Standard business hours no longer apply for consumers who’ve grown accustomed to shopping online. More and more consumers expect the small businesses in their own communities to be open when they’re ready to book appointments or ask questions, regardless of the time of day.
According to a survey by ReachLocal, 23% of local business leads now come in after hours, and half of consumers say they do business with whichever company responds to them first. Even larger firms are having trouble keeping up. Nearly a quarter (24%) of U.S. companies surveyed by the Harvard Business Review took more than 24 hours to respond to web-generated leads, and 23% of businesses never responded at all.
Here are six examples of platform that local merchants can use to decrease lead response times and increase conversion rates outside of traditional business hours.
1. vCita: Customer engagement for small businesses
Merchants that want to drive more action outside of regular business hours can use vCita to improve the service they offer to new and existing customers. The all-in-one scheduling, payment, CRM, and document sharing platform has a LiveSite widget that can be added to a website to give customers direct access to a business’ calendar and payments, and a LiveSite client portal that turns existing websites into self-service portals where customers can review support requests, upcoming appointments, and past invoices on their own, at any time they want, without having to call or email the business directly for support. Merchants can contact vCita for specific pricing information.
2. HappyFox: Giving customers a self-service customer support option
Merchants that find themselves answering the same questions from customers again and again can try a self-service support solution like HappyFox to lessen the burden. By creating online knowledge bases that connect to existing business websites, local merchants make it easier for customers to find answers to basic questions, like what their products are made from or how their return policies work. HappyFox’s software can also decrease support response times by keeping email, telephone, chat, and web requests organized. HappyFox offers voice, social media, and chat integration, as well. Plans start at $29 per staff, per month.
3. ReachEdge: Respond quickly to leads, day and night
ReachEdge is a marketing automation, analytics, and lead management platform from the online advertising solutions provider ReachLocal. ReachEdge offers tools to help local businesses respond to leads that come in via online forms, phone calls, email, and chats after traditional business hours. Business owners can opt to receive real-time alerts via email or mobile phone whenever a new lead comes in. Merchants then have the option to respond to messages and phone calls personally, or they can let ReachEdge’s automated messaging system take over based on what type of message is received. Businesses can contact ReachLocal for specific pricing information.
4. AnswerConnect: 24/7 customer service teams for local businesses
AnswerConnect is a 24/7 digital call answering service that helps small and mid-size businesses stay on equal footing with their larger competitors. AnswerConnect employs its own team of customer service experts to answer questions from callers on behalf of SMBs around the clock. Businesses can setup their own call scripts, so AnswerConnect’s customer service agents know how to answer different types of questions. The company then sends messages about any calls that a business has missed to the merchant via SMS in real-time. AnswerConnect can also book appointments for businesses after hours. Standard plans start at $149.99 per month.
5. IMPOWER: Customer messaging management for businesses
Merchants have an easier time engaging with customers when they offer support via instant messaging platforms, but they also open themselves up to criticism when they don’t respond to incoming messages quickly enough. IMPOWER offers a solution that makes it easier for businesses to message with customers in a scalable way. The platform offers advanced response tools like attribute based routing, auto responses, and templates, and it can integrate with existing CRM and CEM help desks. Most importantly, IMPOWER can suggest areas for response automation to help merchants respond to more customers in less time. Merchants can also connect their own chat bots with IMPOWER’s API. Businesses can contact IMPOWER for specific pricing information.
6. Infusionsoft: Trigger personalized communications with customers
Infusionsoft is a CRM, sales, and marketing platform designed for small businesses. The company’s marketing automation tools are ideal for merchants looking for more streamlined ways to engage with their customers. In addition to helping merchants capture more leads through automation, Infusionsoft’s software can be setup to automatically send timely messages to customers based on email sends, opens, clicks, form submissions, and payment histories. Merchants can also create lead forms and emails with templates from their mobile devices. Infusionsoft’s pricing plans start at $199 per month.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.