No matter what industry you’re in, customer experience is everything. Nearly half of Americans switched brands last year due to poor customer service, and today, two-thirds of companies compete on customer experience alone.

Even if you feel your business is doing everything right, consumer expectations are always changing. You need to be continually working to improve the way your team handles the overall customer experience, from the speed with which you answer questions to the ease and convenience of communication.

Here are five investments to consider that will enhance your overall customer experience:

1. Contact Center as a Service

A contact center is essential for your team to be able to resolve customer issues quickly and effectively. But old premises-based technologies simply aren’t equipped to deliver the type of experience that customers expect in 2020.

Your team is probably dealing with customers across multiple channels, which makes tracking conversations more challenging. Customers don’t want to jump through hoops to chat with a live person, and they don’t want to have to repeat their problem to multiple agents. It’s important to be able to keep track of every conversation regardless of channel to streamline customer service.

This is where a contact center as a service or CCaaS can be a lifesaver. CCaaS technology allows your team to communicate with customers via multiple channels, and the system keeps a record of all customer interactions. Using CCaaS software is more affordable than maintaining and servicing clunky software in-house, and it’s completely scalable.

2. A Lead-Response Management Platform

It’s a nightmare scenario for any service-based business: A customer visits your company website, fills out a contact form for a callback, and hears…crickets.

For a potential customer, how your company handles its leads sets the tone for the entire business relationship. If it takes days for a lead to receive a callback, there’s a chance she will move on to another company and never become a customer. If she sticks around, your new customer may get the impression that your company is inefficient or disorganized.

To ensure that no potential customers slip through the cracks, consider investing in a lead-response management platform. You can set up this system to automatically schedule a call with your sales team whenever a customer visits your website and fills out a contact form. Some platforms will even trigger calls automatically based on parameters you establish.

3. Chat Support for Your Website

Today’s consumers crave instant gratification. They want immediate answers to their questions, and they’re often unwilling to wait until Monday or until the next business day.

Two-thirds of customers will try self-service to find answers to their questions on your website rather than contact an agent. If customers can’t find the answers they’re looking for, they may abandon their search and never return.

This is why chat support is becoming a must-have customer service tool. Incredibly, 79 percent of customers say they prefer live chat to phone or email because it offers instant responses. And live chat boasts the highest rate of customer satisfaction of any channel.

You can use chat bots, human agents, or a combination of both to great results. Chat bots can be programmed to process returns and exchanges, confirm orders, track shipments, and other repetitive tasks that would otherwise be handled by a human agent. They can also carry on simple conversations or point customers to information on your website.

4. An SMS App for Customer Retention

There are dozens of ways your business can use text messaging to engage with customers and enhance their overall experience. From sending appointment reminders and coupons to answering questions and gathering feedback, the sky’s the limit for how you can use SMS.

Text messaging is becoming a popular way to engage with customers because it’s an effective, nonintrusive form of contact. Text messages have a staggering 99 percent open rate (compared to a 20 percent average open rate for email). Ninety percent of texts are opened within three minutes of receipt — making them perfect for gathering real-time feedback.

5. A Branded Mobile App

Developing your own branded app is a next-level move, but depending on the size of your business, it could be a worthwhile investment. In 2018, more than half of all web traffic came from mobile devices. By 2025, experts predict that 72 percent of people will exclusively access the web via a mobile device.

A well-designed mobile app can improve the customer experience by putting customers’ account and payment information right at their fingertips. Your app can offer a menu of self-service options that make it easy for customers to get what they want. A mobile app may also be a good investment if your business already does a high volume of mobile sales. App conversion rates are three times higher on average than mobile sites, and the average order value is 140 percent greater.

Good customer service never goes out of style, but what people expect from a customer experience standpoint is constantly evolving. Rising levels of comfort with new technology and the rapid pace of our world is shifting the way customers like to do business. Savvy leaders are responding. To ensure your company continues to offer a superior customer experience, invest proactively in the very best tools to give your team a leg up.