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Startup Automates SMB Customer Engagement

OneReach gives small and midsize businesses a simple way to set up automated voice, SMS, and email customer messaging--no technical skill needed.

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OneReach this week took the wraps off its cloud-based platform for automating customer communications while leaving "tech savvy" out of the requirements.

The startup's service, intended primarily for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) looking to deploy a multichannel communications system with no IT development or support, borrows from marketing automation, unified communications, and email platforms--yet doesn't quite fit any of those categories. OneReach CEO Rich Weborg said that's a product of not wanting to limit the platform for sales and marketing, but to include customer support and other back-office functions.

"It's an operational tool as well," Weborg said in an interview. "Our focus is providing smaller businesses with the ability to automate some of these capabilities that they would [otherwise] do manually. Our desire here is to make it in a way that they can do it themselves."

The application is geared largely around automating inbound and outbound voice and SMS communications, as well as outbound email. Flow Builder and Campaign Manager enable rules-based messaging for a wide range of customer interaction scenarios, all in a drag-and-drop interface. There's a Choose Your Own Adventure element in how messages are triggered based on if/then variables.

[ Social and mobile are among 4 Tech Trends For SMBs In 2012. ]

The use cases are largely up to the marketer's imagination, but a simple example: Those "Text [word] to [number]" campaigns that proliferate modern marketing communications. That's easily facilitated and can then trigger a text message response, followed by a longer-term messaging campaign (provided the end user doesn't opt out) across voice and email, too.

The apparent shortcoming, at least for now, is that the platform can't handle inbound customer email--that will have to be handled separately and can't trigger additional automated messages.

OneReach boasts fairly rich analytics and reporting for measuring results. But SMBs with at least a modicum of tech know-how can do a bit more--and perhaps a whole lot more if they're dealing with large amounts of lead and customer data across multiple systems. OneReach can push or pull data to and from any other application with an available API. So you can integrate data from an order-management system into the OneReach interface, for example, or send OneReach data out to your business intelligence (BI) platform.

"We can query pretty much any system that has [an] API or even a website associated with it and pull that into the flow," Weborg said. So you might set it up, for example, to query a backend ordering system to then spit back an order status to a customer request.

On the social front, OneReach appears particularly well-suited for the likes of Twitter, in that it will distribute text, but not more robust content like a full-blown Facebook landing page. As with its data integration capabilities, OneReach will play nice with any social site with an API--so long as you want to push text-only content.

"We can turn a voice call or SMS into a tweet," Weborg said. "Going back to our data source concept, as long as there's an API available we can set it up, configure it, and have it available for that small business to do messaging with."

According to our Outlook 2012 Survey, IT should expect soaring demand but cautious hiring as companies use technology to try to get closer to customers. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: Inside Windows Server 8. (Free registration required.)

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