Big brands and enterprises aren’t the only ones facing the CX ultimatum—new research from digital transformation-focused cloud communications firm Vonage finds that small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are also under new pressures to deliver on the customer experience. Indeed, the research finds that quick resolutions and access to multiple customer communication channels are two of the top expectations for consumers when interacting with SMBs.
In fact, 29 percent of respondents indicated that when it comes to interacting with SMBs that use chatbots, voice recognition or any AI communications tool, fast response times is their top expectation. Additionally, respondents prioritized faster resolutions with voice (27 percent) and video (25 percent) engagements. Of those respondents that engage with SMBs through video, 42 percent indicated they are looking for a human connection without having to meet in-person.
Which communications channels work best?
The research found that 23 percent ranked voice calls first. Specific to the healthcare and professional services industries, voice also reigns supreme with 33 percent and 32 percent of respondents, respectively, choosing voice calls as their preferred communications channel. For retail SMBs, however, 32 percent indicated they prefer email, followed by voice (25 percent).
The survey also revealed that 60 percent of respondents view SMBs that do not provide access and/or support through multiple communications channels as less favorable, but would still work with the SMB. However, 16 percent indicated they would view the business as less favorable and not work with the SMB again in the future.
Brands are ultimately always competing with their customers’ last great experience
These findings demonstrate that, to exceed customer expectations and achieve continued customer loyalty, it’s important that SMBs offer a variety of communications channels to connect with customers.
“Customer experience is not one-size-fits-all, and all businesses, including SMBs, should consider that consumer preferences are ever-changing. There’s a clear need to continuously evaluate communication channels to keep customers happy and coming back,” said Joy Corso, chief marketing officer for Vonage, in a news release. “As new communications preferences emerge, implementation of these channels doesn’t have to be complicated. A cloud-based platform can help businesses easily implement and scale their communications across voice, video, messaging as their customers prefer. Doing so will go a long way in delivering high-quality customer engagements and satisfaction.”
Additional survey findings also revealed:
- While many consumers still prefer doctor appointments in-person (68 percent), a third of respondents (32 percent) prefer video, signaling a growing need for healthcare providers to implement video communications tools.
- Consumers are comfortable suggesting their preferred communications channels to SMBs with nearly half of respondents (46 percent) indicating they would do so if it wasn’t already offered.
- Preferences for certain communications channels with SMBs can differ, with 30 percent of respondents indicating their preferences change depending on the day.
The survey findings are based on a Pollfish survey conducted the week of April 10, 2023 and included responses from 1,500 U.S. respondents above the age of 18 who recently interacted with a small- and/or medium-sized business.