I get obsessed with a variety of things quite often, which leads me down a rabbit hole where I ask myself various questions like, why does this thing exist? why do people buy/use it? and would this work in South Africa? the answer to the last question is more nuanced than anything else.
Nevertheless, I bumped into an interesting company recently, Podium, which led me to an interesting industry, Customer Reputation Management — A system where businesses can monitor reviews they get from their customers and respond accordingly. At the core, this seems fairly simple that's why most businesses have social media managers mostly to answer questions customers and potential customers have about the business (in a perfect world) but often for crisis management when something breaks. What customer reputation software does is basically aggregated all those messages across all socials onto one platform and charge a fee for that.
I remember when lockdown began in South Africa people started to rush for an alternative means of getting groceries, at the time the only visible grocery delivery platforms were sixty60 by checkers, Cape Town’s OneCart & Johannesburg’s Zulzi. To put it lightly operations didn't go smoothly and people saw those online complaints and were put off completely. But those companies are tech companies they should be inclined to fix those problems using technology and they will continue to exist if they do fix them, hopefully. Then what about that small business around the corner that isn't necessarily aware of negative feedback or who their customers are. The beauty of having an ‘online’ business is that you know who your customers are at day one, you could even tag them Susan customer #1, Jomo customer #20, Thabo customer #55 and my argument is that it's important for those small businesses to know who their customers are, even as a small business at the corner knowing who comes in the door is important — because this will help in knowing how to sell to them wherever they are.
At their core these SaaS companies focus on four elements of the relationship a business has with their customer or intended customers:
- Customer Interaction:
It starts by aggregating the conversations people are saying about the businesses onto one platform. Like a live feed across all socials that shows questions, complaints, praises etc about the business, which will help the business easily manage those interactions.
Getting customers to be advocates for the business is important this helps build credibility and a community around the business. What these tools do is they help the business easily get reviews from their customers and manage them.
The content derived from the interactions with the customers should inform the decisions of the business, For instance, you run a coffee shop and your customers don’t like the new almond cream or whatever you are using, this platform allows the business to measure that engagement and make informed decisions.
4. Lead Generation:
Every interaction with potential customers needs to be assessed, measured and addressed as a potential sale for the business. What this tool allows the business to do, is effective to convert those potential customers who are inquiring about the business, so yes, a salesforce.
Those are the component of tools mostly offered by existing customer reputation management companies, some people advocate that these tools should include financial services like reputation insurance and such, I personally believe they should include sales data derived from each customer which will allow a business to attach an average revenue per customer (ARPC), this, in turn, should allow the business to know which of their customers bring in the most revenue for them and which don’t. How I think about it is through the 80/20 rule and how small businesses should optimise it. By knowing the 20% of the customers who drive 80% of the revenue the business could effectively self that core segment.
How would this be applied in South Africa; most South Africans are aware of sprout social and I'm sure a lot of social media agencies advocate for it to their customers. Most of these tools aren't applicable for the South African market mainly from a pricing point but also from a product use case. Whatsapp for business an underutilized tool and should be the first point of reference for any communication with a customer.
Going back to how I came about this sector of SaaS, Podium. They recently launched a payment product, which now becomes interesting. A full salesforce might be out the price range for a typical small business but something like Podium might just work.
This all comes down to the business knowing who their customers are and I implore small businesses to make the progression to get to know who their customers are on a digital level, make use of existing tools and meet the customer where they are.