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Ooma Business Blog

10 Technologies Every Small Business Needs in 2018…And For The Future

By Gene Marks|Friday September 28, 2018

If you’re running a small business you’ve got a lot of ways to spend your money. You can hire people. Buy equipment. Advertise. Save. And then there’s technology.

It’s no debate that the companies that invest in the right technologies are the ones that are able to grow and profit. But what technology is best for your business? Where should you invest your excess cash? There are plenty of choices. Here are ten you should consider for 2018…and for the future.

Security

Malware, data hacks and viruses remain an ongoing threat. But ransomware is the big challenge for businesses this year. Research reveals that around one in five small businesses have or will be affected by a ransomware attack. It occurs when someone unknowingly downloads a small application that locks up your company’s files and requires a “ransom” (usually in digital currency) to unlock. Updating your security software, keeping your operating systems current and training your employees helps. But the biggest thing I recommend is to subscribe to online backup software like Carbonite or Barracuda. They’re inexpensive and if an attack occurs you can just restore from your last good backup rather than paying a ransom.

Customer Relationship Management

CRM is a multi-billion-dollar industry and it’s easy to see why. A good CRM system will enable you to track activities, emails, notes, opportunities, complaints, marketing campaigns and demographics for anyone who “touches” your business. You’ll also make sure that nothing falls through cracks and everyone in your company is on the same page with your community. A good CRM system will also increase the value of your business. Why? Because it’s a big data world. The leader in this industry is Salesforce.com but also look at Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho and Copper – all great solutions.

Paid Advertising

Social media technology has changed significantly over the years. Once upon a time you could post a thought and it could spread through the network organically. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today if you want your messaging to be seen you’ll need to promote it. Smart business owners are focusing on either Facebook or Google and learning about new things like custom audiences, keyword tools, bots, messaging and display ads. Hire an expert or start reading- there’s a lot to know if you want your business or products to be found.

Human Resources

Cloud based HR apps are growing steadily and I recommend any company with more than five employees to consider a good platform – Paychex, Namely, BambooHR and others – to increase the productivity of your office. Today’s HR apps are mobile and enable employees to look up history, update their contact information, request vacations and login sick days. Some even have good features for managing and collaborating on performance reviews too.

Collaboration

Today’s workgroup needs a single tool to be able to consolidate email, instant messaging, texting, voice, video and documentation. Up until recently products like Slack and Box were the leaders in the category and they’re both still very powerful and popular. But now you can also check out Microsoft Teams, which entered the space over a year ago and provides many of the same features as part of the Office 365 Business Edition. With a great collaboration tool your employees will be able to search and coordinate their activities one from place and that will improve productivity as well as responsiveness to customer-related issues.

Project Management

Everything in your business can be considered a project – be it the hiring of a new employee, the refurbishing of an office or the pursuit of a new client. Products like Trello, Basecamp will enable your employees to create and share everything related to a project – from activities and emails to Gantt charts and reports – all from their mobile devices or desktops. Milestones will be tracked and deadlines will not be missed.

Cloud Telephony

Thanks to industry leading products like Ooma Office, we’ve developed phone systems for small business that are every bit as professional as the largest of companies – and for a fraction of the cost. Some companies choose to buy hardware while others just rely on smartphones. Regardless, cloud based telephony systems like Ooma provide virtual receptionists, automated answering, voicemail, call transferring, conference calling and other powerful messaging features.

Video

As more and more people get their information from video online powerful platforms for delivering this information – such as Facebook Live, Twitter, YouTube and Google Hangouts – have become mainstream. Just be aware: the platforms are essentially free but there’s a cost. The smartest companies invest in good people and technologies to produce high quality videos that are expected from their audiences. That done, a great video investment returns profits by showing both customers and prospective employees the kind of company and culture you maintain. Commit to a long term video series – interviews, demos, trainings, etc. – and you’ll find that many people will be watching and cheering what you do.

Cloud Accounting

The accounting software landscape is rapidly changing. What was once a onetime purchase and installation is now an ongoing service. Great cloud applications like QuickBooks Online, Xero and Freshbooks are becoming automatic investments by many small business who desire an easy setup, quick access, rapid reporting and all the features expected of a mature accounting operation.

Payables Automation

Thanks to new optical character recognition software a new generation of financial technology products – such as Bill.com, Receipt Bank and EntryLess – are emerging that allow the quick and accurate capture of data from a scanned document that is then presented for approval and automatic integration into an accounting application. The end result is more work done by fewer people as technology automates the data entry. This cuts overhead and makes companies more efficient.

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Again, not every technology may fit your needs or your budget. But the above applications are all popular with small businesses in 2018 and for those that do make the investment I know they’ll find themselves enjoying significant benefits in the years to come.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.