6 Platforms Merchants Can Use for Real-Time Customer Interaction

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red-megaphone copyOnline reviews are big bucks for small business owners. Roughly two-thirds of Americans read online reviews before shopping at businesses, and 86% say negative reviews have influenced their buying decisions. Although there’s no sure-fire way for local merchants to ensure that every customer is a satisfied customer, there are things that businesses can do to decrease the chances of dissatisfied customers airing their grievances online.

New customer interaction solutions are using mobile and location technology for enhanced customer experiences. In many cases, these hyperlocal tools give business owners a way to interact with customers in real-time and resolve problems before complaints start showing up online.

Here are six platforms that merchants can use to interact with customers in real-time.

1. know’N’act: Address quality issues in real-time.
Know’N’act provides businesses with a way to interact with customers and address issues immediately. Designed primarily for retailers, hotels, and restaurants, know’N’act uses a proprietary system to collect location-based, contextual feedback from a business’ customers. Businesses create campaigns that include NFC tags, QR codes, and short codes posted on in-store signage, and customers scan this signage to begin the interaction. Merchants find out immediately when customers are having problems in their stores — for example, if dressing rooms are a mess — and they can rectify the situation with personal interactions before dissatisfied customers have time to post negative reviews online. Small business plans cost $40 per month.

2. ListenPort: Engage with customers privately.
Using ListenPort, businesses can engage with customers and resolve disputes or answer questions privately, before those customers have time to start posting negative reviews on sites like Yelp. Merchants receive texts from their customers through an iPhone app or the ListenPort dashboard, and they can set up auto-responders to reply immediately when there isn’t time to personally respond. Of course, personal responses generate more favorable feedback, which a business can determine by running a sentiment analysis. Businesses can also collect feedback from customers with short “microsurveys.” ListenPort offers a free plan for merchants.

3. Guest Manager: Interact with customers while they wait for service.
A front-of-house operations solution for restaurants, Guest Manager’s platform includes a guest engagement module that businesses can use to interact with guests while they wait for service. Using the module, managers can send content like menus, photos, or dish recommendations to their customers’ phones. They can also send incentives (like coupons) to encourage guests to stay during periods with particularly long wait-times. Most importantly, customers can use Guest Manager to privately send reviews to management through mobile surveys. Because of the real-time component, managers are able to privately respond to any negative surveys before those customers have posted reviews on public forums. Although free table management tools are available, Guest Manager charges $49 per month to businesses that use its feedback collection tools.

4. Rant & Rave: Be proactive in gathering feedback.
Rather than sitting back and waiting for dissatisfied customers to contact them, Rant & Rave gives merchants a way to be proactive in their customer engagement efforts. The hyperlocal platform allows merchants to inform their customers about the latest offers or the progress of their orders with messages sent via SMS, voice, email, MMS, web, or mobile. Customers can respond to these messages and interact with the business in real-time, potentially asking for more information about an upcoming sale or whether it’s possible to reschedule a delivery. Customers are also prompted to share feedback with the business via text message, picture message, voice recording, or email. Rant & Rave offers custom pricing options.

5. Mobivity: Tie surveys to the POS.
Mobivity designs mobile marketing tools that take advantage of modern POS solutions. Among those tools is a customer feedback module that retailers can tie to their POS. Mobivity enables businesses to create graphics for their receipts that are designed to prompt customers to complete online surveys. The company says this method of gathering customer feedback increases survey response rates by 300%. Businesses can also integrate SMS, loyalty, and social media campaigns into their receipts as a way to build “hyper-targeted” mobile marketing campaigns.

6. Medallia: Better understand the customer experience.
Medallia offers businesses software for better understanding the experience that customers are having inside their stores. Merchants can capture information from customers in the moment, using SMS, survey URLs, QR codes, mobile app integrations, and geo-fencing. Medallia analyzes this data to provide real-time information to companies about what their customers really want. Medallia also offers a way for retailers to send email surveys and web intercept surveys to customers who have recently made purchases. Medallia was primarily built with large businesses in mind. The company offers custom pricing options.

Know of other platforms businesses can use to interact with customers in real-time? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.