3 resources for bonding with your customers: tools of mass engagement!

The brave new world of digital tools and technology allows small business to connect with customers in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago. We take this increased connectivity almost for granted, and because of this many small businesses overlook the platforms, analytic tools, and services available to them and just begging to be leveraged. I am going to discuss here three critical areas, where we focus energy and attention, that enable us to develop strong bonds with our users. Our efforts in these these areas are supported by software which enables us to maximize our own capacity and which can  enable other small businesses to connect to and bond with customers. The focus for us is strategic, and these simple software solutions are, for us, tools of mass engagement!

1. Customer service is critical to our venture, our customers, and our marketing efforts. We are huge believers in the idea that deep bonds can be achieved when you pay attention to your customers, respond to their requests quickly and clearly, and (most of all) when you politely help to solve their problems. Great word of mouth starts with great customer service!

Help desk software: Zendesk. We have been using this SAAS support ticket management product since we launched our Beta on March 2008. To date we have handled over 40,000 customer service requests, and ZD allows us to categorize, assign, solve, and track each of those requests quickly and efficiently. Tools to create macros allow us to give “standard” answers to common questions; reporting features allow us to look across all tickets or time periods to understand trends; and user accounts allow us to quickly analyze a user’s history of requests and solutions. There is also a robust automated notifications feature that allow us to set “triggers” which generate unique emails to our users. We pay a monthly package price that gives us 7 “seats” and Zendesk’s own high quality, fast and dependable support.

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2. Just as important as customer service is our ability to ask for and receive honest feedback from our users and our community. We do this in several ways, including this blog; our community forums; our Twitter stream (see below); and, to a lesser extent, our Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Our most recent effort at garnering this valuable feedback has been via an online survey of roughly 2,000 crowdSPRING Buyers. We are just starting to sift and analyze the data (more on this in a couple of weeks), but we are pleased with the response rate ad the depth of the data we have collected.

Online survey software: Wufoo allows us to quickly and inexpensively design and host online surveys and forms, from simple to complex. Our account allows us to host up to 10 simultaneous surveys and design up to 20 online reports. The data collected can be viewed via Wufoo’s web interface or can be downloaded into our own spreadsheets to correlate against internally generated BI reports. The survey respondent’s interface is simple and clean, with great UI which results in very high rates of completion.

3. As crucial as it is to hear the voices of our users, so it is equally crucial that we “broadcast” directly to both our Creatives and our Buyers. We do this in a few different ways: via our bi-monthly newsletter; right here on the cS blog; with public speaking engagements in Chicago and around the country; and (perhaps most importantly) via our Twitter stream. Ross puts out constant and entertaining river of links, stories, comments, jokes, pictures, videos, and content abundanza! On Twitter we engage directly with our customers (current and future) in an intimate way that has never before allowed this kind of high touch at an astounding scale. We literally speak to thousands of people a day from just a quick hello, to a long dialogue.

Twitter browser tool: Tweetdeck is a powerful interface with features which allow the user to manage multiple Twitter accounts. Add and create Twitter lists; access and update Facebook accounts; easily share and view photos and videos; save searches; automatically synch to your Twitter account page; and automatically shorten links. Tweetdeck’s interface is simple and customizable and a great break to use during the day whenever you have a chance to check in.

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