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Tuesday, 25 August 2020 13:50

Why a multi-channel contact centre is key to cost effective customer engagement in the time of coronavirus

Daniel Harding, MaxContact Daniel Harding, MaxContact

GUEST OPINION by Daniel Harding, Director, MaxContact: Australia’s small and medium business sector is doing it tough and finding practical and affordable ways to connect with customers and prospects is critical to survival, Daniel Harding argues.

Has your SME’s bottom line taken a battering in the six months since COVID-19 arrived on our shores? For so many Australian businesses, the answer is a resounding yes. Government shutdown measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus coupled with widespread economic uncertainty have seen businesses and consumers drawing in the purse strings.

Times look set to remain tight for some time, particularly given the return to Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria, following that state’s well documented second wave of infection.

NAB’s Monthly Business Survey: July 2020, which was conducted prior to Victoria’s escalation to level 4, revealed weak forward orders and capacity utilisation well below 2019 levels.

‘Capital expenditure remains negative and suggests that firms will shelve expansion plans until there is a sustained recovery in capacity utilisation and confidence,’ the Bank’s Group Economics team observed.

‘The business sector has undergone a very large contraction and with uncertainty to remain elevated for some time it is likely that it will take an extended period to see a full recovery and that further government support will be needed to get there.’

Business development goes bung

These extraordinarily challenging conditions have sent small and medium sized businesses into survival mode. Cost cutting has become the order of the day, with many SMEs seeking to identify and eliminate every last dollar of non-essential spending.

While that may make financial sense in the here and now, it’s likely to be counter-productive in the longer term. Investing in customer engagement, particularly when sales are slow, will see you better placed to benefit down the track, when businesses and individuals step up their spending again.

Trouble is, COVID has eliminated, temporarily at least, many traditional avenues for connecting with customers and prospects. Trade shows, conferences, seminars, even the humble shopping centre display…in the era of social distancing, all are off the agenda. Meanwhile, travel restrictions will continue to make sales calls and in-person meetings problematic for the foreseeable future.

Staying connected via the contact centre

One avenue that’s still open and affordable is the contact centre. Once regarded as very much part of backroom operations, contact centres have been pushed into the spotlight by the pandemic; the critical role they play in ensuring business continuity on display to all.

Now, we’re seeing a growing number of Aussie enterprises twig to the fact that their contact centre isn’t just the heart of their business. It can also be an engine room for growth; a powerful platform for connecting with customers at a time when other means of doing so are curtailed.

A robust multi-channel contact centre can be the backbone for email, SMS and phone-based promotional and marketing campaigns; generating leads and securing sales that can mean the difference between sinking and swimming during these uncertain times.

The additional cost of putting your contact centre to work in this way can be surprisingly modest. Wages are the biggest outlay and for most businesses they’re a sunk cost. There’s also the possibility of redeploying sales and marketing staff to bolster the efforts of your team of agents, should contact centre-driven campaigns result in a surge of enquiries.

Preparing for a brighter future

In post-pandemic Australia, small and medium sized businesses will have to work harder than ever to attract and retain customers. Using the tools and technologies at your disposal to stay connected in these uncertain times and win business as the economy opens up will boost your chances of surviving and thriving in 2021 and beyond.

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