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In this digital age, the importance of interacting with customers can’t be overstated. More and more, customers are turning to online platforms to help them choose a company. Interact with that company. And express feelings about their experiences with that company. In turn, a fully fleshed out digital presence using a marketing service or software is the only way to effectively do business in the 21st century.

So, how can a business be sure that they’re getting everything possible out of their online presence? There are essentially two main ways that customer engagement methods can be broken down when it comes to the internet:  software and services.

Software options like Podium, BirdEye and Trustpilot tend to be a popular choice because they seem simple and efficient. The reality is though, there’s much more to consider than initially meets the eye. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of each of these options. This way, you can make the best choice for your agency.

Understanding Software

In order to be effective when using a software, employees must become very familiar and comfortable with the program. What’s more, they must actually use it. If the software isn’t widely adopted across the business, then it’s doing next to nothing for the company. Consequently, customer engagement will go largely unnoticed.

Some companies remedy this potential issue by putting a digital coordinator in charge of responding to customers. That’s fine, but this person is likely to be someone with a marketing background. Their specific sales knowledge is bound to be somewhat limited, and they’re probably not well-versed in the logistics of the company. You also have to consider the fact that you’re paying for both the software AND a full-time employee.

Another glaring issue with using a software is that it limits interactions with only those that seem happy or positive. If a company only ever received positive reviews or feedback that would be great. However, this isn’t generally the case and it’s better to be aware of negative comments circulating.

Perhaps most glaringly of all, a software can’t offer a company specialized feedback. It can’t give the company a net promoter score (NPS). It also can’t offer any insight into consistently built relationships or recurring issues. There are certainly ways to make a software perform well as a customer engagement method, but it’s important not to view software as the automatic best option.

How A Marketing Service Stacks Up

Sometimes the flash of a software can be exciting, but in application it turns out to be a little bit lackluster. The answer to this issue is somewhat obvious: a service. Of course, the main difference between a software and a service is the human element. There’s no machine on Earth that can be programmed quite so uniquely as the human brain, and the success of customer engagement services is a testament to that fact.

How exactly is a marketing service different than a software, though? Beyond utilizing people instead of algorithms, a service can simply offer a wider range of services.

In this sense, a service serves as a sort of command center. While a software can provide a central platform where all of potential interactions are housed, a service is more like a post office. It can dispatch the interactions to their proper receivers. Even better, a service can often take care of these inquiries themselves.

Service Benefits

Even if a customer doesn’t seem to have had a positive experience, a service might reach out to them for feedback. Of course, this isn’t a situation in which a business would want them to write a review. It can prove valuable insight though and help the customer feel heard about his or her concerns. With this information, services are able to provide comprehensive feedback about customer experiences and even generate a net promoter score.

Additionally, a marketing service can more fully monitor a business’ online presence. For example, a business’s presence on Google has never been more important than it is today. A service can actively boost online presence, optimize a Google listing and drive targeted traffic to a website. A huge perk of a service is that there is a real-life person monitoring your online presence. Think of a service as an extension of your office.

Perhaps best of all, a service gives businesses the option to take a totally hands off approach if they want. Not interested in having anything to do with managing digital accounts? No problem, a service can take care of it on their own. Only want to hear about the accounts through monthly status reports? Easy enough, a service can oblige.

Basically, the work of a service is highly customizable. They can take into account a business’s priorities and practices rather than using generic standards to operate as a software might. Services are like a wholly autonomous appendage operating on its own. Whereas software is more like having an extra arm without an extra brain to make it work on its own.

How to Make The Right Choice

For those businesses who like certain aspects of both a software and a marketing service, it can feel difficult to decide between the two. This is especially true for those businesses that have been slow to arrive at the digital revolution.

Since it’s critical to update customer engagement methods to meet modern standards as quickly as possible, here are some simple factors that might help a business. Use these factors if you’re stuck in a sense of limbo.

 

Employee Involvement

If a business’ employees aren’t willing to lean wholeheartedly into the use of a new software, it simply won’t be effective. If employees are ignoring messages or forgetting to check updates, the software might as well not exist at all. Customers will notice this lack of interaction. A software is generally the best choice for a company that already has a dedicated employee that will be managing it. Keep in mind though that this can be costly.

Likewise, if a business has a young team of employees that are excited about the prospect of using a new software to interact directly with customers, software can be a great option. Of course, it can be difficult to discern between genuine dedication and the thrill of trying something new.  

If businesses feel any sort of uncertainty about their employees’ willingness to use the software, a marketing service is going to be the better option. This is simply the easiest way to ensure that a business’s presence will, in fact, improve once they make the investment.

Cost

Understandably, money is almost always a major consideration when investing in a new method like this. Cost widely varies between services and software, so it’s hard to make a definitive statement on price.

As outlined above though, a software isn’t all that useful without a dedicated employee to run it so you would potentially be paying for the software cost and a new employee’s entire salary. Even if an employee is already on staff who could run the software, will they be spread too thin with this new responsibility? What happens if they decide to leave the company?

Another factor that many businesses don’t consider when they choose software is that oftentimes sales teams have to be offered monetary incentives in order to wholly adopt software usage. This is because they’re almost always busy, and adding one more step to their daily routine can feel quite tiresome. This is why a service is more cost-effective than a software.

Goals

Software and service both share a common goal in the overarching sense. They both hope to achieve greater customer engagement. The ways in which they go about this, though, and the methods used are much different.

When choosing between a software and a service, a company should think about what it hopes to gain. Consider goals of adding more reviews, interactive accounts, and leads. These are universal hopes, but what other potential benefits matter?

If a business is hoping to gain insight into their clients’ attitudes after working together, or is interested in knowing specifically what sorts of questions are being asked frequently by potential customers, then a service is likely the better choice, as software simply doesn’t have the potential to break down interactions in this human way. What’s more, a company doesn’t have to be personally involved in their own accounts to gain this insight. If you are interested in engaging with your customers on a personal level, a marketing service is the way to go.

Why Engagement Matters

Exerting time and resources to boost engagement isn’t just a means of pandering to a younger crowd. Nearly every demographic is using the Internet to make choices about the products and services they’re going to buy, so businesses ensuring that they’re engaged in that dialogue makes smart financial sense. The more positive reviews, encouraging messages, and general visibility that can be found online in association with a company, the more likely that company is to see sales increase.

What’s more, customers who engage with a brand are much more likely to remain loyal to it, and much more likely to buy more in the future. When looking at it from a statistical standpoint, it only makes sense to do everything possible to increase engagement. This is why it’s so important to collect customer feedback and work on mending any broken relationships.

More often than not, a business will observe much more staggering effects when they choose to enlist the help of a marketing service. We’d love to help you out and get things started with our services here at Lift Local. Let’s chat.