Small in Name Only: Tech Trends for Small Businesses This content is produced in association with the sponsor and is not part of ZDNet's editoral content. Learn more

ZDNet Multiplexer

mul-ti-plexer-er. noun. A device, in electronics, that synthesizes disparate data signals into a single, uniform output. ZDNet Multiplexer merges various perspectives, media types, and data sources and synthesizes them into one clear message, via a sponsored blog.

ZDNet Multiplexer allows marketers to connect directly with the ZDNet community by enabling them to blog on the ZDNet publishing platform. Content on ZDNet Multiplexer blogs is produced in association with the sponsor and is not part of ZDNet's editorial content.


Investing in technology to keep pace with customer service

Customers expect to be treated like VIPs and to have their issues addressed immediately. Even smaller players can set aggressive customer service goals.

As a small business grows, they will need to focus on customer engagement. A Walker study has found that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. In other words, it won't matter how much better the product is compared to that of a competitor, if the customer experience is not compelling.

SMBs have to accommodate evolving customer expectations, especially now that many prefer to purchase goods online and have queries answered instantly. That's why it's important to make it as easy as possible for businesses to communicate with customers.

Most SMBs will need to expand their digital capabilities by investing in technologies that help with customer acquisition, experience, retention, and satisfaction.

Strategic approaches to customer support include powerful software, AI, and automated features, where possible. All of this requires robust hardware and security, so as to ensure reliability and data protection for transactions and record-keeping. If hardware is outdated, for example, it may take too long to upload and respond, which could frustrate customers. And they won't hesitate to take their money somewhere else.

To accelerate the transition, SMBs will need to prioritize automation, application bandwidth, and analytics. Smaller organizations will benefit from cloud-based solutions that don't require an extensive capital outlay to spin up.

Creating the right cloud strategy

It may be worth connecting with a business consultant or advisor to look into cloud capabilities and how they map to your business needs, figure out how to integrate these services with existing infrastructure, and provide ongoing support.

One important element to consider is unstructured data – the kind of feedback that shows up in emails, voice notes, and social media. A modern system will 'ingest' that kind of information and enable you to combine it with structured output from core systems. It may even be able to 'understand' sentiment and respond automatically.

Other services that may help small organizations compete on a grander scale are Unified Communications and Collaboration and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS). When employees are connected by phone, instant message, video, screen-sharing, and presence awareness, queries can be resolved more quickly, which delights customers. CCaaS solutions often include phone and chat support, plus texting, so your business can respond across channels and meet customers where they are.

This turning point also opens up new opportunities to overlay applications such as resource planning, HR, finance, and CRM on your data to provide analytics and derive insight. Automated overlays will help SMBs address business challenges by identifying threats and opportunities, justifying new market expansion, coordinating service or product offerings, managing costs, or achieving growth goals.

Security is an essential part of service

Without comprehensive security measures, all the robust hardware, software, and applications in the world won't ensure business success. Even internal systems -- such as HR, marketing, accounting, and IT -- can't afford to operate without data protection and access control.

Like the threat landscape, small-business security and privacy protection have to evolve constantly. It's no secret that a breach or violation could lead to catastrophic failure and perhaps even criminal proceedings.

Security must extend to processes and users, too. Regular audits, training, and reinforcement will keep this top-of-mind for employees and convey to customers that you care about their data and privacy.


With a controversial move, Southwest Airlines tries for better customer service

With a controversial move, Southwest Airlines tries for better customer service

Google looks to reduce pushback bias in developers' software code review
close up programmer man hand typing on keyboard at computer desktop for input coding language to software for fix bug and defect of system in operation room , technology concept

Google looks to reduce pushback bias in developers' software code review

CISA warns over software flaws in industrial control systems

CISA warns over software flaws in industrial control systems