3 top tips to ‘future proof’ your SME

Top tips to future proof your business or SMEMay is a popular month for calendar events; two bank holidays, May Day, Star Wars Day, Accounting Day and many more, which are all great for business in one way or another. However, one awareness initiative began across the Atlantic this week as National Small Business Week kicked off.

Celebrated in the US in May, the week aims to celebrate entrepreneurship and business aptitude – and unsurprisingly is very relevant in the UK.

It is estimated that small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015 and 99.9% of these were small or medium-sized (FSB). With this in mind we’ve decided to recognise and celebrate small and medium-sized businesses everywhere by bringing some top tips to maximise engagement, performance and of course profits:

1. The customer owns your business not you

As an entrepreneur it’s often easy to lose sight of the fact that you depend on your customers. Particularly when you’re well on the path to pursuing the development of an idea. But without customers, where would your idea be?

Good customer service can go a long way, so always consider the method that you’re communicating with your most important investment; consumers. From regular, low-cost methods of communication of developments via social media, email or even SMS, through to a reliable support channel – investing in the right tools could see your customers invest more in you.

2. Get to grips with the technology & adapt

It is no longer enough to know how to run an online shop, you now have to understand how the technology works behind the scenes, from SEO right through to plugins and integrations, what is it your customers are missing?

11% of almost 2,000 SMEs surveyed as part of the UK Business Digital Index stated that they simply didn’t use the internet, indicating not only a lack of skills but also a lack of interest as a reason. (Click-accenture)

As we enter a mobile-first generation where smartphones reign as the supreme communication and go-to device for information, SMEs must not only have a website but must also be adaptable to the changing needs of their intended consumers. Only 41% of SMEs are thinking this way and have adapted their websites for tablets and smartphones (Real Business). Do your customers prefer to make fast payments, or simply consult your website for reference?

3. Place value in your existing customers – feedback

It is more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain existing ones. Keep your customers close, communicate with them regularly and listen to feedback. Create loyalty by checking in with them regularly, and ask them about their experiences of your product or service using that feedback to make improvements as your business grows in size.

95.3% said they’d be likely to respond to an SMS Survey request (IPOS), which is unsurprising considering that 93% of UK adults both own and use a mobile phone and 61% own and use a smartphone, both have SMS capabilities. (Ofcom)

Speak to your customers in a language they know.  Ask questions and get valuable feedback you can use and identify and solve problems quickly, saving costs in time and resource by avoiding repeat complaint calls.  

78% of SMEs saved time due to digital automation and communications, and 51% saw improved sales when adopting digital technology (Computer Weekly) so why not join them?

Contact a member of our team today to take a free trial of SMS Surveys with 500 free SMS credits* and see how simple it can be to transform your business communication.

*T&Cs apply

3 lessons utility companies can learn from Scottish Power

Use an intelligent voice response to transform your contact strategy

Earlier this week it was announced that a hefty fine of £18m would be dished out to Scottish Power, by Ofgem, after more than one million complaints were received against the energy supplier over a two year period.

“Unacceptably” lengthy call waiting times, complaint resolution, as well as late final bills were all at the crux of the investigation by Ofgem, which highlighted their failures to provide even the basic level of service required during and after the supplier’s implementation of new IT systems.

The fine, which is the third largest to be dished out by Ofgem, in addition to consumer research from the likes of Which, all highlight the need for sufficient contingency plans and the need to better position consumers at the heart of service quality every time. Either that or pay the price.

Almost 80% of contact centres feel that their current customer service infrastructure doesn’t support the anticipated, future needs of their consumers (Parature). Are you among them?

Incorporate the right amount of pre-planning and the right systems and you can ensure a smooth handover in the adoption of a new digital communication strategy.

1. Minimise call waiting

25% of customers switch providers because they are tired of being kept on hold (New Voice). It’s only natural to get frustrated when you can’t get the answers that you need, at the time you need them. Implementing a Voice Callback solution enables customers to request a call from your company at a time that suits them.

Reduce the time your customers spend on the path to a live agent by decreasing the number of options they’re given on their call path. Adopt an Interactive Voice System that automates, communicates and better understands customer requests.

2. Avoid delayed billing

Reliance on direct mail to communicate with your customers can often leave a sour taste; wasted paper, lengthy delivery times, lost post, a heavy reliance on staff to send them, in addition to the possibilities of them being going unread. More than 300,000 customers received late final bills from Scottish Power which meant some customers were left out of pocket.

Consider sending automated emails or text messages for instant delivery of critical information about balances or methods of payment. Where you want to direct customers to make payments, adopt a Mobile Payment Journey to provide one complete and engaging solution.

3. Proactively seek to resolve complaints

It is estimated that 35,309 complaints were received by the Energy Ombudsman concerning customer service and communication between January and June 2015, a huge increase of 55% on 2014 statistics. (USwitch) If you’re not making moves to resolve your customer’s issues then it’s likely they’ll no longer invest in you.

Consider sending a quarterly SMS Survey out to your customers to see how you’re doing before it’s too late to make a change.  Only 24% of customers stick around to see if the company will resolve their issues within a reasonable amount of time (Zendesk); make sure yours stick with you by making informed improvements.

82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service (Zendesk), but Ofgem’s investigation showcases that customer service isn’t just about investing in the right people, but the right technology.

To find out more about how Esendex’s product suite can help build your multichannel customer experience contact us on 0345 356 5758.                      

Is poor communication affecting your productivity?

Improve internal comms blog picture

It’s been widely reported that the UK is one of the most unproductive countries in Europe (BBC), and experts point the finger at three main causes: limited investment in technology, an uneducated workforce, and poor staff management.

Addressing poor staff management, one of the most effective ways that managers can increase employee engagement is through clear and effective internal communications (Rapidbi).

There are a ton of statistics to back this statement up. 91% of companies with internal communication problems tend to find motivation at low level (MaxComm). Less motivated employees are usually less engaged, and studies show that companies with less engaged employees are 43% less productive than businesses with them (BrandonGaille).

Employees who feel more connected with the company they work for are 20-25% more productive (Enplug), and companies described as highly effective communicators achieved a 47% higher return compared to those considered the least effective communicators (Watson).

Despite this, 50% of employees feel their companies are not investing heavily enough in the right communication channels with them (TheSocialWorkplace).

What’s being used now?

Most businesses rely on email as a channel to transfer information, but what happens when  the information being communicated is mission critical or requires an instant response? Relying on email alone could leave many requests with a late response or left completely unanswered due to the low open and response rates email suffers from, and in urgent circumstances that can cause big problems.

How could you communicate better?

Nearly 70% of employees think their organisation should use text messaging to communicate with them, while 86% state it shouldn’t just be reserved for customer communications (Vitiello). Personalisation of messages to staff also plays a huge role in increasing their engagement, a great way to maintain motivation (TheOpenRoad).

As a quick and easy way to contact staff, SMS benefits from open rates of 98% and an average response time of 90 seconds (Digital Marketing). SMS messages are as easy to tailor to an individual as they are to send to the whole workforce, perfect for critical communications.

Give your employees a voice with SMS Surveys, enabling your business to gain feedback and valuable insights to help motivation. Employees are twice as likely to be disengaged if they feel they’re being ignored (Hubspot), so SMS Surveys is a great way to show your staff how much you value their opinions.

For more information on using our product suite to enhance your communication with and among staff then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team on 0345 356 5758.

It’s more than just bots – why Facebook’s Messenger Platform is good news for businesses

Esendex Bot early stages of development with Facebook Messenger Platform

Following on from last year’s announcement of a “Business on Messenger” initiative, this week saw the beta launch of Facebook’s highly anticipated Messenger Platform, an offering that scales up its peer to peer Messenger app with automated chatbots and a Send/Receive API – and we’re ready to embrace it.

The Messenger Platform presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to interact with their customers through a previously untapped conversation space. For those integrating with Esendex, Messenger has the potential to improve customer engagement even further by incorporating a widely used instant messaging channel alongside established SMS, voice and email transports. Our developers have already been exploring some of the possibilities. 

More than just bots

Plenty of the buzz around the Messenger Platform this week has understandably been devoted to chatbots, with Facebook clearly seeking to catch up with recent AI developments from rivals Microsoft, and bot integrations from other chat platforms such as WeChat and Slack.

While chatbots themselves are nothing new, integrating them into instant messaging channels presents  opportunities for automating and scaling existing business workflows, from booking confirmations to delivering enhanced customer support.

Taking a step back from all the focus on bots, what we’re particularly excited about at Esendex HQ is a fresh commerce and communication channel that has more than 900m users worldwide.

Esendex’s customers recognise the value of engaging with their users, and are already automating their communication workflows using our industry-leading APIs. The Messenger Platform has the potential to further increase user engagement as part of an intelligent multichannel messaging solution.

We’ve already started to explore the possibilities of Messenger…

(more…)

Are local authorities making the most of digital? [infographic]

It is estimated that by 2020 local authorities could be facing a funding gap of up to £9.5 billion (LGA). That’s a pretty hefty chunk of money to find with less than 3 years to go. Unfortunately reduced government funding and the rising pressure on social care services means that public sector bodies are under increasing pressure to find innovative, low-cost methods of maintaining the services that they provide, without compromise.

As digital technology has evolved, the range of methods local authorities can use to support the delivery of services is too, and digital innovation has a key role to play in this…

48% of people state that they would like to use the internet, mobile or social media for essentials like paying for council tax or getting information on local services, however only 7% have used such tech to communicate with their local authority. (o2) Why? Is it available to them?

With smartphone penetration set to reach 90% this year, it’s no wonder that citizens expect smooth and connected services.(o2)

75% of local government leaders think that they’re making the most of digital, however only 29% of the public agree (PWC) meaning that the gap between council confidence and public expectations still has some way to go in embracing digital technology in order to enhance the relationship between citizen and service.

Our infographic shows how Leeds City Council have leveraged Esendex’s innovation solutions by using a combination of broadcast and two-way SMS. (more…)

Esendex enters the Profit Track 100 league

Profit Track 100We’re excited to announce that Esendex has been placed at no. 41 in the 17th annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100!

This league table ranks the UK’s fastest-growing companies, measured by profit over the last three years.

The news comes only a week after Esendex entered the Megabuyte 50 in 9th position. This is a list of the fastest growing privately owned UK software, IT and telecoms businesses.

“This is a fantastic endorsement of the work the Esendex team have put in to creating the best business messaging solutions available.” Geoff Love, CEO

The Esendex journey

Esendex started out in 2001 as a provider of fast, secure and reliable business SMS services. To support our rapid growth, in 2006 we opened our Barcelona office, followed by the Melbourne, Australia office.

We also have offices in Germany and the USA, and this local representation coupled with global reach is one of the reasons over 11,000 businesses trust Esendex with their vital business communications.

Esendex Global Locations

2013 saw a private equity backed management buyout, which supported the acquisition of Collstream in 2014. An award-winning provider of SMS, Voice and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, Collstream delivered intelligent multichannel messaging solutions principally to the debt collection agency industry.

Through acquisition and strong organic growth, Esendex is now a world leader in the business SMS market, and as we continue to develop our people, platforms and products, the future’s looking very bright.

Read the Profit Track 100 supplement

How to get started with effective mobile promotions

mobile journeys promotions blog image

Did you know that the average time spent online by mobile increased from just 31m in 2011 to 2h 26m in 2015 (The Drum)? And that 93% of UK adults have a mobile phone (Ofcom)? It’s hard to believe that with this data readily available, 40% of marketers still don’t incorporate mobile promotions into their marketing strategy (Eleventy group).

Mobile journeys promo's blog

How can you incorporate mobile marketing into your communications strategy?

Mobile Special OfferIt starts with the humble SMS. An incredible 90% of text messages are read within three minutes (Mobilesquared), so this is a much more reliable means of getting your messages read than email.

Start by collecting mobile phone data when customers check out, or sign up for your newsletter or loyalty programme, ensuring of course that you’re offering and respecting opt-out preferences.

An SMS message can incorporate the promotion in and of itself, but if you want to really stand out from the crowd, use the SMS as the launching point for a more immersive messaging medium.

Mobile Journeys promotional platformThe example opposite is a simplified web page that’s been accessed via a link in an SMS. It removes the traditional challenges of accessing website content on mobile by having no distractions, and one clear objective: driving your customer to take advantage of the offer.

Why segmentation and personalisation is so important

The technology exists to allow each customer to receive a unique link within their SMS so that you can target the promotions by location, gender, purchase history, lifecycle etc.

Segmentation can make or break your mobile promotion. The Sr. Director of Relationship Marketing at Groupon, John Becvar, commented in 2011:

“We really began with no personalisation and no segmentation.”

This was causing well-documented problems as customers were receiving offers for products and services in which they had no interest, or were too far away for them to take advantage of.

They overcame these problems with one of the smartest segmentation strategies in marketing, something any marketer can learn from.

Timing is everything

Your business will benefit from knowing what to promote and, just as importantly, when, as usage fluctuates among demographics at different times of day.

50% of people aged 18-24 check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up. If that’s your demographic, mobile promotions, discounts and offers may be more successful when sent in the morning. Sending to adults aged 24+ may be more effective later in the day (Ofcom).

Can Esendex help?

With our Mobile Journeys you can provide a tailor-made channel of access for your customers, enabling them to receive promotions, discounts and deals instantly. Remove distractions by directing them straight to the information they want to see with a dedicated mobile landing page, sent by SMS.

For further information about mobile promotions  contact a member of our sales team 0345 356 5758 or take a demo here.

Is the tide starting to turn for Women In Technology?

Woman using computer

It’s no secret that there’s a major gender gap when it comes to women working in technology. While 57% of occupations in the workforce are held by women, in the science, tech, engineering or maths industries, that figure stands at a very low and static 14% (IB Times). This number has remained roughly unchanged for the past 12 years, even though the uptake of a computer related course at university by women has increased (The Guardian).

79% of IT professionals feel that the profession could benefit from more women working within IT and technology roles (BCS), and yet women make up a very small percentage of software developers: 11.2% to be precise (The Guardian).

At Google women make up 30% of the company’s overall workforce but only 17% of the company’s tech jobs, while only 15% of tech roles at Facebook are filled by women. (Huffington Post)

So what can be done?

Diversity is crucial for innovation

In a global survey, it was found that 85% of corporate diversity and talent leaders agreed that diverse and inclusive workforces are crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation (Forbes).

As innovation is one of the key values that drive and underpin our organisation, we were thrilled to sponsor the first Women In Tech Nottingham event, which debuted last night at The National Videogame Arcade.

The monthly meetup, which is aimed at women in all areas of technology, from developers and testers through to project managers and those with an emerging interest in tech, was a roaring success with no empty chairs by the close of the event.

Women In Tech Nottingham

Left: Jessica Rose, Right: Sarah Waters

Speakers included our very own Business Analyst, Sarah Waters, who gave attendees an insight into her professional journey.

Sarah was followed by Dream Factory’s Jessica Rose, who gave a hilariously insightful and animated speech which delved into the feelings associated with imposter syndrome and individual competence. It was the perfect launchpad for attendees to start questioning their role as a female in technology.

Everyone was then invited to network with pizza from Nottingham’s very own Oscar & Rosie’s.

Events such as these create a solid platform for diversity and in turn innovation; by continuing to support Women In Technology we hope to drive further interest in careers associated with technology.

Organiser and tech enthusiast, Jessica White is always on the hunt for key industry leaders to speak, present or lead workshops. Contact Jessica if you’re interested in attending or presenting at Women In Tech Nottingham.

The next event takes place on May 4th 2016 at 6.30pm. If you’re interested in a career in tech, take a look at any of our current vacancies.

Esendex harnesses the power of dialect

Esendex today announced the launch of the World’s first Regional Accent Translator for SMS. Activated by geographical markers, the R.A.T. automatically translates the text of a plain English text message into one of 30 British dialects.

Regional Accent Translator

From Cornish to Cockney, Brummie to Bristolian, the new product works on any SMS enabled mobile device, and enables businesses to revolutionise the customer’s experience of interacting with their brand.

“By using a more familiar dialect, brands can build trust faster, and produce exceptional results.” – Geoff Love, CEO, Esendex

In a country where 90% of consumers opt for text message communications over telephone calls (OfCom), the launch of the pioneering product will benefit Esendex’s new and existing clients of all sizes, across varied sectors. It is hoped the tool will be particularly applicable where businesses have localised franchises.

Love added: “We’re extremely excited about the results this could produce for our customers, and our product team are already working on a solution to translate, in real-time, inbound text message responses.”

Interested parties can try the Regional Accent Translator out at www.esendex.co.uk/regional-accent-translator.

Why customer complaints could be good for your business

How important is customer feedbackWhen was the last time that you heard from your customers or received a customer complaint? Every now and then a customer is likely to contact your business when they’re either unhappy or ecstatic – however behind every bit of voluntary feedback is a reliance on a motivated consumer.

A typical business hears from just 4% of its dissatisfied customers (Helpscout), meaning the opportunity to turn that frown upside down is so far removed from most businesses that it very rarely happens.

We all too often wait to hear from our customers and never think to instigate contact ourselves. Why? Are we scared?

If your customers are unhappy and you aren’t making moves to check, then you’re vulnerable to the 91% of dissatisfied customers who will simply leave and never return (1st Financial Training Services). What can you do to prevent them from moving on, or get them back? How do you turn that disaster into an opportunity?

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.  (McKinsey)

While positive feedback is always great, negative feedback provides the valuable insight that your business needs to address concerns with your products, processes or customer service.

Consumers are twice as likely to share a bad customer service experience than they are to talk about positive ones (Global Customer Service Barometer). So when customers aren’t happy you need to make sure you’re making it as simple and streamlined as possible for them to tell you about it.

How to gather customer feedback

It can be as easy as chatting to customers directly, right through to collecting instant and concise feedback via text message.

SMS messages achieve a 45% response rate, whereas email is usually around 25% (Smart Insights / Fluid Surveys)

Reactions to customer service and experiences are all perception-based, they’re subjective and can change very quickly – that’s why it’s important to react quickly, particularly when processing the data that customers have provided.

Research shows it’s likely that you can exceed a 10% rise in sales from a good feedback system. (Marketing Donut)

The short shelf life of customer feedback is one of the best reasons to use the more simple tools available for capturing customer perceptions, meaning less time analysing and more time improving. Use Surveys as a leading indicator and to find a solution to your most common problems.

SMS-based surveys enjoy high conversions, with 31% of consumers responding to such invitations, on average within five minutes. (Adobe Digital Marketing)

The all NEW Esendex SMS Surveys dashboard

Our brand new SMS Surveys dashboard offers the ability to capture instant feedback through the most widely used communication channel; SMS, while providing and processing that data in real-time. Benefit from visual representations of your collected data in carefully organised graphs or pie-charts, clearly see your Net Promoter Score to gauge your customers overall satisfaction level, and export that data for important meetings and stakeholder feedback.

To discuss your customer feedback requirements or experience our new dashboard call us on 0345 356 5758 or take a free demo of SMS Surveys now.