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Guest Blogger

By Paul Jarman, CEO, NICE inContact

Contact centre leaders in all industries spend much of their time thinking about whether they are interacting with customers in a way that will make a positive impression. After all, the contact centre is often a critical link for relationship building, so it is vital to represent that brand in a way that builds a lasting impression and drives customer loyalty.

Do we have the right mix of channels? Are we connecting with customers where they want to connect? What can we do to make their lives easier? Understanding the answers to these questions and the long-term impact they can have on customer satisfaction – and in turn, business success – is the essence of positive and effective customer service.

But should contact centres, particularly those in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), also be spending more time thinking about who those same customers are communicating with after each interaction? And, perhaps more importantly, how they are communicating?

In today’s world of consumer power and global social media platforms where anyone can easily get instant access to an international audience, the answer is a resounding yes. It’s no exaggeration to say that word of mouth can make or break an SMB brand.

Look who’s talking

Word of mouth has always been an important factor for businesses. The way people talk about a business to their friends, family and wider networks can play a key role in its growth. If these conversations are positive, they can help a company stand out from the crowd and win new customers. But, if they’re negative, that business will quickly find itself falling down the pecking order.

Since the advent of digital channels and social media, the impact of word of mouth has been amplified exponentially. It is now an extremely powerful marketing tool, with more than half (63%) of consumers saying they would share a positive customer service experience on social media or post a positive online review.

However, this power also means it can be more damaging than ever to businesses as 62% of customers say they share their bad experiences with others. Any business can end up going viral for all the wrong reasons.

The impact of negative word of mouth can be particularly acute for SMBs that are trying to grow and build their reputations in increasingly crowded marketplaces. SMBs are likely to be less well known among potential customers and prospects and tend to have smaller resources available to fix any reputational damage.

The good news is that positive word of mouth can make a tangible difference to SMB growth, both in the short and long-term. Indeed, in a study by Verizon, 85% of small businesses said their customers learn about them through word of mouth. Clearly, word of mouth should be a key consideration for all SMBs. So, what do contact centres need to do to get their customers talking and turn them into long-term advocates?

Corporate campaigners

In today’s world, positive word of mouth is reliant on the quality of service businesses provide to customers. The impetus is on them to provide customers with a level of service that inspires positive emotions and gets them talking in a way that will support business growth.

For example, when interacting with businesses, modern consumers expect the same level of digital capabilities as they enjoy in their personal lives. A company’s ability to connect with customers how and where they want to connect plays an instrumental role in keeping them happy and engaged – which will go a long way to turning them into long-term advocates. Digital interactions have become second nature for customers, and so they must become an intrinsic part of the contact centre’s omnichannel experience.

This means SMB contact centres must be prepared to offer a true digital-first service, with the convenience of chat, email, text, social and messaging apps. This is where the cloud is vital. While many traditional on-premises systems don’t support digital channels, cloud-native products are designed to provide greater business agility by supplementing voice with a broad array of digital options. The cloud enables the creation of true omnichannel customer experiences, which is why cloud-based contact centres report 18% higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) based on service experience compared to companies that rely on on-premises software.

With cloud driving contact centre operations, customers have access to anytime, anywhere interactions. A combination of mobile and digital channels can be integrated into one seamless journey that puts the customer first. This is exactly what will get them talking and drive positive word of mouth.

The fact is that customers today are as interested in great service as they are in great prices. They’re also more than willing to share their experiences with others, whether they be positive or negative. This means customer service is potentially a huge asset that, if done right, can support business growth – especially if it gets people talking about the business.

For SMBs, the onus is on them to ensure a high-quality, digital-first service that is convenient and addresses customers’ needs. This will play a key role in delighting customers, turning your contact centre into a customer experience powerhouse and your customers into fans. Converting customers to advocates will undoubtedly drive business growth.

Paul Jarman holds the position of NICE inContact CEO. Mr. Jarman is responsible for the enterprise, midmarket, government organizations and business process outsourcers (BPOs) who operate in multiple divisions, locations and global regions.

A pioneer of the cloud movement, Mr. Jarman was instrumental in guiding inContact from its roots in telecommunications to its strategic offering of cloud-based contact center solutions and has been a part of every major enhancement the company has made since 1997.

​As part of inContact’s strategic shift to a contact center software provider, he spearheaded four software acquisitions and two telephony acquisitions. He led inContact’s successful addition to the NASDAQ ​and under his leadership, inContact has experienced strong compound annual growth rate in software revenues over the past three years.

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