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LAST UPDATED: February 22nd, 2021

Podium has grown rapidly since its humble start in 2014, opening offices in Utah, Australia, and Brazil. It has also received accolades from both Forbes and Fast Company including being selected as “One of the World’s Most Innovative Companies” in 2019 by Fast Company.

What started out as a way for local businesses to send texts to customers requesting that they review their business online, has expanded to a multi-product platform that allows business to manage a large variety of interactions. 

Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, Podium has impressive backers such as IVP, Accel, Summit Partners, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Y Combinator. Its executive team is also littered with expertise from Google, Mckinsey & Company, Omniture, and other top companies. 

Customers’ email inboxes are flooded and paper mail can be expensive, so Podium and its competitors are enabling businesses to reach customers where they are — on their phones, social media messaging, and on the actual business websites. This Software as a Service (SaaS) feature helps it stand out from some competitors that limit company interactions with customers solely to online review management.

While Podium does allow companies to collect reviews, it also text-enables business’ websites with Webchat. It also enables companies to collect payments via text, gather feedback from their customers, and manage customer communications from several channels in one dashboard called Inbox. 

While much of the functionality provided by Podium to businesses in its Interaction Management platform may not be proprietary (any business can send an email to a customer email list requesting reviews), its unique combination of messaging abilities can give business owners powerful tools with the convenience of having them all in one home.

Podium works with more than 40,000 businesses worldwide. Its interaction management platform is attractive to many industries including the automotive industry. More than 5,000 auto dealerships in the United States and Canada use its platform. Its success within this industry was recognized by NIADA (National Independent Automobile Dealers Association) which selected Podium as its newest Bronze-level National Corporate Partner. 

Podium’s rapid innovation and growth helps it stand out from a growing number of interaction management software competitors. In 2020 it added a payment collection feature, allowing businesses to collect no-contact payments via text. This added convenience is not yet offered by most of its competitors and makes it very attractive to businesses looking for an easy, streamlined payment collection method. 

Businesses interested in finding out Podium’s pricing information face a few hurdles. There is zero pricing information available upfront. Interested customers must provide their contact information to gain access to pricing. The company also doesn't provide any plan information. Many of its competitors also lack transparent pricing on their websites so this isn’t unique to Podium but it could potentially be inconvenient. 

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The Good

  • Not Just Reviews
  • Payment Collection via Text
  • Positive Customer Reviews

Not Just Reviews

The reputation management space is filled with SaaS companies that, at a minimum, offer businesses review management services. Review management is critical to promoting business, getting discovered by new customers, and winning more business. A strong online presence is essential and Podium knows this. Its review software integrates with both Facebook and Google, as well as industry-specific sites. 

Podium started out as a review management platform that helped businesses collect more customer reviews but it has not stopped there. 

Product offerings now include the features below: 

  • Reviews
  • Teamchat for internal communication
  • Inbox for message consolidation
  • Feedback to capture more leads
  • Video chat feature
  • Payment feature to collect payment via text
  • Webchat to connect with customers on your website

Features continue to expand. For example, last year the company partnered with Stripe, a financial services and software company, to add its payment collection feature. 

Payment Collection via Text

Businesses are always looking for easy ways to collect payments from customers. Podium is one of the first reputation management and customer interaction platforms to offer its customers the ability to collect payments from their clients via text. Podium users can text their customers a simple link in an existing text conversation saving both time and money.

Invoices are customizable with your company name and logo and businesses can select what payment methods they will accept. Its accepted payment options selection is great, including credit, debit, HSA, bank transfers, Google Pay, or Apple Pay.

The economic impact from this payment collection feature via conversational commerce could be huge potentially. The price of sending a text with Payments is much lower than mailing a statement. Using the Payments feature could also greatly reduce the dedicated staff members and hours needed to manage in-house billing.

Traditional “card-not-present” transactions that are handled over the phone or by mail have an estimated 2 percent completion rate. Podium reported that, in its beta phase, the completion rates for businesses using its Payments feature tripled and provided an 80 percent reduction in staff time resources utilized. 

Podium charges a flat rate for processing payments; there is no monthly cost. This flat rate could potentially save businesses money over some payment collection methods that charge a percentage of each sale.  

Positive Customer Reviews

Podium is very popular and boasts tens of thousands of customers using its customer engagement software. The company's website provides a number of customer success stories that can be broken down by industry. These case studies are meant to impress and they do.

For example, Ashley Furniture, one of the largest furniture chains in the United States, used Podium to collect $3.8 million in payments last year. It also attributes a 10–12 percent increase in foot traffic directly to Podium’s Reviews tool which Ashley Furniture has used to collect 18,500 customer reviews. 

Podium’s online reviews are also mostly positive. Many praise the app’s convenient texting feature and user-friendly design. Its customers repeatedly write in online reviews that Podium’s platform is easy to use and very effective. Podium’s customers also seem pleased with the number of reviews they see after starting to use its review management service. 

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The Bad

  • Some Features Lacking
  • No Pricing Transparency
  • New Customers Must Sign a Contract

Some Features Lacking

Podium has a robust set of tools to help businesses with their reputation management and customer interactions however some of its competitors have additional features that may be attractive to certain industries such as scheduling or email marketing.

For businesses that depend on scheduling, it may make sense to look at a competing software that offers appointment reminders, appointment quick fill options, and smart confirmations making it easy and natural for customers to confirm their appointments. Podium also does not support email marketing.

While many businesses are moving to text communication with their customers, many have not yet made this leap and will still need email marketing options to connect with their customer base. 

No Pricing Transparency

Podium does not provide any plan or pricing information on its website; interested customers have to input their contact information. Although it can be inconvenient to not have set plan tiers or transparent pricing, Podium says that it builds customized packages. 

Podium is priced on a per month basis and your total cost depends on your number of locations and the products you purchase. Reviews state that Podium can be expensive for a smaller, single location business. Through our research, we determined that Podium’s monthly rate is almost identical to its top competitor. 

New Customers Must Sign a Contract

While Podium charges its customers on a monthly basis at similar rates to its top competitors, it does require new customers to sign an annual contract. This is something that its top competitor does not do and could be a major deal breaker for smaller businesses that can’t take financial risk. 

However, even though Podium’s top competitor does not require its customers to sign an annual contract, it does have a one-time set up fee. Podium’s stellar reviews and incredible tool selection may mean that this annual contract does not deter many businesses. But it could prove too risky for a business that has not yet determined the ROI (return on investment) of Podium’s platform for their bottom line.

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The Bottom Line

Podium’s messaging platform is a strong selection of communication and payment tools for both small and large businesses. What started out assisting businesses in collecting online reviews has continued to expand to now include payment collection, website chat services, and messaging consolidation for business employees.

After looking at the number of satisfied customers both on its website and online, we can say it delivers on its promises to increase online reviews and streamline customer communication and payment collection for business owners and staff. 

If you are looking for features to assist with scheduling and confirming appointments such as at a dental office, or other medical office, you may want to look at other similar companies that offer specific appointment management solutions. 

While its pricing is likely in line with other top competitors, Podium does require new customers to sign an annual contract. If this is something that is financially prohibitive for your business, there are alternatives to Podium that do not require a contract although many have startup fees in place of a contract.

It is likely that signing a contract may in fact be a better investment in your business than paying fees on top of the monthly cost of a service. Overall, Podium has worked with both large and small businesses to better connect them with their customers in very successful ways. 

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