Many of the options today offer automation to make your business more efficient such as automated responses to support e-mails, automated marketing e-mails or text messages, online forms that convert the data into a CRM record, chatbots to answer common questions, or a virtual receptionist to route calls efficiently. Navigating the many choices can be tricky.
By Randy Sorensen
Waste haulers face many decisions regarding what technologies to use in their day-to-day operations. Many of our clients have experienced frustration with choices made early on that they were not able to scale as their business grew or lacked key features because they were on the free service plan.
Not that long ago, Joe’s Hauling needed a better way to manage incoming phone calls and wanted to give customers the option of texting as well. Joe thought he had found the perfect solution, but after signing up, he found that the extra charges per text message were really adding up. This is an example of how important it is to do your homework while choosing technology for your business. What is included in the base plan and is there a volume pricing option? Will the new technology make it easier for your customers to communicate with you and your staff to respond quickly and effectively? Will the solution you chose be able to scale as you grow?
For existing and new haulers wanting to improve their business by using technology, the decisions made early on can have a lasting impact, positive or negative, on your business efficiency and growth. This article will examine some technology options for basic office administration and communication and describe the pros and cons of each. We hope this information will help you make good choices about the various technologies or software platforms you adopt to run your business.
Website and Domains
Choosing a Domain
Let’s start with the basics. Purchasing a domain is not a complicated process and can be completed by using a variety of sources including Google Domains, Go Daddy, Yahoo, etc. Domain registrars, as they are called, will tell you if the domain you want is available and how much it will cost. The price can vary from a few dollars to many thousands depending on the name chosen. You may want to purchase several related domains and redirect them to your primary choice.
When choosing a domain name, keep in mind the following advice:
• Keep it simple
• Easy to spell and remember
• Gives a clue to what you do
• Avoid overly generic names
Remember: Your domain name will become part of your email: [email protected]. Will people be able to easily remember and spell your e-mail and domain name?
A domain name can be of many different types such as .com, .net, .org, .edu, etc. The domain extension gives a clue to the site’s purpose. In the past, the preferred choice has been .com as this designates a commercial website. It can be difficult to find your preferred domain name with a .com extension as they have been around a long time and the most popular or common names have been taken. Today there are more than 300 possible domain extensions available to choose from including the following, which should also be considered when selecting a domain:
Beware the Redirect! Do Not Give Your Customer Away!
When choosing an application or software product that will be installed on your website, make sure and verify if the product will operate within your website or take your visitor to a new website to complete the task, or if your new software is a shopping cart, the transaction. Redirecting off your website steals SEO from your site by reducing the amount of time people spend on your site. This means you waste marketing dollars driving traffic to your website, only to have your hard-earned customer leap from your website onto someone else’s. Whenever possible, choose products that accomplish the goal while staying on your site.
E-mail: Professional Appearance Versus Unprofessional
While it is easy to set up a free e-mail account with Google, Yahoo, and other providers, to present a more professional appearance you should establish a @companyname.com e-mail account. A popular option is to use Google Workspace (formerly known as G-Suite) to set up the typical email accounts needed by a business such as contact, info, sales, billing, and others. Most website host providers also provide domain-based e-mail accounts. Often accounts like a Google Workspace account include other apps that can help you run your business such as shared cloud storage, shared document and spreadsheet files, presentation, calendars, meetings, and chat apps. The cost for domain specific e-mails varies based on the provider. Each e-mail account for the basic level of Google Workspace is $12 monthly.
It is important to know what limits are placed on a free account in terms of data and other options such as forwarding, filtering, and/or alias addresses. Will you exceed the limits and be forced into a pay for service plan?
If you choose to only have one e-mail account, you may want to see if your provider offers the option of creating alias e-mail addresses that look different but still arrive in the same root inbox. This way you can filter incoming e-mails by the address to different folders such as contact forms, customer support, or billing.
Phone: What Technology Should I Use?
The options for business phone services include traditional land line, business cell phones, and voice over Internet (VOIP). The type of system that is best for you depends on the number of lines needed, additional services such as voicemail or a virtual receptionist, your location, and budget.
A new company may only need one or two lines and some cell phone services will allow a second number on the one device. This may be an ideal situation for the owner operator.
A more flexible option could be a VOIP system with an app on your cell phone. Voice over Internet systems require an Internet connection through an ethernet port, wi-fi, or cell phone data service. These types of systems do not require you to own a phone, but can be used with an app on your cell phone, tablet, and/or computer. Some popular VOIP providers include:
It is unlikely that the need for some kind of phone in option for customer service or new customer signup will ever go away completely, but you should take steps to minimize phone calls by providing self-service options for your customers to contact you. Adding online sign up, customer service online requests, or custom webforms can help save your staff valuable time that can then be used for meeting more urgent customer needs and following up on leads. Once you have customer self-service options in place, remember to make these options front and center on your website and move the phone option to less prominent locations.
SMS (Text Messaging Service)
Some reports say that texting is the new e-mail for marketing and communication as well as customer service. The ability to send service updates and reminders to your customers or send special offers to new customers is an important function to have in our mobile first world. There are stand-alone text messaging options as well as some that are integrated with a CRM or can be part of your VOIP plan. The price typically varies based on a flat rate plus a fee based on the number of messages sent. Many plans have you purchase credits that equate to a sent message and the cost can vary based on the quantity of credits purchased. For example, one source listed 100,000 credits for $0.01 each. A list of some of the providers of Text Messaging Software, include:
Cloud Storage and Document Sharing
In today’s mobile world and in situations where you may have employees working remotely, easy access to data and office software is more important than ever. A shared spreadsheet can be a great way to manage lead follow up if you do not have a CRM in place. Another valuable use of document sharing is to have important documents such as FAQs, current pricing, upcoming events, and other important information be available online for all employees. Cloud-based storage such as Google Docs makes your documents accessible to all as long as internet access is available. It is important to note that you can make shared documents read only or share editing privileges as needed for collaboration.
The All-in-One Approach
Depending on your needs and expected growth, you may want to look at a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) such as ZOHO, HubSpot, or Monday as many of these CRM’s products offer integrated apps for customer data, e-mail, phone (VOIP), marketing, customer service, and customer communication. It is important to investigate your options carefully as some CRMs have a free version with limited options and you will have to purchase add-on applications to get all the functionality you need. ZOHO One is an option that includes a full suite of applications from the ZOHO family of apps.
You want to make sure that all the features you want are part of the package you choose, and if not, determine the cost for add-ons. Many free or lower tier CRMs have limits on things such as the number of records, data storage, number of e-mails, and more. A free option may be a great choice for a small business as when your needs increase you can move to the paid version of the software.
A Suite of Software Products
All businesses need a basic suite of software products that help manage day-to-day operations. Many of the options today offer automation to make your business more efficient such as automated responses to support e-mails, automated marketing e-mails or text messages, online forms that convert the data into a CRM record, chatbots to answer common questions, or a virtual receptionist to route calls efficiently. Navigating the many choices can be tricky. Use as few different services as possible to avoid having too many products to manage, integrate, and pay for. Here are some important questions to ask when deciding what technology to use in your business:
• Scalability—can the product support future growth?
• Do your systems “talk” to each other via integration?
• Is the product easy to setup, use, and maintain?
• Will adding features make the product unaffordable?
• What kind of tech support options are available?
• Will you need an extra staff person or an outside contractor to manage or setup the product?
Online signup software that is designed to be scalable and customizable is ideal. As you examine your options, look for companies that are customer focused and provide excellent support options. If you find it difficult to find the answers to your questions online or get responses from the vendor you are considering, keep looking as there are great choices out there. | WA
Randy Sorensen has been a Project Manager for SalesStryke since 2018 and works daily with clients to complete system setup and installation of TrashBolt as well as providing post deployment support. He has taken the lead in managing many of the technology options SalesStryke uses including Vonage, ZOHO One, SalesForce, Google Workspace, Google Domains, WordPress, and 1Password. Randy can be reached at [email protected].
At SalesStryke, they designed their online signup software, TrashBolt, to be scalable and customizable for each client and focus on customer support. SalesStryke currently uses ZOHO One (CRM, Help Desk, Project Management), Vonage (VOIP and Text Messaging), and Google Workspace (Mail, Meetings, Cloud Storage, Shared Documents) to manage internal and external communication needs. For more information, visit www.salesstryke.com.