When it comes to customer service, convenience is everything. Businesses that expect customers to reach out with questions in person or via telephone are taking the wrong approach. Fifty-six percent of American adults now have a smartphone, and more than half of those consumers say they would prefer using a mobile customer support app over calling a contact center for help.
Here are seven tools that local merchants can use to communicate with customers and answer questions about product availability, hours of operation, location, and other basic support information.
1. CriticMania: Respond instantly to private customer questions.
CriticMania is a cloud-based service that businesses can use to collect feedback, suggestions, questions, and comments privately from their customers. Participating businesses are assigned a CriticMania phone number, which should be posted throughout their stores. Customers can use this number to send anonymous messages and tips. Designated employees can then respond to these SMS messages immediately (and privately) through CriticMania’s dashboard. Depending on the question, a business owner can also opt to respond publicly on social media. CriticMania offers a free 30-day trial.
2. Mobivity: Collect valuable feedback through SMS.
As a text message marketing platform for local merchants, Mobivity offers feedback tools that SMBs can use to open up the lines of communication with customers. Businesses can ask customer to send their feedback, suggested improvements, and ideas via SMS or social media, and they can then respond to pressing issues by sending messages to their text message database, along with Twitter and Facebook, all at once. Mobivity offers multiple pricing options for local businesses, from a la carte (with variable pricing) to an all-inclusive Elite plan at $99 per month.
3. TxtandTell: Engage with customers in real-time via text.
TxtandTell is a product built by Touchwork, aimed at improving the way businesses in the dining, service, and retail industries communicate with customers. Merchants can create one-minute surveys, which customers are invited to take on their phones. Designated employees can respond to feedback personally via text. Both the employee’s own response, along with the comment that initiated the interaction, can be displayed on a screen that’s posted publicly in the business. Businesses can contact TxtandTell for specific pricing information.
4. TalkBin: Improve your customer service offerings.
Business owners who are interested in opening up the lines of communication with customers can start using TalkBin as a straightforward tool for mobile customer service. TalkBin provides businesses with a phone number, which should be posted throughout their stores. Customers can then send messages to that number, and business owners can respond to those messages immediately through email or text. None of the business owner’s contact information is relayed to the customer when he or she responds through the TalkBin platform. Companies can also elect to have customer messages forwarded to multiple managers or employees at once. TalkBin costs $25 per month, per location.
5. TxtFeedback: Combine SMS communication with mobile chat.
TxtFeedback provides merchants with an intuitive way to answer basic customer questions. The company has combined an SMS system with mobile chat. In-store signage directs customers to text their comments or questions to a unique telephone number or via a mobile website. Designated employees receive these messages and reply immediately through TxtFeedback’s web dashboard or mobile app. TxtFeedback provides a number of analytics tools that merchants can use to organize conversations and generate reports. TxtFeedback offers multiple pricing options, along with a free 30-day trial.
6. Rant & Rave: Manage the customer experience at your business.
Rant & Rave is a customer experience management platform by Rapide that allows businesses to open up the lines of communication with their customers. Customers can share their thoughts about a company by texting a comment or sending an image to number that Rapide provides, or by calling and recording their feedback via telephone. Feedback is acknowledged instantly, and businesses can send SMS vouchers as a “thank you.” Rant & Rave measures the sentiment of each message, allowing businesses to prioritize their time by responding to the most urgent matters first. Rapide offers custom pricing options for businesses.
7. BuzzTable: Give customers a way to discreetly voice their concerns.
Restaurants that hope to discourage customers from voicing their complaints publicly on online review websites can use BuzzTable to give their customers a more private channel of communication. The platform’s real-time feedback tools can be used to collect customer satisfaction surveys, with plenty of room for custom comments. Based on the results of these surveys, businesses can push special offers to their customers’ phones in real-time, helping to diffuse situations before they escalate. BuzzTable’s WaitList+ & Guest App plan — which includes feedback collection — costs $49 per month.
Know of other tools that merchants can use for customer communication? Leave a description in the comments.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.