Boost Your Digital Communication

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For the time being, customers are reluctant to engage retailers face-to-face, which has forced stores to provide curbside pickup, shipping options and even free, local delivery.

Mallory Bjekich-Wachowski, retail operations manager at DesRochers Backyard Pools and Spas in Shorewood, Ill., says her company has done all of the above. But her secret weapon during this uncertain time has been Podium, an interaction management platform that streamlines communication, helping businesses to earn more leads, repeat customers and do more as a team. “I don’t really know how I’d be selling the things I’m selling without Podium,” says Bjekich-Wachowski, “especially now [in the pandemic].”

With a top flight digital interaction program, product sales can be done virtually from start to finish without a need to visit showrooms.

PICK A PLATFORM

Val Fowler, a regional sales manager at Podium, compares such software to Grand Central Station. Every lead from Google, Facebook messenger, Instagram and more come to the same easy-to-use inbox, so dealers can manage messages all from one platform. “The customer is choosing how they want to communicate, and this allows the customer to do all of their business in that way,” says Fowler.

From the message inbox, dealers can answer questions, schedule appointments, send pictures and videos and take payments. They can choose to give each interaction a personal response or use automated messages for more routine questions.

“And if businesses only want certain employees to be able to see certain messages, they can customize that accordingly,” says Fowler. “Or if they want everyone to see everything, that’s an option, too.” Dealers can also hand off conversations to the appropriate team member and communicate with staff via team chat, either in custom groups or direct messages, he says.

DesRochers Backyard Pools and Spas implemented the system — it took three days to completely set up — in the winter, which meant the business was already making some sales virtually before the stay-at-home ordinances were put in place. Since the pandemic hit, virtual sales have significantly increased, and Bjekich-Wachowski has even sold several hot tubs using digital interactions alone.

“One gentleman said it could not have been a better time to purchase a hot tub and sent us pictures of him and his family using it,” says BjekichWachowski. “I never laid eyes on this customer.”

ONLINE WEBCHAT

Like other communication programs, Podium offers webchat, which starts as a simple button on the company’s website, and then immediately transfers the conversation over to text. If a repeat customer uses the webchat option, the software can recognize that same contact and pull up past conversations.

Bjekich-Wachowski is confident the webchat option is also a great tool to reach millennial customers. “When you have a communication that millennials prefer, like texting, it’s easier for them to shop with you,” she says. “Millennials are going to be buying big ticket items if they aren’t already.”

Bjekich-Wachowski has even received messages under the webchat option in the middle of the night. “It’s important to remember some people are on different schedules,” she says. “This way, the customer gets a live response as soon as someone is available.”

REVIEWS AND FEEDBACK

Within 30 seconds of the customer completing their sales experience, they receive a message with a link to leave the business a review. “Helping pool and spa retailers get chosen and get found because of clear, obvious reviews is important,” says Fowler.

Podium users report an average of 54 new reviews in the first three months of using the platform and a 73% improvement in local Search Engine Optimization. “We saw a huge spike in Google reviews,” says BjekichWachowski.

And with digital feedback tools, retailers can get feedback immediately, so they’re able to double down on what’s working well and quickly fix what isn’t.

“Even after things go back to normal after the pandemic, I still believe customers are going to be asking for a virtual experience,” says Fowler.

As for Bjekich-Wachowski, she says digital interaction is crucial to retailers, especially in the post-COVID retail environment. “There’s a huge channel of communication that you’re not offering customers if you don’t have a program like this one,” she says.

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