7 Great, Affordable Web Apps That Small Businesses Use To Communicate With Their Customers is the sixth in a series of articles that we'll be posting this fall. Small Business Marketing Tips To Build Sales In A Down Economy will teach you how to use do-it-yourself tools like SMS, email and social media to effectively market your business.
Entry By Zack Miller
In an increasingly wired world, businesses are reaping huge profits by automating many parts of their business. It’s enticing — providing service breadcrumbs for your customers to help themselves. If you’re automating customer service, though, bad move.
In this market, customer service is the new sales.
Marketing analysts point to online shoe store, Zappos, as the paradigm of how good customer service can build a huge company — no matter what you’re selling. The 8-year old company that was bought by Amazon last year for almost $1 billion has service as its #1 core value. By continuously surpassing customer expectations, Zappos has been able to create a raving pack of customer evangelist lunatics.
Zappos sells shoes online. It has nothing short of a cultish following.
New customer service tools make it easy for companies of any size to delight their customers. Once the domain of only the largest companies, these technologies put the service muscle of the Fortune 500 in the hands of small and medium size businesses — easy to implement and on the cheap.
Here are seven easy and affordable tools that business can use to offer world class customer service:
1. Customer chat: Online businesses have improved their ability to help customers find what they’re looking for, but they still fail 28% of the time. Services like Olark allow website operators to fully engage via chat with people browsing their sites. Reaching out to prospects poking around a website — in a gently, guiding way — can be a great way to fill the empty space between supply and demand. Olark’s also decently priced, has a ton a features, and can be set up in minutes.
2. Email marketing: Many successful online businesses are using outbound email marketing to stay in front of their customers with great communication, offers and service. Mailchimp has become a customer favorite because it’s hard to beat in price (free, up to 2,000 subscribers) and it’s a pleasure to use. Email marketing is effective in converting prospects to customers.
3. Text messaging: SMS is kind of like the sleeping giant of customer service. Few companies are really doing this effectively — yet. Ez Texting provides a cost-effective SMS marketing platform that firms can use to customize how they ping their clients on their phones. Businesses can fine-tune who they target and create auto-replies for specific keywords
4. Support ticketing: Turnaround time on inbound requests and questions is key to keeping customers happy and satisfied. Zendesk enables firms to focus on what’s core to their business and automate an email ticketing system. These systems used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to build and manage. Now, you can get in for less than $10/month.
5. Social media monitoring: Research shows that customers want answers delivered via social media as well. Hootsuite is a marketer’s favorite tool to monitor and communicate over social media in real time. Its dashboard allows firms to monitor multiple social profiles, track brand mentions, and schedule outgoing messages.
6. Invert your call center: Instead of asking customers to wade through your service center’s phone tree, identify how important the call is to your prospect or clients. For those really excited to chat with a company rep, they can request a callback by using a callback module like the ones offered by Fast Customer.
7. Customer self-help: There are times where self-service works — especially for customers that are DIY in nature. Consider using a free, hosted FAQ, like the one FaqMe offers. Customers are frequently happy to try and figure things out themselves and a frequently-asked question page is where they’re trained to look for answers. FaqMe’s tools make creating this page easy and the platform has some analytics so businesses can monitor where customers are getting stuck.
You don't need Fortune 500 resources to deliver world-class customer service. With these easy and affordable web tools, small and medium business can out-service — and out-compete — much larger competitors.