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Connecting with Customers Virtually

Working With Clients and Customers Online
Technology has created many opportunities for businesses to connect with their customers over the web. If you are working with specific companies, now is a good time to make sure you’re following their social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.) and that you have signed up to receive their newsletters. Companies are diligently updating these spaces to keep their customers informed with updates.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

There are many ways for a business to service their customers virtually during COVID-19. If you’re not sure what is best for you, check out these suggestions:

1. Social Media

According to this article from statista, there was an estimated 246 million social network users in the United States in 2019. With so many users already on their social accounts, this is the most effective way to reach customers with company updates.

2. E-Blasts

A great way to reach clients and customers with information specific to them is through targeted e-blasts. Some providers of this service are Mailchimp, Drip, ActiveCampaign and Constant Contact. These services provide easy to use email templates and automated campaigns that can send out information to customized lists. This article from Hosting Facts looks at the features provided by each service and will help you determine the best one for you:

3. Instant Messaging

If talking over the phone with a customer is not an option, a messenger app is the next best thing for providing instant communication. LiveAgent is a great website add-on service that allows a customer to initiate a conversation through your website. There is an expectation for a prompt response with this feature since it is a chat app. Facebook Messenger has also become a go to for customers reaching out to a business. These should be responded to in a timely manner as well.

If you are a business that sees a lot of contact through messaging and you do not have the support staff to handle all of the incoming traffic, you may want to consider chatbots. Chatbots are programs that can read messages and respond while imitating a human. There are limitations to the power of chatbots in their ability to answer questions and provide information, however. They are great for narrowing the focus of the users need though and saving you time in figuring that out when you jump in to respond. Some providers of this are IntelliTicks, Engati and Instabot.

4. Video Calls

Being able to see the person you’re doing business with is irreplaceable. There is a lot to be gathered from body language and facial expressions that is missing from just a phone call. Video calls are a great tool to talk with customers face to face when in person isn’t an option. They are also the best way to further review a product with customers after they have looked at it on your website first. This allows for product to be seen in requested angles and in use, before it is determined a sample should be sent.

Luckily there are plenty of easy to use apps for video calls including Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Each video calling app offers something different and this article from CNET will help you determine which is best for you:

5. Screen Sharing/ Screenshots

With customers relying more on your website, there may come times where they face a problem with using it and may only be resolved with you seeing what they are seeing on their screen. Screen sharing is when you share a live feed of your screen with another person. This can be done using some of the services we’ve looked at already, including Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams.

For the customers that do not have these services, they can just take a screenshot and email it over. This video from Digital Trends reviews the steps for this process on different computers:

6. Document Sharing

You can usually simply share documents through email, but there may come situations where that is not the best option. Services like Dropbox allow you to store files too large to send by email, and then share a link to the files with your customer. They have a free service in which you can store up to 2GB of files. Subscription options provide more space which may be ideal if you need to store high res photos and videos. Google Docs is a free service that allows you to share a link to a shared document that you and another user can edit together in real time. This can be helpful when working with a client on creating marketing material together and gives you the most up to date information, rather than waiting on changes or having to mix multiple edited documents together.

7. Scheduling

Flexibility is crucial to handling your regular online customer traffic as well as an influx from customers who would normally visit in person. Subscription tools like Bookafy allow customers to schedule appointments online. With many businesses having to limit employees working at one time, this service features a staff scheduling option that could help with shift issues. Google Calendar is a free option that allows other users of this service to send meeting requests right to your calendar and will notify you if that time is busy already, making it easier to track appointments.

8. Payment

For customers looking to make payments to your business, there are services like Paypal and Google Pay that take a variety of payment methods including credit card, debit card and bank account. These services use encryption and anti-fraud technology to ensure a safe and secure transaction.

9. Video Sharing

A fun way to communicate with customers is through live video streams. It is a great chance to connect with customers by bringing them into your business virtually. Use it to do a tour of your showroom or to showcase your products and displays, allowing customers to browse your store in a sense. Facebook Live and Instagram Live allow you to speak to your social followers. It is also a feature on Zoom as well.

10. Feedback

If you want to know more about your customers’ needs and experiences with your business, you can always send out simple surveys. SoGoSurvey and SurveyMonkey allow you to send customized questionnaires to customers to receive instant feedback to help improve your service. They can also be helpful to gather data on what new products your customers may want to see more of. Both of these services have a free option with limited amount of questions and surveys you can send out a month. The more customers you have, the more beneficial the paid options are. They offer more personalization and unlimited questions and surveys.

As consumer trends change and grow, and situations like this arise, it will be in a business’s best interest to identify the pros and cons of the physical and virtual aspects of their business. This blog from Vend looks at what each side offers and how they can help each other:

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