Staying ahead with technology

Four systems in technology that can help your small business with customer service, leading to increased productivity and the chance to achieve your goals.

As we approach the final stretch of the year, business owners should be preparing for the busy time just ahead.

It is the perfect time to examine where your business sits against its goals, and where you might be falling behind. It is also the perfect time to think about what cost effective technology you can put in place to ensure your goals for the next 12 months are realised.

Investing in technology is a smart and simple way to streamline workflows, reduce administrative work, better understand your customers and ensure your business is working at its fullest potential. But you should not introduce new technology just for the sake of it – lack of a strategy leads to wasted money. Instead, think about how to specifically pick and target new innovations for the benefits they can provide, be it customer service, productivity or the almighty bottom line.

It is actually more important to invest in technology than ever before. We live in an age where start-ups can easily compete with established businesses simply because of the simple, low-cost technology and tools available to them. And with more companies realising customer expectations have risen, it is only practical to consider how to win more customers.

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

1.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 can be problematic.

But, according to one study, live chat carries the highest satisfaction rating for any type of communication. If your business sells any type of product or service, this is a strategy to consider. It is easy to find a provider, too. Common options like FreshChat and LivePerson have few barriers to entry.

2. Digital feedback systems

It is important to receive feedback from your customers. Instant reactions help you identify problems as they arise – and uncovers problem areas you may not have noticed. This technology can be simple, like a form on your website. Others, like the TruRating feedback system, are easy to use but more powerful. For instance, this system lets customers quickly rate their experience with a business on a scale of 0-9 via an eftpos machine when paying. Other mechanisms such as Opinion Lab and Polldaddy gather customer feedback by being integrated into your website.

3. Sophisticated databases

Many businesses will have some form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, but unfortunately it is hard to adapt those databases for more sophisticated orders. For example, US apparel distributor High 5 Sportswear was able to combine its customer service systems with a larger IT database so service reps could identify previous purchases and view a history of the customer’s overall activity. Using IT infrastructure to connect this information delivers better customer experiences. High 5 used Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but Marketo and Salesforce are equally valid alternatives.

4. Integrated service feedback channels

The number of ways customers can contact a business continues to grow, but many companies still do not filter customer service requests through one funnel. Integrated customer service technology lets businesses spot patterns more easily and take action on problems as soon as they show up. Tweets, phone messages and emails, along with other types of messages, simply show up in the one request stream for follow-up. Kayako and Zendesk are two of the more popular choices in this area.

Using these technologies means SMEs can rest easy knowing that every single channel is being catered for equally. It is simple innovation with a huge impact. These technologies are not particularly complicated to install, nor even prohibitively expensive, yet each can deliver significant benefits beyond just cost savings. They will help you gain a better overview of the health of your business, which is a perfect way to prepare for the end of year.

Sophie Jillings, Head of APAC- TruRating

This article first appeared in issue 14 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine