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How to survive and thrive in an omnichannel world

When you’re running a small business, time and money are in short supply. Every task is urgent and you need to manage everything from cash flow to payroll to marketing. You know today’s customers expect to be able to contact you through a variety of channels and want prompt and excellent customer service 24/7, but as a small business owner you just don’t have the time to fully wrap your already busy mind around what ‘omnichannel’ is or how it can help your business. Sound familiar?

Adopting an omnichannel strategy that provides multiple communication channels to customers isn’t something only big companies are trying to do. Omnichannel is important for small businesses too, if they are to survive and thrive. The good news is it doesn’t have to be complicated, or take too much of your time, but it will make a big difference to the experience your customers have. And hopefully a great experience means they keep coming back for more.

Omnichannel can make or break your small business

Think of omnichannel as the service experience you would want as a customer: a real conversation where you don’t have to repeat yourself and you get the solution you are looking for. Omnichannel should make it easy for customers to engage with your business, where and when it’s right for them. Channels are connected so conversations are seamless, agents are more productive and information can be shared easily across your company. Customers should be better able to serve themselves, and when issues arise they are resolved quickly.

While bricks-and-mortar is still a permanent fixture for many small businesses, consumers are, as we all know, increasingly living online. Small businesses that can bridge these two worlds through omnichannel will reap the benefits of richer customer relationships, better data for improved decision-making, and more sales opportunities.

Zendesk recently conducted research with more than 45,000 customers across 140 countries to compile a Benchmark Report. The analysis discovered a tangible ROI in terms of improved efficiency and an all round better support experience for customers. Among Zendesk Benchmark companies, those using an integrated omnichannel solution outperform those who stick to a limited number of channels or operate channels in silos. Their customers spend less time waiting for responses, resolve their issues faster, and are less likely to require follow-ups.

According to MYOB, only 18 per cent of Australian small businesses connect with their customers using a website and social media, and just 20 per cent use customer relationship management tools for marketing and after sales support. This means there is a huge opportunity for your small business to stand out from the crowd and hold its own among the big players.

Getting started

Understanding that customers are seeking omnichannel support is one thing, but being able to deliver it is something else. Here are five tips to adopt an omnichannel approach in your business:

  1. Be present in multiple channels

Customers want to be able to engage with you in the channel that is most convenient to them, whether that be a phone call, email, text message, visit to a store, live chat, or social media. However, you must be able to monitor all of those channels on a real-time or near real-time basis.

2. Respond quickly

No one likes to be ignored, especially by a company you just gave your money to. Be able to provide rapid and personalised service in every channel you offer support, an effort that should be aided by the right customer service and engagement platform. Using a product such as Zendesk Suite will allow you to integrate multiple channels into your customer service without requiring additional resource.

3. Connect information between service channels

The goal is for all your employees to have a complete view of the customer, regardless of which channel the customer chooses to communicate with you. This will enable you to quickly and effectively provide the level of support needed while saving customers from having to repeat information, like their name, address, account number, and so on, if they move to a different employee.

4. Evaluate and improve

There are a multitude of success metrics that you can track to measure the effectiveness of your customer service efforts. Identify the ones that are most critical to your business, monitor them on a continual basis, and make adjustments when necessary.

5. Enable your customers to serve themselves

In most cases your customers will want to find the answers to their questions themselves. This is a win-win situation because it saves the customer time and will save you time and money providing phone and email support. Use a tool such as Zendesk’s Guide knowledge base to ensure your customers have all the information they need at their fingertips.

You may only be operating across one or two channels at this stage, particularly if you are handling all the customer service tickets single-handedly, or have a small team. However, it is important your customers can reach you however they choose, and that they also have a seamless experience when doing so.

Whilst providing an integrated omnichannel solution to customers may seem daunting at first, it can be done with the right approach and supporting technologies, enabling your business to be the company your customers want it to be.

Henrik Petersen, Senior Director Marketing, Asia Pacific, Zendesk

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Henrik Petersen

Henrik Petersen

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