Getting back to a customer often means digging through your CRM, meeting notes, and project management apps — not to mention your inbox — for the updates you need. You lose time searching for the latest information, and your customers are left waiting.
That’s why Front integrations bring all the context you need to respond directly into your inbox. It’s quick and easy to access the tools you rely on and make real-time updates to keep your team in the loop:
Front connects with dozens of tools to help you get more done, right from your inbox. Here are some of our customers’ favorites for a little inspiration!
📇 CRMs like Salesforce, Pipedrive, and HubSpot
Log activities and update opportunities without switching between tools. Check deal status, account history, and more, directly in your inbox. Add tasks, notes, or edit account information directly from Front to keep your team — and your pipeline reports — 100% up to date.
💡 Available on Pro and Platform plans
🛠 Project management apps like JIRA, Asana, Trello and GitHub
Easily share feedback, feature requests, and bug reports with your technical team without leaving your inbox. When you create or update tasks from any message, the task will be linked to the message like a tag for one-click access. When you close out that task in your tracking tool, any linked messages re-open automatically for follow up, so it’s easy to close the loop with customers.
💡 Available on Plus, Pro, and Platform plans
⚡️ Zapier to supercharge workflows across apps
Connect Front to hundreds of other software tools with plug-and-play Zaps. They can help you save time on repetitive workflows or get data where you need it. You can save attachment files to Dropbox automatically, create new Google Spreadsheet rows from Front messages, automatically reply to Typeform survey responses, and more.
💡 Available on Pro and Platform plans
⚙️ Custom plugins for in-house tools
Need access to data from custom backend systems, databases, or an in-house CRM? Front’s open API makes it easy to develop a custom integration to view customer purchase history, check account status in your backend, or make order changes in real time. We’ve got a few tips for building a Front plugin to help you get started!
💡 Available on Plus, Pro, and Platform plans
Front integrations turn your inbox into your go-to platform for getting work done. And it's only just begun. There are several AI tools that you can implement on top of Front to analyze your email responses, build bots, automate tasks, and more. Business email is getting smarter — and we think that's a great thing.
Today’s work is collaborative. Whether it’s replying to customers, selling to prospects, or managing projects, almost everything we do involves our team. From Google Docs, to Slack, Asana, Trello, and more, the tools teams rely on today make it easy for teams to work together, too — except for one.
Traditionally, replying to email is a solo activity, and it’s holding teams back.
In new research by IDC, Research Director Wayne Kurtzman digs into the challenges that traditional email brings to businesses. His findings? The traditional way of managing email is causing unnecessary angst — and ultimately lost productivity.
Wayne’s study shares the solution that will replace traditional email as we know it, empowering businesses to reach a new level of productivity: collaborative email.
With collaborative email, you have the ability to communicate with your team in your inbox in ways you never could before. You can leave internal comments directly on emails, and edit emails together like Google Docs. You can assign emails to teammates to decide who will follow up. Rather than manage messages like internal chat, social media, SMS text in other windows, you’ll manage them together in one platform. And for Salesforce, JIRA, Asana, or any other app you rely on to get work done, you’ll be able to access and edit it all, right in your inbox.
Read the full IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Front, The Value of Collaborative Email: Efficient, Team Focused.
In a new IDC study, Research Director Wayne Kurtzman dug into email, the unsung hero of the working world that’s managed to go years without seeing innovation. With collaboration tools exploding in popularity in the 21st century, why has email remained relatively unchanged since its humble beginnings in the 1970s?
In this Q&A session, Wayne explains why traditional email is holding us back — and how collaborative email is the solution that will power the next generation of productivity for businesses.
Is email still a business's most valuable communication tool?
Wayne Kurtzman: Email remains the single most prolific business tool in the enterprise, but no longer the most productive one. Now, there are hundreds of thousands of applications that will make your work life better with messaging and collaboration, but unfortunately, we are still shackled to email. Email – we love you, now change. Please.
Why are businesses accept traditional email as the status quo?
WK: Because they don’t know that anything different exists. Customers, partners, vendors, anyone outside the company is undoubtedly going to have an email address, therefore it’s the most efficient way to communicate with the outside world. So, email must be used. Most businesses just deal with the inefficiencies of traditional email because they think it’s necessary. There are other ways, some of which we share in this new IDC study.
What's wrong with email today?
WK: Email was great to share ideas between two people, but it got messy when we started bringing teams together. Originally, teams were meant to collaborate using a different group application, but email was the killer app. Workarounds were created almost 40 years ago so groups could share inboxes, and it was better, but it still didn't work well for groups. It is still hard to mentally remember which email belongs with another. It is still nearly impossible to see if another team member is acting on the need, and none of us know what's going on without creating more email, and trying to remember everyone in the thread. Using email actually creates more email.
What are businesses missing out on by continuing to use traditional email?
WK: Email could and should become collaborative and simpler. It needs to move from its individual inbox origins and become team centric. Ideally, you could have a conversation around a given email, which starts the topic. It could be a customer request, a project – literally anything. Conversations should be kept with the original asset (email) and the team can build on that goal together. It would be easy to allow the participation of subject matter experts and stakeholders to work together, define accountability, keep everyone on the same page, and measure results.
This removes the need for follow-up emails. It could integrate with other systems to remove duplicate steps. Teams with legacy email are missing out on time savings, improved employee and customer experiences, faster and more accurate work, cross-functional learning, and greater corporate governance.
What are the benefits businesses see from collaboration tools?
WK: IDC research shows the most common benefits of collaboration are increased group productivity, saving time, personal productivity, and faster time to market and execute projects.
As the average mobile device owner continues to grow even more tech savvy, collaboration is more natural to virtually every member of the workforce. IDC research shows 56% of all collaboration projects start as ad hoc projects. They recognize the need to work smarter. Providing corporate governance and empowering greater productivity while decreasing time to results is a powerful incentive.
What benefits does collaborative email bring to businesses?
WK: Collaborative email brings many benefits to businesses. It makes it easy to loop in subject-matter experts and stakeholders to work together. It creates accountability, keeps everyone on the same page, and enables you to measure results.
Collaborative email saves time, enables people to work faster, and ensures greater accuracy. It improves both the employee and customer experience. Don't be afraid of modernizing email. Rather be afraid of not modernizing email – or worse, seeing a competitor do it first.
Whether you’re waiting on a ride, scheduling an appointment, or just getting a heads up that your pizza delivery is running late, it feels good to be kept in the loop.
With SMS texting, businesses can give customers that sense of reassurance, letting them know exactly what to expect, keeping them updated in real-time, and making them feel confident that everything is handled.
Taking examples from Lyft, Dell, Nordstrom, and more, here are 10 creative uses of SMS texting for business communication. These teams rely on Twilio SMS to communicate with customers in real time and build their trust.
1. Automated customer communications
“Your ride is arriving soon. Please head to the pickup location,” is a text sent thousands of times a day by ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Luckily, they’re using automated SMS texting, not sending each one manually.
When riders call a Lyft, they get notified when the drive accepts a request, arrives at the pickup location, or when a ride gets cancelled. They also communicate with drivers using SMS. When a driver is out of service, they can text drivers to ask if their still driving, even if their not on the map — which helps them keeps an accurate count of drivers on the road.
And when you get a text from your Lyft driver? Thanks to masked Twilio numbers, that's a Twilio phone number they're using, not a real one. Using these masked numbers allows Lyft to open a line of communication between you and the driver while keeping your numbers confidential.
2. Order confirmation and delivery updates
Buying a computer is a big investment — and for many people, purchasing one online can get flagged by your credit card company as fraud, which puts your purchase on hold. For Dell, this meant days of trying to contact customers that their order didn’t go through, leaving voicemails, and sometimes losing the sale to a frustrated customer.
The Dell team now uses SMS texting to instantly notify customers of the status of their orders. If a purchase is flagged, customers know right away and can resolve the issue. The Dell team isn’t left scrambling to resolve payment issues, and customers feel confident when they’re making a big purchase. During hectic shopping times like Black Friday, they send text notifications for every purchase, which help resolve support questions before they’re asked and make their service shine above the rest.
3. On-demand counseling & advice
Empower Work has used SMS texting to build the first confidential crisis line for workers. Whether you’re asking for a raise or dealing with harassment, you can text Empower Work for help. Their team of trained volunteers is on standby to give guidance and work through problems in real time — which wouldn’t be possible without SMS texting that keeps phone numbers confidential to respect privacy.
4. Appointment reminders
Prompt and thorough treatment for every patient is the number one priority for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. With more than 400,000 patients a year, appointment no-shows were a problem. They prevented patients from getting proper care and cost the hospital tens of millions of dollars a year.
Arkansas Children’s Hospital started using Twilio SMS and Twilio Voice to proactively remind patients of upcoming appointments. Using Twilio SMS API, they allow customers to opt in to voice reminders when they book an appointment. Patients can confirm or schedule appointments with a simple “yes” or “no” response, so it’s easy for them to schedule, cancel, and get the care they need.
5. Connecting landlords and tenants
OpenRent is an online property rental service in the UK. They cut out the letting agent in the home rental process, so tenants can work directly with landlords. Because searching for a rental requires being out and about viewing and showing homes, SMS text is the perfect communication channel.
When tenants submit an inquiry, OpenRent uses SMS text to alert landlords right away. Viewings for the home are arranged over text — quick, easy, and on-the-go. If the tenant wants to rent the apartment, the landlord can take it off the market by simply texting back. In a single month, they manage 120,000 rental inquiries, and send more than 200,000 texts every month.
6. Workforce dispatch
What happens when a Coke vending machine needs a repair? Coca-Cola Enterprises, one of the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottlers, manufactures and distributes millions of drinks each year and manages repairs more than 600,000 machines across Europe. When a machine breaks down, they use SMS texting to dispatch technicians as quickly as possible.
With Twilio SMS built into their Salesforce field management system, their agents can click “Send SMS” button to instantly text a technician about an urgent repair. Their SMS history is saved, so if a recurring issue happens, technicians can see the texts about previous issues.
7. Collecting surveys or feedback
Salesforce hosts a larger-than-life conference called Dreamforce each year. Part of the event is the Appy Awards, where they celebrate the year’s best apps. In 2009, they decided to create an “audience choice” award, Best Partner App. They decided to use SMS text to gather votes. In a matter of hours, Salesforce used Twilio’s API to whip up a voting system that connected directly to their app. They collected 19,000 survey responses and tallied the results in real time.
8. Personal shopping experiences
Ever been searching for a specific item, like shoes or a coat, and had a sales associate text you all the available options? You can do that with Nordstrom’s NEXT program, powered by Twilio's SMS texting.
“We’re able to rapidly respond to our customers’ expectations, and meet their needs both now and in the future.” – JB Brown, Senior Director of Mobile App Delivery at Nordstrom
After surveying their customers and finding that one-third of them prefer texting, Nordstrom started using Twilio SMS to connect their sales team with shoppers. NEXT allows them to let customers know of new arrivals, fill them in on upcoming sales and events, and send photos of merchandise when customers are looking for something special. By making it simple for customers to find and hear about items they’re looking for, Nordstrom has been able to increase in-store sales.
9. Closing deals
Fast, clear communication is critical when people are relying on you for eyesight. LensDirect, an online marketplace for discount contact lenses, takes advantage of SMS texting to help customers get the right prescriptions, right when they need them.
Customers can shoot a text to 1-800-LENS-111 to get 24/7 guidance when they’re buying lenses or renewing their prescription. After implementing SMS texting, they saw a 1000 percent increase in orders on their site, and they’re able to get thousands of people lenses on time each month.
10. Billing alerts
When you’ve already paid for parking, nothing is worse than running out of time and getting a ticket. PayByPhone uses time-sensitive SMS texting notifications to help prevent that frustrating experience. They send you a text 5 minutes before your meter expires to give you a heads up. Helping customers avoid fines, they now send more than 3 million alert texts a month.
Your customers want to hear from you
How often do you leave texts just sitting on your phone, unread?
Probably not often.
Texting has a 98 percent open rate. Compared to any other communication channel, it’s the easiest, fastest way to communicate a quick message to customers. So long as you’re using it tastefully — making your service readily available to customers when they want and need it most — they’ll be thankful that you’re making it easy to stay in the loop, get in touch with you, and find what they need.
Watch our webinar 5 ways to enhance customer experiences to hear SMS strategies and tips from experts at Front, Twilio, and Veritext:
What does your employee David want to do with his career in 10 years? What does he like least about his job? And what’s his Siamese cat’s name?
These are all topics that you might be able to answer after a successful one-on-one meeting with David.
Notorious for either being absolutely wonderful, or an awkward waste of time, successful one-on-ones take work. You have to be able to drive the right balance of professional and personal conversation, deliver a combination of criticism and kudos, and decide when it’s time to stop everything and listen.
Read on to learn the benefits of one-on-one meetings, get tips for how to run them successfully, and download one-on-one templates to make your meetings more effective.
What are the benefits of one-on-one meetings?
Many business leaders have sung the praises of the one-on-one meeting. Intel’s Co-founder and former CEO Andy Grove said they can bring managers a 10x return on investment if they’re done correctly. Our CEO at Front Mathilde Collin agrees, saying her one-on-ones are her most impactful meetings each week. So what exactly is it about a well-run one-on-one that is so beneficial to employees, leaders, and businesses overall?
Increasing business alignment
The most obvious benefit of one-on-one meetings is that managers and employees get designated time to align towards larger business goals. Managers can get insight into the work, successes, and challenges their employees are encountering throughout the week. Employees can ask questions to get guidance and stay on track with their goals.
Building personal connections
Mike Robbins, author of Bring Your Whole Self to Work, argues that authenticity and recognition are tightly connected in the workplace.
"…for us to connect with people in an authentic way, we have to see and acknowledge who they are as humans, not just what they do as workers,” Robbins said in a Forbes interview.
One-on-one meetings provide an outlet for employees to open up and show their whole selves at the office. Managers can understand what's going on in their personal lives and how that might impact their work, and employees can feel comfortable to share personal topics in a setting that's appropriate.
Likewise, managers can share what's going on in their lives outside of work. With the full picture of the person you're working with, you can both feel more comfortable and form a closer bond that goes beyond, "What's the status on this project, Shannon?"
Bringing meaning and happiness to work
Delivering happiness is no longer enough for today's employees. Instead, people are also seeking to find meaning in their work to feel fulfilled. One-on-one meetings help employees find meaning in their work by constantly connecting everyday tasks with a broader mission.
Mathilde argues that having an understanding of how you're contributing to a bigger cause makes employees happier and helps boost employee engagement: "I see this at Front where employees credit their high engagement with caring about our mission and understanding how their work impacts that mission."
Boosting employee retention
With increased employee engagement comes increased retention. In other words, if your team understands how their work impacts your business, it's likely that they'll be happier and want to continue working at your company. Cutting down on employee turnover helps cultivate company culture, boosts morale, and benefits your bottom line because you're avoiding the high costs of hiring new employees.
How to run a successful and effective one-on-one meeting
People spend from 35 to 50 percent of their time at work in meetings. How can you run one-on-ones that get straight into meaningful topics? Below are some of the guidelines that managers at Front follow:
1. Religiously make the time
This is your employee’s time for access to management and leadership to discuss their present and future with the company. It’s a time to build trust, confidence, and show your investment in them. If one of you can’t attend, find another time — don’t just cancel.
2. Create a cadence and stick to it
Make sure your one-on-ones are scheduled, recurring calendar events, and expect others to plan around them. Reserve enough time to have a serious discussion, anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, or a full hour if you need it. At Front, we like to do a weekly one-on-one and then a monthly check-in. Think about what your employees need, and schedule accordingly.
3. Treat people as individuals
Not every approach works with everyone. Be prepared to adapt your own style to what will work with your employee. Not everyone needs the same frequency. Not everyone receives feedback in the same way. Not everyone plans their time in the same way. Don’t just force your team to work under your preferred standards — talk about your preferences in your first one-on-one (get a First one-on-one template) and adapt your meetings so that it’s productive for both of you.
4. Pick a comfortable location
Create a welcoming environment where you can have a private conversation and where your employee can feel safe to open up. Ask what suits them — perhaps it’s in your office, a meeting room, over coffee, or even outside for a walk. Once again, it won’t be the same for everyone, so let your employee choose. Some leaders like to choose location before each meeting depending on what tools you need. If you need a whiteboard to jot down ideas or map things out, grab a meeting room. If you’re only chatting, then maybe a walk is all you need.
5. Remove distractions
Close your laptop, turn off your monitor and put away your phone. If your eyes are checking the clock or for new messages rather than engaging in the conversation, how important do you think that makes your employee feel? Don’t invite others to join in without your employee’s explicit permission. If you use a laptop for notes, be explicit about it and close all your other tabs.
6. It's all about your employee
Let the employee set the agenda, but do reserve time for your own follow ups or coaching. Prioritize the top items and discuss the employee first. This time is about your employee’s needs, growth, and career. If they’re having trouble, now is your designated time to help solve it, or to set them up with resources that can get them moving in the right direction. If you have agenda items to discuss, leave time for them at the end.
7. Create accountability and momentum
Document conversation highlights and share it with them using whatever note-taking system works for you — we included our one-on-one templates in Google Docs. Capture action items and set owners and dates. When you coach your employee on something, have them take notes to summarize it and reference it later. Even a simple recap email keeps you both aligned and accountable, and eliminates recall issues around prior conversations.
8. Listen actively
This is important. Effective communication is part of building a strong and trusting relationship. Be sure that you are listening — and chances are, you’ll be listening much more than you’re talking! Always ask open questions like “How can I help you?” “How are you feeling about...”, and “What can I do to unblock you?” That way your employee has the floor and a simple “yes” or “no” answer won’t suffice.
9. Solicit feedback about yourself as well
What can you do better to help them? How could you manage them better? Fight to get honest feedback. Getting cynical and negative feedback is okay, and it’s also a good opportunity to emphasize that “being skeptical is fine, but being cynical is limiting.” Give thanks profusely for all feedback.
10. Embrace the awkwardness
Nothing ground-breaking comes from boring conversations. It’s highly likely that your one-on-ones will be awkward – maybe just for the first one, maybe every single time. But nothing amazing gets accomplished with an easy conversation. So embrace the awkward. It means that you’re working through tough issues, touching on important subjects, and forming a closer bond that can only be achieved by an awkward situation.
One-on-ones are your designated time for helping employees grow. As a leader, you can find your most rewarding moments during these sessions. It’s your time to show employees that you’re invested and you care – and often, this can mean the world to them.
One-on-one meeting questions
What should you ask your employee in a one-on-one meeting? And on the flip side, as an employee, what should you ask your manager? Pick a few of these questions to get started:
How are you?
What’s the progress on items from last week?
How can I help you with these?
What can I do better?
How is our 1:1 working for you?
How is the team is doing?
How can we make things better?
How can I help with anything?
In the past month, what have you been happy about?
In the past month, what have you been less happy about?
Any questions for me?
How do you feel about your goals for this quarter?
Any feedback for me?
How could I be a better manager for you?
What can I do to make your professional life better?
What’s the biggest problem of our organization?
What don’t you like about our product?
What would you like to improve next quarter?
What would you like to achieve by the end of the year?
What would you like to learn?
How is your team doing?
What would you like to be better at / in which areas would you like to grow?
After X+ month/years at Front, how do you feel overall?
If you were me, what would you do differently?
What are the things you’ve done since you joined you’re the most proud about?
Is there anything I could do to invest more in your growth?
In the next month, what would you like to do differently from last month?
What’s the split of your time today between X/Y/Z? What would you like to spend more/less time on?
Guru Empower 2019 was jam-packed with learning. With presentations from leaders of customer-facing teams, entrepreneurs, and even an NBA basketball star, this two-day conference taught us many lessons about knowledge sharing, building a business, and of course, individual empowerment.
A common thread that ran through almost every conversation was the importance of framing business decisions around customers. We learned a lot from customer success experts at Autodesk, Looker, Brooklinen, and more (including our own at Front!), who shared personal experiences, strategies, and philosophies from their time leading customer-facing teams. Below are a few takeaways that really resonated with us.
1. Always try to understand where you can help
Margaret Rosas is VP of Customer Care at Looker, one of the fastest-growing SaaS teams of the decade. In her talk on building a support team that "doesn't suck", she explained how focusing on company culture early on has propelled Looker’s customer service forward. A key value they emphasize at Looker?
One way the Looker team encourages a culture of helpfulness is their “kitchen table” — a designated place for questions. Teammates can opt to sit at the table at any time, and when you do, you know you’re either there to ask questions or answer them. No question is a dumb one.
When you’ve built a team that constantly seeks new knowledge and is always happy to offer knowledge to others, that sentiment shines through in your customer experience.
2. Your people are part of your product
In his opening keynote, Guru CEO and Co-founder Rick Nucci explained how investing in your team and empowering individuals is critical to success. In a world that’s increasingly automated — and as a result, lacking personal connections — a single meaningful conversation can make a world of difference for your customers.
As people question whether customer service roles will be automated away in years to come, several leaders at Guru Empower offered a different perspective. Emergence Capital Partner Jake Saper stressed that automation makes investing in your people more important than ever. He urged CX leaders to constantly encourage creativity and empathy in their teams — because humans always beat robots in those areas.
3. Think “human-to-human” not “one-to-many"
Camille E. Acey, Head of Customer Success at Nylas, spoke in the panel Listening at Scale. While many customer service leaders think about scaling as serving “one-to-many,” Camille argues it’s better to just think, “How can we continue to serve customers human-to-human as we grow?” She noted three areas customer success teams should focus on:
Synthesis: Your team should remember that every customer’s voice matters when they’re sharing feedback with the company.
Priority: In your conversations with customers, always think about which needs will be most impactful for them — and ask. That’s the best way to help your team prioritize.
Delivery: Let customers know what you’re delivering and why. Even if you’ve decided not to deliver exactly what they want.
4. Never underestimate organization
Our own Head of Customer Success at Front Sarah Sheikh noted that being organized is absolutely critical for listening to customers at scale.
As her team of <15 at Front has scaled to serve more than 5,000 businesses, organization has proven to be the most powerful tool for customer success. When you’re managing product feedback, support questions, and feature requests as your team grows, keeping customer feedback organized brings many benefits:
Your team can reference it easily, so they can actually use it to improve customer experience in everyday interactions.
You canmake the most of customer feedback by collecting data over time to glean actionable insights — either for building your product or giving more specific or tailored customer service.
CX is sharing the customer’s story with your company
In a fireside chat about customer experience, CX Manager Caroline Nolan from Brooklinen left us with a point that really hit home: the role of customer success is not only to enhance your customers’ experience with your product, but also to surface the voices of your customers to the rest of your team. When your entire team is armed with the knowledge of what your customers need and want, you’re all able to make better decisions to help them succeed.
Heads of Customer Success at Front and Guru, Sarah Sheikh and Hillary Curran, swapped their top tips for making customers happy in a live webinar. Listen in to hear their favorite CX initiatives: