Four technologies SMEs need to succeed

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As we approach the final stretch of 2016, business owners should use this time to prepare for the busiest time of the year.

Now is the perfect time to examine where your business is sitting against its goals – and where you might be falling behind. It’s also the perfect time to think about what cost-effective tech you can put in place ahead of the next 12 months to make sure those goals are realised. Investing in tech is a smart and simple way to streamline workflows, reduce admin, better understand your customers and ensure your business is working at its fullest potential.

But you shouldn’t just introduce new technology for the sake of it – that lack of a strategy leads to wasted money.

Instead, think about how you can specifically pick and target new innovations for the benefits they can provide; whether that be to customer service, productivity, or the almighty bottom line.

It’s actually more important to invest in this tech than ever before. We live in an age where start-ups can easily compete with established businesses simply due to the simple, low-cost tech and tools available to them.

And with more companies saying customer expectations are higher than they were previously, according to a 2014 poll, it’s only practical to consider which tech you can introduce that can win you more customers.

Taking the time to invest in new technology ensures you’ll always be one step ahead, so here are four systems you should look at installing to ready your business for a strong quarter.

Live Chat services

For most people, taking the time to walk into a store to resolve a problem is out of the question. Even hoping to talk to a representative on the phone is a huge hassle.

According to one study, live chat carries the highest satisfaction rating for any type of communication. If you’re a business selling any type of product or service, this is a strategy to consider. It’s easy to find a provider, too – common options like FreshChat and LivePerson have few barriers to entry.

Facebook is now experimenting with chat bots in this area, so make no mistake, it’s a force that’s coming your way soon.

Digital feedback systems

Equally important is receiving feedback from your customers. Collecting instant reactions helps you identify problems as they arise – and identifies problem areas you may not have noticed.

This tech can be simple, like a form on your website. Others, like the TruRating feedback system, are easy to use and are far more powerful. For instance, TruRating allows customers to provide a quick rating about their experience with a business on a scale of 0-9, via the eftpos machine when they pay.

This provides instant feedback from the majority of your customers at a point where they are more likely to give an honest assessment. Plus, because it’s via the payment device, you can see a direct link between how happy customers are and how much they spend; TruRating businesses have been able to quickly pinpoint the areas of their business that need the most work and then directly measure the impact of the changes they make (both on customer perceptions and the bottom line).  For example, the impact of a new manager or in-store promotional activity can easily be measured simply by asking customers a single question at the point of payment.

Other mechanisms such as OpinionLab and Polldaddy gather customer feedback by integrating into your existing website.

More sophisticated databases

Most businesses servicing customers will have some form of CRM, but unfortunately, many haven’t been able to combine those databases with more sophisticated orders.

For example, allowing your customer service agents to access information that might be currently buried in a back-end system could end up providing a more seamless customer experience. In the United States, apparel distributor High 5 Sportswear was able to combine its customer service systems with a larger IT database. This allowed customer service reps to identify previous purchases and view a history of the customer’s overall activity, which previously took days to accomplish.

When customers called asking for this information, it was more readily available. Using IT infrastructure to connect this information will deliver better customer experiences.

High 5 used Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but Salesforce and Marketo are equally valid alternatives.

Integrate your customer service feedback channels

The number of ways customers can contact a business continues to grow. Facebook, email, phone, Twitter – and new platforms are created all the time. But many businesses still aren’t grouping customer service requests through these platforms into one funnel.

Integrated customer service technology allows businesses to spot patterns more frequently, and jump on problems as soon as they show up. Tweets, phone messages and emails, along with other messages on different mediums, simply show up in the one request stream for staff to follow up.

Zendesk and Kayako are two of the more popular choices in this area.

Using this tech means SMEs will be able to rest easy knowing that every single channel is being catered for equally. It’s a simple innovation, but has a huge impact – and it’s definitely something to consider if you want to improve your customer service response time.

All of this technology isn’t particularly complicated to install, or even prohibitively expensive. Yet each solution can deliver significant benefits beyond just cost savings; they will help you gain a better picture of the health of your business – which is a perfect way to prepare for the end of year.

Sophie Jillings is the Head of APAC, TruRating, the world’s first mass point-of-payment customer feedback system.