Why Midmarket Companies Must Compete in the Customer Engagement Big Leagues

Midmarket Customer Service

Every large company was, at one point, a startup. As they grew—in some cases literally out of a garage—they had to evolve their tools, systems and processes appropriate with their business phase. For every successful large company, there were hundreds that failed on their way.

If you find yourself on the path from small company to midsize company, you’re likely running into a number of challenges inherent among midmarket companies. Today, I want to focus on one of the biggest challenges—improving customer engagement.

In the beginning, startups are intensely focused on customer engagement. It’s one of the reasons they become successful. But as they grow, customer engagement can become overwhelming, with different types of interactions across multiple channels.   It’s all part of the proverbial “crossing the chasm” experience.

However, customer engagement is a competitive way for midmarket companies to differentiate themselves—showing customers that they’re just as  attentive as startups, while being more personal and nimble than large companies.

In my experience, it’s clear that the customer engagement imperative among midmarket companies is alive and growing. And the stakes are high.

Ignoring customer engagement comes at great cost for these midsize organizations. Customers expect midmarket companies to respond to their needs quickly, efficiently and through a variety of channels. At best, inefficient processes, equipment and applications become massively expensive to manage and maintain. At worst, companies lose their mojo.

Corporate brands deteriorate due to customer service missteps. Without the right tools, agents can’t prioritize appropriately, and time-consuming tasks take the lead while mission-critical needs get lost in the shuffle. When agents aren’t given the right tools to engage with customers, their own employee engagement deteriorates, and then all bets are off when it comes to delivering a great customer experience. It’s a vicious cycle!

The Midmarket Playing Field 

The business drivers that fuel customer engagement upgrades in the midmarket  – ancient phone systems that need replacing, growing contact center volumes, and a greater need for data and analytics –  are found in almost every segment. But midsize companies compete on a unique playing field.

As midsized companies grow, the applications and processes that once served them when they were small don’t scale very well. On top of this, some have corporate or product acquisitions fueling their growth, causing disparate data silos and applications.

In other cases, large enterprises are downsizing to a midmarket scale because of divestiture or market fluctuations. Some are opening independent subsidiaries in foreign countries, which compare to being a startup.

In either case, these companies must assess both their current and future growth requirements to make the best investment decision. They need solutions that are able to grow with businesses.

Stepping Up to the Plate

With these unique challenges, what would you do?  I ask myself this question when I speak with customers, and try to imagine their particular needs and fears along the way. Oftentimes, they’ll choose one of four paths forward:

  • Current system upgrades: Get the latest releases for the equipment you’ve already deployed
  • SaaS/cloud/outsourced services: Try one or more out, overall or in select areas
  • Build-it-yourself: Use open source tools to enhance existing systems or build a new system from scratch
  • Vendor solutions: Invest in sophisticated contact center systems designed for the midmarket

After comparing a large-system upgrade with a new midmarket contact center solution, many customers decide their needs were met with a Avaya IP Office-based contact center package. Plus, the same choice was more budget-friendly and faster to deploy than an existing system upgrade. In other cases, customers either brought outsourced services back in-house or decided their SaaS or managed service wasn’t integrated well enough with their back-office system to be most efficient.

There are many organizations with lots of internal IT skills, coupled with fairly robust open-source tools available on the market. Before embarking on this development journey, it pays to engage experienced advisors to help you evaluate these options and your requirements before making such an investment.

A Home Run for Ballantyne

One company that made such an upgrade choice is Ballantyne Strong, a commercial lighting business in the U.S.

Ballantyne Strong began more than 80 years ago as a cinema equipment company. As its business evolved to selling state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment and professional lighting, it outgrew its out-of-date business communications system.

The shortcomings of its antiquated system became obvious as the company realized it needed its own call center. Additionally, the acquisition of another company meant that Ballantyne Strong was facing five-figure travel bills each month. Ballantyne was looking for a one-vendor solution – fully-functional, well-integrated and packaged right for a midsize business. And so, Ballantyne decided to implement Avaya Customer and Team Engagement solutions — Avaya IP Office, Avaya IP Office Contact Center and Avaya Scopia.

With the help of Avaya partner DataVizion, Ballantyne Strong cut over to its new Avaya-powered call center system on a Friday morning at 8 a.m., and was fully functional within 10 minutes. Right away, the company was able to begin easily tracking and monitoring its call center activity. Ballantyne is also able to create custom calls queues routed to the correct technicians.

Focusing on delivering better customer engagement is a crucial success factor for midmarket companies. Fortunately, there’s a well-documented migration path forward, and trusted advisors along the way.

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