Guest post by Aditya Rao, Founder at LocalOye.com – an online platform to find amazing venues (like Banquets , Conference Centers, Team Outings, Reception Halls, Meeting Rooms, Party Places, etc.) for your events.
Doing a B2C startup comes with its set of unique challenges when it comes to communications. Because most of the times (especially in marketplaces/aggregators) you have at least two very important stakeholders in the business operations. And then top it up with a growing mountain of internal operations and communications! Until 15 days after launch, we (and I am guessing most growing startups) did not feel the pinch of communications overload, but as traction starts increasing, it can become quite a task to streamline everything.
To truly understand the industry, we wanted to make sure that we stay close to our stakeholders and do everything manually initially – get enquiries from venue seekers via phone and google forms; and talk with venue managers over the phone and in person. Soon, our team was one big mess of phone calls, SMSes and manual report generation. The time had come to automate things, and Exotel (thank god!) was one of the most important backbones of this process. For smooth internal operations and communications to external stakeholders, I think keeping the following points in mind should help anyone who is at the same stage as us:
- Start with everything manual, and slowly automate
Google forms, pen-paper and manual phone calls are your best friends in the initial days. But you have to identify your biggest bottlenecks and start automating them. For us, it was the notification to venue managers that someone wants to book their venue. We automated that by giving each venue a unique number and notifying them via automated SMSes. The next step for us in this regards is our soon to happen deployment of the venue availability feature by SMS and IVR.
- Make sure you can MEASURE EVERYTHING
Most important. If you can’t measure it, might as well not do it at all. We pull in our daily metrics from the Exotel API into a condensed table. Every morning, we spend 2 minutes seeing which notifications are working better, what needs to be optimised, how is every venue performing, how many leads are we sending, how many new venue seekers, etc.
- The cloud is your best friend
When we realised that venue manager’s numbers need to be shared with the entire team – we thought of getting cheap Android phones and then saving the numbers on the same Google account (oh, the horror!). The best way to do this is to build your own backend Android app which syncs with the CRM database. Our hack – we run a cron job to generate a CSV with fields like Venue Name, Venue Managers name, Mobile Name and upload that into Google Contacts section so that Android contacts get synced every day. The simplest hack is to keep a running list of this database in a doc on your phone.
- Try to keep one single number for everything
This is pretty important too – if not one number, at least have one for each stakeholder. Don’t let them go through the pain of remembering and saving numbers of your different team members. Exotel was a godsend in this regards!
- Automate and broaden your notifications
I can not stress enough on the importance of transparent operations and status notifications in keeping customers happy. We give venue managers complete flexibility on this, but most of them end up opting in for every kind of real-time SMS notification – new lead, venue shortlisting, missed calls, weekly reports, the status of a lead, etc. Building these transactional messages will ensure that you can reach out to DND numbers too.
What do you think? Did you go through a similar process or had any experiences/tips that you would want add here! Let me know in the comments 🙂