I challenge you to find a business that does not rely on technology daily, or even minute-to-minute. Businesses depend on technology to improve efficiency, provide the best customer service possible, innovate, and stand out among competition. Technology is the very reason so much information is available, that it may be safe to say we have more inventors and founders of start-ups today than our economy ever has. With so many software programs, mobile apps, and devices, it can be difficult to make smart decisions on where to spend dollars to support your business operations. It’s up to you to research which brand or version fits your organization best, but here are five technologies every business should use to stay ahead of the curve.
Mobile Devices. Smartphones and tablets aren’t just for music lovers, Netflix subscribers, and consumers. Mobile devices can solidify communication within your company among employees and with customers. These portable and powerful tools can provide your team with the connectivity and functionality to be on call or accessible beyond office or store walls. In many local businesses, tablets are used with apps like Square to provide on-the-spot point-of-sale systems to process credit card transactions almost instantaneously. Stores like Nordstrom Rack provide mobile devices to employees on the retail floor that can ring up customers who want to avoid the check-out line. Talk about efficiency (hello, cost savings) and customer service.
In fact, mobile devices may be changing how and where businesses do their work. Because of apps like social media management tools, communication functions like email and text message campaigns, social media managers and sales representatives can work remotely while fully functioning with calendar appointment reminders and confirmations for clients. Synching mobile apps and software to computers enables companies to easily share and update data.
A Backup Service. Reduce risks of data loss with a secure backup service. Protect the irreplaceable files on which your business operations depend. Companies lose information every day to theft, virus, hardware issue, and human error, so having a secure back up system isn’t optional.
An online backup service provider such as Dropbox keeps your information safe in the cloud and allows employees and even partners to safely share, store, and organize files. If your local backup system fails but you use another backup service, your data will be easily retrievable. Use the web-based service along with saving data to your local network to provide additional level of data protection.
Make sure the backup service you choose can easily synch and be accessible across devices so you can access whatever you need whenever you need it and look for a feature to access files offline if you’re in an area that has a poor internet connection or it temporarily goes down while you’re in a meeting.
Video Conferencing Software. Video conferencing software is available in cloud-based and downloadable forms. Even though it seems we rely so much on our mobile phones and computer screens, reducing face-to-face contact, sometimes you can’t be in the same time or place as a partner, potential client, or team member. Video conferencing services are affordable and enable you to see and hear the person (or people) you are meeting with virtually to make the meeting more personal. You’ll need a webcam and internet service to effectively host meetings, but even many computers come with cameras built in.
There are free and low-cost tools available like Skype and Google+ Hangouts (which allow video conferencing for up to 10 people for free), but having a comprehensive video conferencing service available for your employees can ensure you have the ability to type feedback to participants on the screen, see who’s joined the conference, share your computer screen for demonstration, and often record the meeting for future reference or those who are absent.
Being able to meet anytime, anywhere, while building and maintaining personal business relationships can save your company major travel costs and increase convenience and efficiency.
CRM Software. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System gives your business an in-depth look at your customer base. A CRM service could be thought of as a sales management tool since most enable you to collect and organize information about prospects after their initial interactions with your company and follow them through the sales process, while making sure to uphold a strong relationship with them once they become a customer to create loyalty and long-term profitability.
Look for a CRM service that fits your company’s client volume, accommodates growth, is easy to use for employees who will be using it, fits your budget, and provides you with the detailed information and statistics to help you make sharp business decisions.
Social Media Automation Tool. Social media is now a key component of marketing plans for most companies. But, social media is always running, but with so much information being shared around the clock, you can’t possibly catch every Tweet or Facebook post that may be valuable to your business or be available at the best moment to share a post. Find a social media tool that is easy to use, accessible on mobile devices in addition to the web, enables you to search for relevant posts, schedule updates, and tie accounts together when it makes sense so you can post once for distribution to multiple channels. If you can find a social media management tool that has all of these features and provides analytics to measure and optimize your campaigns, all the better. Many services only have some of the features we recommend, so it may make sense to use several services to create, evaluate, and optimize strong social campaigns.
Technology for business is an industry that changes so rapidly, new must-have tools spring up often, but may take time to gain traction. Stay on an even playing field with other businesses who depend on these tools to not only keep your businesses running, but to grow your business in the most efficient, profitable, and collaborative way possible.
About the author: Christy Birmingham is a well-respected freelance writer with years of experience covering the technology realm. When she’s not writing about tech, you can find her reviewing InterCall’s services or staying in touch on her Google+ account.