At a time when technology has opened the door to instant gratification, it has become more essential than ever for B2B companies to provide 24/7 access to their services.
For many B2Bs, this access can take the form of around-the-clock, agent-assisted call centers. For some industries – namely financial sectors, emergency services, tech support and travel – offering a call center is considered essential.
But for those in other industries and for smaller companies that may not have the wherewithal to have a 24-hour call center, there are other options. The key, experts say, is that in today’s ever-changing world, some form of access should be available at all times of day or night.
“I can think of very few examples of when you shouldn’t have something 24/7,” said Brad Clevelandcq, founding partner of International Customer Management Institute, a featured company at the Contact Center Expo & Conference held in May at the San Diego Convention Center. “We’ve come so far in the last five years. … The phone is the last thing you check at night and the first thing you check in the morning. Those are the times we live in.”
In some cases, he said extended hours, a self-service call center and a website that makes business hours known – and explains what clients can do on their own outside business hours – may be enough.
The key, he said, is to ask yourself, “What are your customers asking for?” he said. “It can give you clues on what you might need and the importance of being there.”
Christopher Youngcq, CEO of Digital MKTG, a San Diego-based digital marketing company, said smaller companies have some cost-effective options, such as live chat services, often referred to as “telephony,” with software that translates sound into electrical signals, transmitting them and then converting them back to sound. It’s basically a software-controlled answering service.
Another option for troubleshooting 24/7 is setting up an automatic email response with a ticket number that assures them that their issues are being looked into, said Young.
In addition, said Vassilis Dalakascq, an associate professor of marketing at Cal State San Marcos, social media is another way B2Bs can make themselves available. He said having an active Facebook page and Twitter account enables communication at any time.
“Of course, in order for this to work, the keyword is ‘active,’” he said. “Having a social media presence but failing to post on those accounts and, even worse, to not respond when customers post there, is going to do more harm than good.”
For those businesses that want a call center, staffing is one of the main roadblocks, said Young. Finding quality customer service professionals to work late at night can be a challenge. There can also be language barriers for businesses that attempt to save money by outsourcing calls and support to other countries.
However, he said many B2Bs firms and small businesses are using technology that redirects communication so that if someone sends a message through a company’s website, it can be directed to business manager’s cell phone so they can text or call back immediately.
The benefit of 24/7 access, Young said, is that while it can increase overhead, it can also increase sales.
“The way to benefit financially is to work smarter and not harder by leveraging technology to assist in communication,” he said.