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Customer Engagement Software for Small Businesses

Neil Chandavarkar
Neil Chandavarkar
September 19, 2022
Customer Success, Marketing, Sales

Customer Engagement Software for Small Businesses

Engagement is an indispensable step in the customer lifecycle. Businesses of all sizes need to engage customers on a wide scale to meet their business goals. Whether you’re a local business or a tech startup looking to grow, customer engagement will help you attract customers and keep them around. There are many tools on the market that can make the process easier. In this post, we’ll go over some of the best customer engagement product options for small businesses. 

To learn more about what to look for in a customer engagement platform, check out our last post below: 

Benefits of Customer Engagement Software for Small Businesses

Customer Engagement Platforms can help you build customer loyalty and engage new customers. The tools you choose should improve your customer interactions. Buyers should get the impression that they know everything they need to make a sound buying decision, and that you’ll always be there to assist them. 

Customer engagement tools can also help you target and re-target based on customer behavior. This includes preferred networks and even the time of day they tend to browse. This will help you make the most of your budget by focusing your ad spend on prospects that are more likely to convert.

Here are the key benefits that customer engagement solutions can provide:

  • Building the customer relationship
  • More leads
  • Pipeline growth
  • More effective marketing campaigns
  • Greater sales and higher revenue
  • Follower growth on social media
  • Customer retention
  • Brand loyalty
  • Higher CSAT scores
  • Positive reviews on third-party websites

Customer Engagement Platforms for Small Businesses

Customer engagement platforms are made up of a wide variety of software. These tools look to streamline communications between users of the software and their customers. You’ll find features related to CRM software, Help Desk, Contact Center, Mobile Marketing Software, and other software.

To pick the right customer engagement solution, you should identify your needs and how the software fulfills them. You should also consider how they integrate with your tech stack. Some small businesses would rather avoid having to deal with several tools due to a lack of budget or manpower. They also have fewer development capabilities to handle APIs and customizations. If you’re in this boat, you’ll have to do more with less.  

An all-in-one solution covering support, multi-channel engagement, and customer relationship management could be the answer. Some vendors may offer more than one product in their suites to handle customer engagement needs. 

The table below reflects small business reviewer sentiment on TrustRadius for 6 popular tools.    

ProducttrScoreProsCons

Zendesk Support Suite

8.0/10
Usability
Ticket creation and submission
Conversation tracking

Scalability
Social integration
IVR

Zendesk Sell

7.7/10


Usability
Price
Customer support

Email integration
Interaction tracking
Social data and engagement
Zoho Desk
9.0/10

Usability
Price
Ticketing system 
Team collaboration

API Integrations

Twilio
8.5/10

Email and SMS automation
Customer support
API integrations
Usability

Implementation
Scaling costs
User interface
Bright Pattern Contact Center
10/10
Customer support
Value for price
Contact center features
Usability
Integrations
Training videos
Customer.io
8.7/10
User segmentation
Drip email automation
Usability
Price
API and integrations
Data collection and export

Zendesk Support Suite

Zendesk is a cloud-based Help Desk Software that offers tools to support engagement, prospect management, and customer service. This includes live chat, conversational CRM, and an all-inclusive customer service solution. A free trial is available for all software packages. If you’re a startup, you can get 6 months of free access to Zendesk. Visit the Zendesk website for more information on pricing for sales and customer service solutions. 

Zendesk Support Suite won Top Rated awards in 2022 for Help Desk, Customer Engagement, and Customer Experience Management. It offers three packages to cover the customer service needs of small and medium-sized businesses. 

This software is ideal for small companies that want all their customer service resources in one place. These plans cover one agent and run from $49 to $99 per month with annual billing. 

Features for Zendesk have been summarized in the table below: 

Suite Team Suite GrowthSuite Professional 
Apps and integrations
Ticketing
Multichannel messaging and support
Multichannel delivery of automated responses (50)
Live chat
Help center
Data storage
Standard APIs
Reporting and analytics
Unified workspace
Suite Team features
Help centers
Multichannel delivery of automated responses (100)
Higher data storage capacity
Customer self-service portal
Advanced APIs
AI-based knowledge management
Access licenses (100) 
SLA Management
Multilingual content and support
Suite Growth features
Multichannel delivery of automated responses (500)
Access licenses (100)
Conversational routing
Private conversation threads
Community forums
Events Connector

The Suite Team is quite robust for an entry-level plan. It delivers pre-built dashboards for reporting and analytics. You also get access to a hefty offering of over 1,000 integrations and apps. To ease the implementation process, Zendesk offers onboarding and online customer support. 

For those with development capabilities, the API enables app customization and bulk data pulls. Personalized messaging can be sent via mobile, web, or social media. Chatbots deliver automated replies through social, chat, email, or even via Slack to collaborators. Knowledge management powered by AI is also available to help your team make ongoing improvements to workflows. 

With the Suite Growth plan, you also get access to improved storage capacity and more automated responses to customer queries. You can also personalize the self-service portal to help customers find answers.

Customized ticket layouts can improve the user experience. Permission-based access also lets individuals add private comments to more nuanced tickets. Service level agreements provide another layer of cybersecurity to your channels. For those with international clients, support and content are available in many languages.         

Suite Professional adds features like conversational routing, private conversation threads, and call management. These include IVR, call back, and conference calling. If you plan on having a high customer call volume, this solution is a great option. 

You can add community forums, customize dashboards, and even locate the region in which your data is stored. For AWS users, the Zendesk Events Connector provides customer data updates that are almost real-time.

Reviewers have praised Support Suite as a user-friendly and out-of-the-box solution for small teams to cover service needs. The ease of use and ability to track customer conversations via ticketing are also appreciated. 

There have been complaints about response times and the accessibility of support from the Zendesk team. Social integration and IVR for video calls have also received criticism. Other users identified scalability issues, with difficulties handling very high ticket volumes.   

For managing and engaging your leads, the Zendesk Sell CRM also offers three different plans that go from $19 to $99 per month. Though not geared towards engagement, this software integrates seamlessly with the support suite. Crucial features include email integration, bulk emailing, data storage, texting, and call recording. Check out the table below for quick feature comparisons: 

Zendesk Sell Team Zendesk Sell GrowthZendesk Sell Professional 
Pipeline customization (2)
Email integration and tracking
Calendar integrations
Set tasks and appointments
Data storage (2GB)
Recording and tracking calls
Text messaging
Offline access for mobile
Template dashboards
Public integrations and apps
APIs
Onboarding and implementation support
Sell Team features
Pipeline customization (10)
Bulk emailing with unlimited templates
Data storage (5GB)
Advanced API
Custom dashboards and reports
Tracking and forecasting
Tracking and analysis of team progress
Price and Product  book
Enrichment credits (1000)
Prospecting credits (25)
Sell Growth features
Pipeline customization (20)
Data storage (10GB)
Enrichment credits (3500)
Prospecting credits (150)
Scoring for leads and deals
Automation of tasks
Roles and permissions
Company hierarchy tree

The Sell Team plan provides customization for 2 pipelines, email integration, and calendar integrations. You can keep track of tasks and appointments, store up to 2 GB of data, track and record calls, and send text messages. Pre-built template dashboards are available, along with mobile access offline. Pre-built apps and integrations will also be at your disposal. The core API also provides data management capabilities.  

Sell Growth gives you up to 10 pipeline customizations and lets you send out emails in bulk with customizable templates. This is a necessary upgrade if your business works with email campaigns. Storage is upgraded up to 5GB and Search, Sync, and Firehose APIs are included. Private integrations and apps become available, giving users more flexibility. 

Other big upgrades are the custom dashboards and sales reports. These let you have interactions with real-time data by scrolling and clicking over the infographic. Reports also become available for forecasting and tracking revenue goals. 

If you have a sales team, you can also keep track of and compare their progress. The convenient price and product book help you define and provide price quotes for your product offerings. You also get 1,000 credits to enrich and update lead information, as well as 25 credits to build prospect profiles. 

Sell Professional allows you to customize more pipelines (20) and store up to 10GB of data. You also get far more enrichment and prospecting credits. Lead scoring helps you focus your efforts on engaging prospects that can help optimize your business outcomes. Automation enables assignments to appropriate team members. Roles and permissions define who gets access to what. 

Usability, price for value, and customer support received high marks from TrustRadius reviewers. Email integration, interaction tracking, social data, and engagement data received lower ratings. 

Zoho Desk

Zoho products are well-known for their usability and affordable cost for business owners. 

Zoho Desk is a Help Desk Software geared toward improving customer service and engagement. It won 3 Top Rated awards from TrustRadius in 2022 for Help Desk, Knowledge Management, and Social Media Customer Service software.  

As a cloud-based tool, Zoho Desk manages to keep costs low. The goal is to help users increase brand loyalty, employee productivity, and customer satisfaction.  

A free plan covers the needs of up to 3 agents. The Standard plan costs only $12 per month and a Professional plan that will cost you $20 a month for each agent. All Zoho plans come with a 15-day free trial.    

The table below provides a feature breakdown for Zoho Desk, as presented on the pricing page:

Free VersionStandardProfessional
Email tracking
Customer management
Help center
Private knowledge base
SLAs
Macros
Multi-language help desk
Mobile apps
Email support 24/5
Free features
Social and community channels
Ticket management
Themes gallery
Public knowledge base
Escalations
Rules for workflow, assignments, and supervision
Ratings for customer happiness
Reports and dashboards
Ticket work modes
Integrations and marketplace extensions
Self-service
Phone support 24/5
$5 monthly add-on per agent
Standard features
Tickets for multiple departments
Team management
Multi-language knowledge base
Phone customer service
Ticketing assignments
Private marketplace extensions
SLA dashboards
Mobile SDKs
Chat support 24/5

The Free plan is fairly limited and lacks several important features. It’s designed to provide users with an overview of Zoho Desk’s capabilities. They do offer a help center, customer management, email support, and a private knowledge base. For very small businesses, this may be enough in the very beginning.  

Standard provides users with ticketing, self-service options, integrations, and basic dashboards and reporting. Social and community channels become available, and there’s also a rating system to gauge customer happiness. Users get access to phone support and have the option of adding other agents. 

According to the vendor, around half of Zoho Desk’s users sign up for Professional. This plan provides time tracking, process management, private marketplace extensions, ticketing, and SLAs. Phone and chat support services are also included.    

To access live chat, a customizable help center, and IVR for calls, buyers would have to pick the Enterprise plan. That being said, at $35 per month, Zoho Desk’s enterprise plan still costs less than many standard plans offered by other vendors.   

Here are some other important features you get with the Enterprise plan:

  • Zia AI
  • Auto-translation
  • Advanced process management
  • Custom functions
  • Global reports and dashboards
  • Scheduled reports
  • Contact management
  • Validation and layout rules
  • Field watching
  • Rule-based data sharing
  • Access for 50 live agents

Twilio

Twilio is a customer engagement platform that helps users stay connected to their customers via messaging. This software won several Top Rated awards from TrustRadius in 2022. These include customer engagement, contact center, Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), and Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Twilio offers a series of solutions and APIs to handle engagement and support, as listed below. 

Programmable Voice:

Allows you to embed controlled calling into apps at low latency, ensuring call quality.

Programmable Messaging

High-speed messaging of encoded content can be executed across multiple touchpoints. Real-time reporting and insights are also available.

Programmable Video

This package includes tools for building in-app videos for communication in real-time. Users get access to a software development kit (SDK) for mobile and desktop. Screen sharing and recording are also available for up to 50 participants.

Twilio SendGrid Email API

With the integration via API or SMTP, this feature offers delivery optimization tools for email. It includes real-time data and analytics. 

WhatsApp Business API

The free WhatsApp messenger is becoming popular in the United States, with around 75 million users in 2022. In many countries, it enjoys almost universal popularity. After its acquisition by Facebook, a new business feature was introduced to connect buyers and sellers. Text and template messaging can be sent to your customers. It also offers an app-testing sandbox and container infrastructure that speeds up communications.

Elastic SIP Trunking

SIP trunking enables global connections for VoIP infrastructure. This is important for streamlined video communications. Capacity is unlimited and provisioning is instantaneous. 

Twilio Conversations

Conversations enables and manages omnichannel conversations on WhatsApp, SMS, chat, and MMS. You can define role-based participation, archive, recall, and integrate with backend systems.

Super SIM

One SIM card can be used to connect to devices worldwide. Different speeds of Cat-M, 2G, 3G, and 4G-LTE are available. 

Twilio Flex

This is a contact center that provides channel deployment, customizable UI, and smart routing. Reporting is done in real-time, and third-party integration services are available.

Twilio Frontline

Frontline integrates with CRMs to archive conversations, while also allowing for UI customization.

Twilio Segment

The Segment tool is all about personalization based on customer profiles and real-time data. Native multi-channel orchestration helps you get an up-to-date snapshot of your target audience.

Twilio SendGrid Marketing Campaigns

This API enables email marketing automation for targeted campaigns to engage with your audience. It also provides analytics and testing tools, in addition to 24/7 support.

Twilio for SalesForce

With Salesforce, users get access to bulk campaign messaging, SMS triggers with a process builder, and two-way messaging.

Twilio Studio

A drag-and-drop builder helps you build out communications across communication channels. Conversation flows can also be extended with custom coding and third-party integrations.

Autopilot

Autopilot is a bot design tool powered by AI. It can communicate with customers through the omnichannel hub and conversational application platform. This API uses natural language understanding. These algorithms improve chatbot comprehension of what customers are typing.

TaskRouter

This API routes multichannel tasks to appropriate reps using targeting, timeout, and escalation logic. 

Notify

The notification API uses smart orchestration to send out bulk notifications via SMS, push, and messaging.

Authy

SO2-compliant two-factor authentication is meant to diminish cybersecurity risks and reduce fraud. This enables safer SMS messaging.

Verify

User validation is another important security API feature. This includes preconfigured shortcodes that can be delivered globally, as well as passcodes for calls and SMS. Code length and language can be customized. 

Proxy

The proxy API allows you to communicate with your customers on the go through SMS, calling, and chat messaging apps. The content can be moderated and includes management and pooling for phone numbers. 

Reviewers of Twilio on TrustRadius love the automated email and SMS functionality, APIs, support, and ease of use. Some buyers on TrustRadius experienced a steep learning curve when it comes to implementation. Other users felt the UI could be more user-friendly in some cases. Due to Twilio’s pricing model, increased use of data and features will increase final costs. This has presented a scalability problem for some users when it comes to increased spending.    

Bright Pattern Contact Center

Bright Pattern Contact Center has won several TrustRadius awards in 2022. These include Top Rated for Contact Center, Customer Engagement, IVR, and Sales Dialer software. Best Of awards were also claimed for Relationship, Feature Set, and Value for Price. This software is focused on simplifying customer service for both end users and their customers.

Bright Pattern offers customers 3 different plans: Voice Select, Pro Package, and Premium Package. Key integrations include CRM, WFM, and ESM, which are important for JavaScript. Pricing is not publicly available, and interested buyers will have to contact the vendor for a customized quote. Plan features are listed below. More complete feature descriptions can be found on the vendor page here.

Bright Pattern Contact Center plan options table

As the table suggests, the Voice Select plan is meant for users who intend to interact with customers primarily through calls. This package gives you access to customer profiling and journey history on your platform, as well as surveys. A knowledge base gives customers a self-service option. Call and customer metrics can be tracked with reports and customizable dashboards. You also get API access to interface with other software.

The Pro Package enables cross-channel interactions via email, web chat, and text messaging. Dashboards and customer journey history also have multi channel coverage.                 

Premium adds messenger integrations as well as social media coverage, so this package will be the best fit if you’re very active in these channels. 

Reviewers on TrustRadius were pleased with the software’s contact center feature set, value for the price, support, and ease of use. There had been some complaints about missing integrations, especially for WFM, but this has been resolved by the vendor. One user also mentioned the lack of videos and visual aids for both online and in-person training.     

Customer.io

Customer.io has become a popular tool for messaging customers and providing technical support. The platform helps users engage with customers through personalized messaging and management for campaign management.

Starting at $150 per month, Customer.io is among the pricier software in our lineup. Basic provides users with cross-channel messaging, conversion tracking, and triggered drip sequences for email campaigns. 

Other key features include:

  • Data-driven segment builder
  • Newsletters
  • Android and iOS mobile SDK
  • Ad audience sync
  • Visual workflow builder
  • A/B and multivariate testing
  • API
  • Webhooks
  • Dashboards
  • Multiple sending workspaces
  • Role-based permissions
  • Timezone sending
  • Multi-language messages

For many small businesses, this feature set will be enough to meet their engagement and the needs of their support team. 

Premium enables a greater depth of support, consulting, and compliance. This plan is ideal for larger enterprises and agencies with a high volume of contacts. Interested buyers should contact the sales team to request a demo here.         

TrustRadius reviewers appreciate the customer segmentation and drip email automation features. They also found the platform easy to use. The initial price tag may be a bit hefty for some, but the investment could prove worthwhile depending on your needs. Some users also mentioned the need to improve data collection, and include the option to export data. Integrations with other software were identified as another area for improvement.   

Finding the Right Customer Engagement Software

Picking the right tools to optimize your customer engagement is not always an easy task. You have to balance features, budgets, implementation, and scalability to meet your growth objectives. 

With verified, in-depth reviews, TrustRadius helps small businesses find the B2B software they need to take their business to the next level. Visit TrustRadius to see what software buyers are saying about Customer Engagement Platforms. If you’ve already used one of these tools, please leave a review telling us about your experience. 

About the Author

Neil Chandavarkar
Neil Chandavarkar
Neil Chandavarkar is a Research Analyst at TrustRadius. He holds a BA in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo, having undertaken graduate studies at New York University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, reading, and hanging out with his German Shepherd and Tabby Cat.

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