7 Automated Customer Service Solutions for Merchants

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Small businesses are ready to grow. Seventy-percent plan to expand their footprints in the coming year, and more than half of that group expects to grow by more than 10%. To hit those projections, small business owners are focusing heavily on customer relationships and engagement. That’s where technology comes into play.

As businesses grow and take on more customers, the service demands placed on owners and managers increase. Busy telephone lines and endless in-store queues are a turnoff to potential clients. Savvy business owners are looking for ways they can use hyperlocal technology to manage the increasing number of customer requests, issues, and even complaints, without taking time away from the hundreds of other tasks they juggle on a daily basis.

Here are seven examples of platforms that businesses can use to stay on top of their customer service issues.

1. HappyFox: Help desk software for small businesses
HappyFox offers help desk software designed for small businesses. The platform automates common business processes and streamlines the way merchants handle customer service. Business owners can manage and track customer requests through the platform with features like “Smart Rules,” real-time email notifications, and automatic round robin smart ticket assignments. The platform also includes self-service tools that customers can use to find their own answers to common questions on a merchant’s website. Pricing starts at $19 per staff member, per month.

2. [24]7: Automated self-service assistance
Local businesses with an online presence can use [24]7 to leverage data and deliver better customer experiences. [24]7 provides businesses with integrated virtual agents, using chat transcripts and natural language technology, to provide automated customers assistance. The company recently introduced [24]7 Messaging for Facebook Messenger, which is an automated self-service technology that allows businesses to anticipate and act on their customers’ needs, along with escalation to live agents when further assistance is necessary. Businesses can contact [24]7 for specific pricing information.

3. Loop: Real-time guest engagement and reporting
Designed for the restaurant, retail, hospitality, and event industries, Loop is a “mobile dialogue and insight” solution that relies heavily on text engagement. Customers can make service requests, queries, and complaints through the web, email, text, mobile or in-store kiosks, and associates can reply to those messages in real-time. Customers who’ve had their issues resolved are automatically prompted to rate their experiences. Loop gives businesses field level visibility and offers a way for manager to pick up on critical trends that are impacting the bottom line. Loop offers customizable pricing.

4. OwnerListens: Digital customer service with automation capabilities
OwnerListens gives businesses a way to engage with customers through text and other mobile platforms. In most cases, businesses can resolve issues before customers have walked out the door or posted negative reviews on Yelp. Thanks to a new integration with Facebook Messenger, OwnerListens also gives businesses a way to interact with customers using automated capabilities like chat bots. Multiple responders, context-aware replies, and DIY calls-to-action allow businesses to answer questions from customers at any time of day. OwnerListens can be used for online or offline commerce. Pricing starts at $10 per month.

5. Main Street Hub: Extending customer service online
Main Street Hub is a full-service marketing automation and CRM platform that gives businesses a way to extend their customer service online. Main Street Hub will update and maintain an SMB’s profile, including writing messaging and responding to customer reviews or complaints. Without lifting a finger, managers can thank customers who’ve “checked in” or posted about their businesses on social media. They can also respond to customer inquiries on popular review sites like Yelp. The company’s Basic plan costs $299 per month.

6. LivePerson: Messaging between consumers and businesses
Although LivePerson is known as a live chat platform for websites, the company also offers solutions for businesses with physical locations. Merchants can provide customer service through any channel. They can also handle service requests or complaints that come in via a mobile messaging app. Customers can see how long it will take to receive a response, and they can mark certain issues as “urgent.” This shifts more calls to messaging, and it saves business owners time and money, since associates can chat with multiple people at once. Businesses can also let VIPs, like members of their loyalty programs, move to the front of the virtual line. Pricing for small businesses starts at $49 per month.

7. Engagor: Smarter customer service on social media
Engagor uses technology to deliver “smart” customer service for its business clients. The company’s social media management and analytics tools track conversations going on across all major social networks, review sites, forums, blogs and news websites and notifies users when there’s content online that requires a response. Incoming conversations are automatically tagged and prioritized, while automated natural language processing helps associates quickly grasp the meaning of each comment. Engagor offers survey analysis for companies that send customer satisfaction surveys to clients. Engagor was designed for social customer care teams at larger businesses, with custom pricing options available.

Know of other customer service platforms for merchants? 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.