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SMB Customers Expect Fast Resolution and Digital Engagement Across Multiple Channels

Vonage Survey Illustrates That Consumers Have Similar Service Expectations for Digital Engagements, Regardless of Providers’ Size

The News:

Quick resolutions to issues and access to multiple customer communication channels are two of the top expectations for consumers when interacting with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) via digital channels, according to a new survey published by Vonage and conducted by Pollfish, which surveyed 1,500 US consumers in April. Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents indicated that when interacting with SMBs that use chatbots, voice recognition, or any AI communications tool, fast response time is their top expectation.

The survey revealed that that 60% of respondents view SMBs that do not provide access and/or support through multiple channels as less favorable, though that would not stop them from doing business with these SMBs in the future.

Voice communication remains a key channel for customers seeking to connect with SMBs, with 23% of respondents ranking voice calls first. Additionally, respondents prioritized faster resolutions with voice (27%) and video (25%) engagements. Of those respondents that engage with SMBs through video, 42% indicated they are looking for a human connection without having to meet in person.

For the healthcare and professional services industries, the preference for voice communications is even higher, with 33% and 32% of respondents, respectively, choosing that traditional channel. For retail SMBs, 32% of respondents indicated they prefer email as their preferred interaction channel, followed by voice (25%).

 See the complete press release detailing the findings here.

SMB Customers Expect Fast Resolution and Digital Engagement Across Multiple Channels

Analyst Take:

Quick resolutions to issues and access to multiple channels are among the top expectations consumers have when interacting with SMBs, and 60% of respondents view SMBs that do not provide access and/or support through multiple channels as being less favorable, according to a recent Vonage survey of US consumers. Reflecting the need for SMBs to develop a multichannel engagement strategy, just 23% of respondents cited voice as a preferred communication channel.

The survey also revealed that 60% of respondents view SMBs that do not provide access and/or support through multiple communications channels as less favorable, with 16% of respondents indicating that they would choose not to work with them again in the future.

Providing convenience and less friction through multiple channels

These survey figures reflect the growing reality that even SMBs that have traditionally taken a personalized, voice-first approach to engagement need to offer customers convenient, friction-free engagement options through multiple channels. Due to digitalization, SMBs are ultimately competing against larger organizations that are investing heavily in omnichannel engagement software and strategies, and thus, customer expectations have been raised. Even though a business may only operate within a local trading area, customers have been conditioned to expect a similar – if not better – experience than with larger organizations, including the ability to easily connect through multiple channels, at the time and through the device of their choosing.

Prioritizing a fast response to customer inquiries

The use of multiple channels, especially digital engagement channels such as video, chat, and social media, must be deployed with a focus on improving the availability and response time to customer inquiries. In fact, 29% of respondents to the Vonage survey indicated that when it comes to interacting with SMBs that use chatbots, voice recognition or any AI-driven communications tool, a fast response times is their top expectation. Respondents also prioritized faster resolutions with video (25%) engagements.

Several omnichannel engagement platforms and tools are targeted specifically at the SMB market, enabling them to engage with their customers through multiple channels. These include Zendesk Suite (starting at $19 per month), Hotjar (offering a free version and a Plus versions for $32 per month), and SugarCRM (providing access to SugarServe starting at $80 per month), among others.

In addition to deploying technology tools that support greater availability through multiple channels and faster response times, SMBs need to take a customer-centric approach to CX. Company strategy and policies must be aligned to prioritize engagement through these digital channels, and procedures must be aligned to make it easier for employees to respond quickly.

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.

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