In the old days of business ownership, you had 1 way of engaging with customers: talking with them when they happened to come by your store.
Now, in the digital era, there are few limitations on how, when, and where you can engage with prospective and loyal customers. You can meet them in their inbox, on social media, and at any time of day or night, around the globe.
The key to this kind of engagement is, of course, automated tools. These tools can operate around the clock, when you’re asleep but your customer is awake and in need of attention or a solution.
In addition to being greatly useful, these tools can also scale with your business. As an individual, you might get overwhelmed when conversing with thousands of customers. Automated tools, however, track each interaction with ease. Therefore, the real benefit to automated customer engagement is how it operates without much oversight from you, once you set things in motion. It’s a beautiful thing to get credit for customer engagement without having to lift a finger.
With that in mind, here are 5 automated tools you can use to stay in touch with every lead, customer, and follower:
1. Customer service chatbots
When a customer comes to your website and has a question about your product or service, how do you direct them to the answer? What about complaints and concerns? Many sites have an FAQ section, while others encourage customers to send them a message that they’ll get a response to—at some point.
Instead, many companies are turning to chatbots to field customer requests. These AI- and machine learning-powered bots can accomplish 1 of 2 things, if not both:
- Answer questions for customers without ever having to involve a human. (According to Intercom, a messaging platform service for businesses, their Answer Bot answers nearly a third of all questions before they make it to a human.)
- Give customers peace of mind that the system has logged their request, and that someone will get back to them shortly.
These chatbots wait in the wings for customers to visit the site, and can be proactive in acquiring leads, as well as the context around the lead (i.e., Who are you? What are you looking for? How can we help?). They can also deliver an on-brand customer service experience without requiring you to keep a customer service rep on-call at all hours.
2. Customer-facing calendars for booking appointments
Businesses can also engage and capture the business of potential customers at any time with online appointment solutions. If you only allow customers to book with you during business hours, and/or over the phone, you risk losing their business if they forget to follow up with you.
So why wait? Get an appointment scheduling app. It allows customers to book, reschedule, and even cancel appointments through your website or social media channels.
Not only does a system like this prevent you from double-booking or accidentally scheduling during a holiday, but it gives customers peace of mind that their favorite salon, or restaurant, or whatever kind of business you run, can accommodate their needs whenever they feel the urge to book you.
3. Automated email or SMS marketing campaigns
OK, you’ve gotten someone to sign up for your email newsletter, or to give you their contact information in exchange for access to a white paper or other marketing materials. Now what?
You could email every person individually, thank them for signing up, and from then on write a newsletter or other messaging campaign, tweaking it for what you perceive to be each person’s reason for getting in touch with you. Sounds kind of exhausting, though.
Most customer relationship management software programs, and/or email marketing platforms, allow you to build and scale email and text message marketing campaigns.
The goal of your marketing campaigns is to move each lead you capture through your funnel until they make a purchase—and then follow up with them to make sure they return to your business and make more purchases. Automated marketing software does this by sending automatic messages that move your customers from stage to stage.
You can provide customers with the sense that you’re engaging them directly by setting welcome emails, quotes or estimates, and/or overtures to visit your site to “drip” into their phones—even though your automated campaign is really just moving them through a sequence that was planned months in advance.
4. Social listening and brand monitoring platforms
Engaging with users on social media is the main point of businesses having a presence on social media in the first place. However, too many business owners use social media like they do for their personal accounts, scrolling through mentions and replies, and firing off responses when they have the time.
These days, a wide variety of social listening and brand monitoring platforms exist to help you identify, collect, and craft responses to mentions on social media. You can even set alerts to let you know when a user talks about your brand without tagging you. This gives you the opportunity to jump into a conversation and address a complaint, or highlight a compliment that you might have missed otherwise.
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5. Helpful invoicing and payment reminders
Few manual tasks are more awkward than hitting up your customers for payment over and over. Thankfully, automation can come into play when it comes time to get paid.
Cash flow management is a major issue for small businesses, and a major part of what holds up revenue is failure to get paid on time. Many business owners resort to invoice financing. Others sell those invoices to a third party in order to get out of chasing down delinquent payments.
You can use invoicing software to create and automate your invoices, sending automatic payment notifications and reminders once you complete the job. These solutions keep you engaged with customers while removing the tension that might come from emailing them personally. Invoicing and payment communications should be professional, not pushy.
The bottom line on engaging with customers
As your business continues to grow and flourish, engaging with customers on a one-to-one level becomes more difficult. But customers don’t care about that—nor should they. They deserve to be treated with the same respect and care that they would if they walked into your brick-and-mortar location today. That’s why automated tools that address their concerns, allow them to book your services, communicate with them across platforms, and keep things cordial (even when money is involved) are the answer to this conundrum.