathered. This will allow you to decide what works and what does not work. Your goal and focus should be to get customers for your business and retain them. Sending an e-mail or a card on special dates provides a personal touch that will keep your customers thinking of you. If the experience is pleasant, customers will return and do business with you again and again. In addition, customers will share their experience with other people resulting in the best advertisement there is, "word-of-mouth".

The next thing you need is a good customer friendly website. Your website should allow your customers to find the products, services and information they need. Customers should be able to easily find your e-mail address, mailing address and phone number. Do not be afraid to include your phone number on your website. Listing your phone number will invite unwelcome solicitors to call you, but that is a small price to pay to ensure your customers can reach you when they need help. Outside of contact information, your website should clearly identify your return policy, privacy policy and terms of service policy. Make the process of returning a purchased product for a refund just as easy as purchasing the product. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to get your money back for a product you no longer want and not being able to reach anyone to process your requests.

Your telephone system is a next thing you design around the customer experience if you want to compete against large enterprises. For example, make sure your phones are answered in a professional manner either by yourself or an automated receptionist. I advise my small business clients to never answer their own phone. Allow the automated receptionist to answer all calls, informed callers about ongoing specials that you may have, provide hours of operation, business location and website information. With an automated receptionist, you can ensure a consistent outgoing message for all your customers. This is one of those small things that help improve the customer experience. What is the difference calling a fortune 500 company and getting their automate receptionist verses calling your automated receptionist?

In order to position your business to take advantage of some of the Unified Communications (UC) strategies in this article, your telephone system will need to be based on the SIP protocol. Just as the Internet allowed online companies to compete with large brick-and-mortar enterprises, SIP can do the same for your small business. You may be tempted to partially implement SIP using the service of an Internet telephone service provider (ITSP) that does not fully implement SIP, be very careful in the selection process. Here are some questions to ask before they charge your credit card:

1. From my endpoint, is my voice transmission using the SIP protocol to connect to a PSTN gateway?

2. Can I use any SIP device with your service?

3. Does your service integrate with CRM apps to allow single click dialing?

4. Can I use your service anywhere in the world provided I have Internet access?

If the SIP provider offers you an ATA to connect to an analog phone, terminate the conversation and move on to the next Internet Telephone Service Provider (ITSP). Most important, your business can compete against large enterprises if you transform your business into one that uses Unified Communications.

Source: EzineArticles
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Customer Experience


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