While many small business owners and entrepreneurs might not yet know what “APIs” stands for, the good news is that they don’t have to be developers to use these application programming interfaces and bring value to their companies.
With APIs, projects are completed faster and operations are more efficient, meaning that this technology is quickly revolutionizing the business world. As APIs allow software across multiple platforms to “speak the same language,” integrations that once took a team of developers months can now be done in a matter of hours. The APIs expose those methods to a public interface, and because there’s no need to build systems from scratch, this technology helps small businesses and entrepreneurs remain viable and even grow in an increasingly technological marketplace.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs need to capitalize on this technology, particularly for their customer service and communication efforts. Doing so, they’ll not only strengthen their ties to the marketplace, but they’ll also see improved customer relationships.
How APIs Enhance Communication
APIs represent a set of methods that allows different software components to communicate and build upon one another. For example, a company like Facebook or Microsoft offers an API so that developers and others can programmatically extract or push information from or to Facebook using the API’s standardized methods, all while collecting a fee for that service. As of 2015, in fact, Expedia’s API generated 90 percent of its income.
Fortunately, small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have to be developers to use APIs and bolster their customer outreach. In fact, our company has seen the benefits of this technology firsthand.
One of these benefits is a more seamless communication system. By lowering the barriers to communication and making things “just work” together, APIs create more streamlined information exchange. Particularly for small business owners and entrepreneurs who don’t have the time or capital to invest in manual communication or building communication technologies from scratch, APIs allow these companies to work faster and better.
For example, an alarm system developer who needs a VoIP line to allow for audio communication between the user and the monitoring center could use the APIs instead of having to invent one. That would allow the company to easily and consistently perform their other, more common tasks — such as creating accounts, onboarding a new VoIP end point, and assigning a phone number — while still being able to connect everything and facilitate the flow from the number to the device. Most importantly, all of that is done without having to consult external technicians or developers.
Beyond seamlessness, APIs enhance communication security, because once they’re established, refinements and moderations to them can continue to address evolving security issues.
In fact, our company is currently helping doctors maintain Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Transport Layer Security/Secure Real-time Transport Protocol compliance to ensure customer privacy in the text-messaging sphere. In order to reduce liability, doctors need to make sure that auto-texted responses to patients are both appropriate and confidential. But because text-messaging responders are expensive, our company uses the APIs and $5-per-month cloud server to provide these doctors with the same level of secure service at a nominal cost.
3 Steps to Effectively Using APIs
The above examples illustrate the widespread use of APIs for communication and further underscore that small businesses need to take advantage of these opportunities, because when it comes to managing the customer-client relationship, these efficiencies allow them to react quickly to customer needs. Here are three strategies small business owners and entrepreneurs can follow to effectively implement APIs:
1. Know your market
With more than 18,395 available APIs in the ProgrammableWeb’s database and the disparate quality of them, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to pick the “best one.” In order to do so, make sure you understand not only your company’s needs but also where your customers are and what they need so that you can most efficiently reach them.
For instance, some APIs will integrate better with international clients, such as those that support more than just U.S. telephone numbers. If your company operates or wants to operate geographically outside of the U.S. through telephone service or with phone numbers, then it’s essential to utilize APIs that can support that. Beyond geography, some of the most useful APIs are now starting to mirror individuated customer needs and specific moments on the customer journey, all of which will dictate which APIs you choose.
2. Balance selectivity with your timetable
Shop around for the best deal, but don’t wait so long that the APIs and your need for them become obsolete before you launch them. APIs are constantly evolving, and it’s tempting to delay purchasing because of expenses or because “the perfect one” hasn’t come along.
Take customer relationship management software in the B2B sphere, for example. As leads, developing leads into sales, and overall customer relationships are the lifeblood of every B2B company, businesses that integrate phones and CRM can better track leads, identify trends, refine tactics, and ensure greater customer satisfaction. CRM results in a 300 percent improvement in conversion rates and 74 percent better customer relations overall. And best of all? Using CRM saves companies money — from lead cost to customer service labor to marketing budgets.
3. Don’t assume APIs aren’t for you
Many small business owners and entrepreneurs may hesitate to adopt APIs because their systems are working adequately enough without them. But just because you’ve never needed this technology doesn’t mean APIs couldn’t fit effectively into your existing operations and even bolster them.
Especially for entrepreneurs, APIs can transform menial operations. For example, plumbers or other home-repair specialists who receive daily calls and voicemails can use APIs to provide a voicemail-to-text-response, thus freeing up necessary time for those workers. APIs can even automate document transfers to Dropbox folders for regular backups, providing small businesses greater security in the event of a system failure or cyberattack.
As more and more APIs come onto the market every day, how you put APIs to work for you will be limited by only your imagination. By understanding their markets, leveraging cost with opportunity, and reimagining their operations, small businesses and entrepreneurs can use APIs to increase their communications and their competitiveness. So let computers do what they’re best at: passing information from client to customer accurately and quickly.