Ideally we'd like our team to spend as much time as possible interacting with members and working on growth projects. Admin tasks detract from both of those activities. There are a number of relatively new (and simple!) tools that your team can implement to help free up time for the activities that retain members and grow the business.
1. Live Web Chat
If you do nothing else on this list, do this one. Your customers are increasingly used to immediate connections and online messaging. Mobile phone texting, Facebook messaging, Snapchat - we want to reach people in real time. The standard website "Contact Us" form is so 2014. The direct interaction removes layers of email communication that can take days to get through as each party waits for responses. The potential customer indicates interest, asks questions, schedules a tour, all in one, real-time interaction. And the best part of this medium is that you can develop a "human" relationship with the potential customer that is impossible to do over email. The exchange is much more similar to an in-person conversation than to a string of email exchanges. This more authentic interaction will improve brand perception and customer service experience.
The benefits of web chat are similar to live reception services (data provided by Davinci Virtual Office Solutions - read the full report here)
- Digital impressions occur in less than 90 seconds. When you fail to meet these engagement expectations, prospects bolt.
- Over half of millennials prefer to talk or chat with a live customer service agent than to use channels that don’t involve a human.
45 percent of them [prospects] will abandon an online purchase if they cannot find a quick answers to question.
You can install a web chat tool on your website such as LiveChat for about $49/month. The challenge with this approach is that if your live chat is "on" then your team needs to be in front of a screen to be available for chats that can come in at any time. I have accidentally left my Live Chat app set to "on" on my phone and found myself answering tour requests at the park while walking my dog. Having you or your team manage the chat is a great way to understand the dynamics of the interactions and to create a list of frequently asked questions, but the attentiveness required is generally unsustainable. You can outsource web chat to providers like Davinci Virtual Office Solutions. starting at $59/month.
2. Virtual Mail Management Platform
Many virtual mail providers manage their mail manually, through email and spreadsheets. This probably feels efficient because this is the way you've been doing it this way forever and it just feels normal. There are at least two new platforms, Spheremail and Anytime Mailbox, that help you recruit, sign up and manage virtual mail clients. Your staff can enter mail data into a cloud-based platform that gets shared immediately with clients. The client can request a shred, forward, etc. Any action can be charged for and is tracked right in the platform. There is no end-of-month reconciling/billing. It's all done by the platform. Both providers are working on billing API's.
Does it take you and your staff half of each day to catch up on internal emails? Have part-time employees that have a hard time keeping up to date on projects that live outside of your CRM? Slack is a great solution, and one likely being used by a number of your members. As of 4/1/16, there were 800,000 Slack accounts (slack has been on the market for about a year). It's free for small teams and storage for up to 10,000 messages. You can create "channels" for projects and invite users to relevant channels. My team uses slack and our internal communications are 98% email-free which is live-changing and time-saving. Need to focus and avoid interruptions? Just turn it off. The mobile app is a great way to stay on top of internal activity when you're on the run, again without jamming up your email inbox. My journey to "Inbox Zero" is still a work in progress but Slack helps me maintain email sanity.
Have trouble tracking project to-do's internally (outside of your CRM?) Asana is a free, cloud-based project management tool that allows you to create projects and to-do's and assign them to team members. My favorite feature is the mobile app which allows me to get all of those to-do's that float in my head while I'm on a run or in a meeting documented and assigned real-time.
5. Meet Edgar
So....do you feel like I just simply won't shut up about Meet Edgar? Well, I will not until you tell me you're using it!! This is hands-down my favorite time-saving social media tool. Add content to your library, categorize it, and Edgar will post it to Twitter and Facebook on a recurring basis until you tell it to stop. Best for Evergreen content, it makes sure that you leverage your best content by getting it in front of most of your followers, not just the 10% that see it the first time you post it. If you add posts that drive people to your website, then it's a lead-generating machine that works while you sleep. Or sit in traffic. Or write more compelling content.