By Neil Hammerton, CEO & Co-Founder of Natterbox

To grow, small and medium businesses need to pull out all the stops to deliver customer satisfaction. Fighting in the ring against bigger competitors, businesses need to create a customer experience which proves they try harder, making them more responsive and always available for their customers.

Today voice still provides the most direct form of communication and is where deals are made or broken. Research shows that around 60 percent of business communications still happen on the telephone, and that sales conversion rates from phone conversations are much higher than web clicks. This is supported by data from BIA/Kelsey, a media and advertising company, which claims in a report that 61 percent of businesses rate their inbound phone calls as ‘excellent leads’.

There is a growing argument, led by the some of the world’s biggest banks and FMCG businesses, that voicemail is dying and being replaced by newer digital and social customer platforms. However, there is so much good intelligence to gain from your customers’ voice that it would be mistake to think telephony is dead.

The link between digital customer engagement and telephony is getting stronger. The prolific use of mobile devices and web search has made it easier for consumers to look for and buy from vendors. According to Google, 61 percent of mobile searchers say click-to-call is their favourite feature when they are looking to buy. The imperative is even stronger to provide a high quality phone customer experience.

For a small business this can be challenging as it requires high levels of staff productivity as the cost of resource required to service customers on the phone is higher. Being productive does not mean making sales or support teams stand by their phones waiting for the customer to call. It is about combining efficiency and customer experience together.

So the demand on phone systems is twofold — providing the optimal customer experience and driving staff productivity. Unfortunately, too often phone systems are not flexible enough to adapt to the needs of a small, fast moving business with stretched resources. Having key staff on the road, away from their desk or with just too many calls to field causes challenges that can turn customers away.

This is where modern business telephony steps in where the integration of cloud technology with telephony systems can solve customer experience and productivity challenges. News about Nokia and Intel converging the world of cloud and telecoms shows there is customer demand for new systems and signals the end of legacy Private Branch Exchange (PBX).

A businesses’ PBX is no longer a rack found in the data centre or under the receptionist’s desk, it is an application hosted by a service provider, in the same way many businesses run their Customer Relationship management (CRM) systems on Salesforce. With the right telephony system, companies can route customers to relevant employees. So whether a person is on their mobile or at their desk, or working from home they are always one phone call away.

To enhance the customer experience even further many organisations are now linking their telephony systems to their CRM systems so when a customer calls and the number is recognised. Customers can then be given a truly personalised experience, greeted by name and routed to the appropriate account manager. In addition, the telephone system tells their account manager who is calling and pulls up their account history so they have all the customer information at their fingertips for the call.

Providing a knockout customer phone experience is one of the key ways small business can punch above its weight in a market where all too often the big players dominate.