As technology evolves and improves, so does the ability of your small business to run better. With the right tools, every aspect of your business can be streamlined, from customer communication to file sharing. That must be why so many small businesses have found a place for technology in their operations. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
- 84% of small businesses use at least one major digital platform to provide information to customers
- 80% are using at least one major platform to show products and services and advertise
- 79% are using digital tools to communicate with customers and suppliers
- 75% are using digital platforms for sales
If your small business needs a technology facelift, consider investing in the following tools, all of which will make your life easier and your business run better.
Staying in communication is critical for a small business, especially if your team is distributed. While email is important for any business, it’s not the best platform for having real-time conversations. That’s where group messaging or group chat comes into play:
“Addition to its real-time nature, chat has the great advantage of allowing more persons in, without any hassle. More and more companies are working with teamwork apps that offer instant communication and collaboration options,” explain communication experts at Hubgets.
The value of a messaging tool to connect your team is undeniable. The key, however, is using your messaging tool to its full potential. For example, set up group channels, where specific teams can communicate as one, regardless of where they are. This is also a great tool for polling teams, sharing links to documents and resources, and tracking employee requests.
The best part is that most apps also have a mobile app, so employees can also communicate easily on the go, ensuring that your small business runs no matter what.
File Distribution and Management
While you can share files via email or your messaging platform, those messages easily get lost, making it hard for everyone to access them again and again. With a file distribution and management platform, important files are available to everyone, whenever they need them.
Once implemented, take advantage of the many features of a file-sharing platform:
- Stay organized by nesting files within one another, using built-in color coding tools and using a consistent file naming convention.
- Implement security and permissions, ensuring that the right people have access to the right files—and that those who shouldn’t access certain files can’t.
- Make sure sharing is easy, whether employees are able to share a link or send the file with built-in sharing features.
There are a wide variety of file management tools, both free and paid. Choose the product based on your budget and resource needs.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Spreadsheets are a good place to start when tracking clients and customers, but as your business grows, investing in a CRM is necessary. With this tool, you can collect all customer and client data in one easy-to-access place. In addition, most CRMs now offer a wide range of features that you and your team can use to better serve customers and improve your efforts in the future, including:
- Tagging: This lets you make a note about what service/product they’re using, whether or not you talked on the phone, etc. It’s an easy way to categorize clients and customers and sort when needed.
- Data: Your data dashboard allows you to see how many potential customers filled out a form or called, how many converted, how many are still in the funnel and how many dropped out. When reviewing conversion rates, this data is extremely valuable.
- Conversation tracking: Most CRM tools will track every email conversation, so you can easily see what was said and when.
In addition to these basic features, you can email all customers and clients from within the platform and customize forms for your website. Most importantly, a CRM platform keeps everyone in your small business on the same page:
“Many CRM systems let you collaborate with your entire team. So if one person communicates with a customer or lead, they can input any relevant information so that all other members of your team can access it the next time they communicate with that same person,” says Annie Pilon, Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends.
You may think that chatbots are impersonal, but consumers like this form of communication because it’s convenient for them. Acquire.io explains why:
- Instant connection with an agent.
- Ability to multi-task while talking with an agent.
- Wait time is negligible.
- Conversation can be saved.
- Questions are answered quickly.
- Purchase related questions answered on the spot.
From a small business perspective, chat is also convenient for you, saving customer service employees time on the phone. They can also multitask while chatting with customers and use templates to answer common questions, saving even more time.
Your current customer management platform may offer this tool as a feature, so when shopping around, start there. If the base software is already integrated, it will be even easier to implement and learn.
Make Your Small Business Run Better
Reap the benefits of technology in your small business, from streamlined communication to better customer data tracking. Consider where your business can use the most help and find the right tech tools to facilitate the improvements that will undoubtedly impact your bottom line.
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency for mid-size B2B businesses outsourcing content marketing. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.