3 Apps to Enhance Customer, Partner Collaborations
In a May No Jitter post, I identified three applications that facilitate work from home and help distributed teams collaborate, which included Prodoscore, Front, and Sneek.io. But what about meetings, collaboration, and other interactions with customers? In this post, I recommend three applications that can facilitate collaboration beyond organizational boundaries with prospects, customers, and partners.
During the pandemic, there’s a good chance that your organization embraced web meetings. There’s a range of tools for external engagement, and standard conferencing apps are the simplest. These apps certainly support interactions with external users, but traditional meetings are not always the right format, and it can be difficult or awkward to assume (or dictate) an application or channel.
On the other end of the spectrum are custom applications that customers install. These can provide rich and personalized experiences, but getting a customer to install a new dedicated app is a commitment that may face resistance. Personally, I've only installed a handful of such apps mostly associated with travel.
The peak of shelter-at-home is hopefully behind us, but remote work and interactions are here for a while. We have a long term need to virtualize diverse types of workflows and interactions. The good news is the right tools and apps can actually increase productivity and improve the experience. We need to move beyond recreating the processes and upgrade the experience. We can use this situation to be more efficient and effective, and these three apps can help.
Social distancing can have benefits for colleagues, but it creates challenges with customers, partners, and suppliers. Traditional conference solutions can help, but they can be too rigid to ensure the personal touch that fosters loyal and differentiated business relationships. ScreenMeet provides an embeddable solution for customer interactions. The app/platform can be used to facilitate inbound and outbound customer support and sales assistance.
ScreenMeet can enable a variety of interactions, including co-browsing, which turns online shopping carts into sales. Too often, a live chat or telephone call is completely disconnected from the online experience. With ScreenMeet, the agent can see exactly what the customer sees and can answer questions or provide coaching through an e-commerce experience. The real magic of ScreenMeet is it also has a real-time meeting application, which means an agent can escalate a co-browsing session to a full video chat (or conference with additional users).
There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of ScreenMeet because its brand isn’t shown where implemented. The app lives inside other apps and websites and is integrated into CRMs such as Salesforce, ServiceNow, Zendesk, and Microsoft Dynamics.
ScreenMeet delivered over half a billion minutes last year and supports many global brands, including major customers in tax preparation services, PC companies, sales, retail, financial services, health and life sciences, and field services. ScreenMeet built its no download, browser-based technology stack and provides services under a predictable flat-rate model.
Simply stated, ScreenMeet reduces friction. It facilitates real-time communications, including co-browsing, voice calls, and video chats, without the need for clients to download or install software. It works in the browser inside of web applications and on the (desktop or mobile) devices that the customer selects.
ScreenMeet is commonly deployed within business applications such as an organization's customer-facing website; its co-browsing feature makes it especially useful with e-commerce. It’s not intended to replace traditional conferencing apps but does offer the advantage that a customer can initiate a meeting, instead of waiting for a meeting invitation.
I can remember the transition to online calendars, needing to synchronize our paper and online diaries. Today, most of us have our calendars online, and this has made scheduling relatively automated — wrong.
I use my calendar for everything, and I’m surprised how frequently it’s wrong. For example, my weekly “trash day” reminder is wrong about six times a year due to holidays. It’s wrong enough that I question my calendar regularly. Erroneous recurring meetings are just one of many frustrations. Sometimes, I manually add commute times before and after a booked meeting, but if the meeting changes, my associated commute times don’t move.
The real benefit of online calendars is simplified group scheduling, but that’s mostly applicable to internal users. Corporate calendars offer some publishing capabilities but lack granular controls and logic, which make them very limited. The good news is there’s tremendous innovation occurring from third-party providers.
I’m not a fan of the automated bot responders. They benefit the bot owner but generate complexity (and emails) for the other participants. I prefer the self-service portal approach. There are a few (free and paid) calendaring portal apps on the market. I’m happy to recommend ScheduleOnce.
The “what times are good next week?” question is more complex than it sounds. First, calendars usually have lots of little gaps, so it’s time-consuming to provide all of the options. Plus, these responses quickly get out of date since calendars change quickly. In many cases, these “simple” requests turn into phone calls. The better response is to provide a link with current visibility, and have people select a time that works best.
This meeting portal shows times in the time zone the user requests and offers different types of meetings tied to different types of policies. It allows me to approve automatically or manually, which can vary by meeting type. I can even charge for a meeting (I can dream, can’t I?). ScheduleOnce also supports different booking pages. For example, if I want to book meetings at an event that I travel to, I will change the time zone and booking policies.
ScheduleOnce also integrates with a variety of other services, including meetings applications, CRMs, and Zapier. I have it set up to automatically insert a unique meeting link into all confirmed appointments. Since I moved to ScheduleOnce, it’s made scheduling easier for me, and more importantly, I get great feedback on the booking experience, too.
It means my customers can just book a meeting rather than wait for a response to their call or email. They also like the ability to see all of the options and pick the time that works best. It’s made a huge difference for me.
The pandemic has exposed the gaps in our journey toward digital transformation. For example, in March, I had to wire funds overseas. While the process is inherently digital, my bank still required a one-time signature on a form. Unfortunately, the branch was closed during the shelter-at-home orders, so the bank had to turn me away. I solved the problem with Transferwise, a cloud-native wire application.
This story is hardly unique. Paperwork is often the last hurdle to clear regarding digital transformation. I see it over and over. As car dealers, title companies, and medical offices slowly embrace digital technologies and tablets, there are still some stubborn forms that require paper. We tolerated these in the pre-COVID-19 world, but they are unacceptable now.
Fortunately, there are numerous tools available that can facilitate the adoption of digital approvals. DocuSign is well-known, but there’s also PandaDoc, HelloSign, SignNow, and others, including solutions from Adobe and Citrix.
There’s a good chance you have already used one of these apps. The question is if you (or your company) is actively using them with customers. It’s necessary to actively review the entire workflow for new and existing customers to find and eliminate physical paper requirements. Physical signatures themselves are not particularly secure anyway, but paper is the enemy of digital transformation. Not only does it slow things down, but more and more business now occurs over mobile devices — which rarely can print.
Digital transformation of processes always starts with the low-hanging fruit, but that’s not enough. Consider how it’s possible to book travel, including generating boarding passes and renting a car, with digital tools. This took years to complete, and paperless tickets seemed impossible when the journey started. Curiously, hotel check-ins are the chink in the digital travel armor. The stationary part of travel still requires stationery.
When it comes to customer interaction, most of us think about the contact center. While it does play an increasingly important role in customer engagement, it doesn’t have a monopoly. Normally, there are a variety of face-to-face interactions that occur outside the contact center. These are the interactions that are taking a hit during the pandemic.
We need to turn to tools and applications like ScreenMeet, ScheduleOnce, and DocuSign to enable our teams that are now engaging with customers and prospects remotely. In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin famously taught us that coffee is for closers. During a pandemic, closers need digital technologies to do their job.
Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz