Monthly Archives: January 2012

Why Your Service Should Be Like the French Ski Town Tignes

Nestled deep in the French Alps is a small little French town called Tignes.  The town’s sole purpose is to cater to those crazy people who call attaching fiberglass planks to their feet and sliding down steep slopes covered in snow; FUN.  From the multiple ski schools, to the abundance of après-ski watering holes, to the service professionals who are conveniently multi-lingual, Tignes truly delivers the FULL ski vacation experience.  Why am I talking about a small town in France you might ask?  Because you should run your home service business the way this town is run.  With the customer in mind: at all times.

The customer is your end game, your bread winner, the reason, essentially, for your existence.  You should run your company accordingly.  Did you know that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience?  (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).  This can be detrimental to your business, especially with the existence of popular review sites such as Yahoo reviews, Angies List, Twitter, and more.  Your dirty laundry will be aired for everyone to see before you even have a chance to respond and limit the potential damage.  Your main business objective, particularly as a home service business, should be to provide the BEST customer service, all the time.   What are some things that you can do to cater to your customer in your line of business?  See the examples below and make sure they are implemented at your company:

  1. Listen.  Don’t forget the power of just listening to a potential customer or current customer.  By taking the time to really listen to what a customer needs, or wants, you eliminate misinterpretations, errors, and dissatisfaction with the outcome.
  2. Make your customers’ lives easier.  Give them easy to access information through your website and social media networks.  Respond in real time (don’t leave them waiting a day, or days for a call back), provide them with a customer portal, and offer options like making appointments through Facebook, emailed invoices, and more.
  3. Follow up.  Ensure that your customers have received everything they were looking for, ask for feedback, and correct any mistakes by following up with the customer after you have provided service.  Whether you do it through email or with a call (which is more personal), following up with your customers demonstrates that you care what they think, and can often lead to a good testimonial for your business.

Putting the customer first is often cited as one of a business’s core values however many businesses do not actually put this into practice.  It’s common to hear phrases such as “Putting the customer first”, “We value our customers,”or “Our customers are our number one priority.” While these phrases are plentiful within service businesses, take a step back for a moment and ask yourself “how many of my customers actually feel valued?”  Following the three steps above is a start to ensuring that your customers feel valued, and you maintain a happy, growing customer base.

The town of Tignes is an example of a customer –centric operation that really knows how to make their customers feel valued so that they return in the future and tell everyone about having such a great experience.

Can you say the same about your business?

Get Your Head in the Cloud!

The way we engage and interact today is far different than it was 10 years ago, thanks to the World Wide Web; that’s the Internet.  If you stop to think about it, we trust the Internet with a lot of our information; we enter credit card numbers to pay for goods on sites like Amazon; we tell people how our day went on Facebook; we exchange messages, photos, and other personal information all the time sometimes without necessarily realising that it’s the Internet that’s making this communication so easy.  It is because of this that it still shocks me when businesses ignore the chance of enhancing their business in one way or another because the enhancement (usually a Service as a Software) is in the cloud.

What does “in the cloud” mean exactly? 

The “cloud” is simply a fashionable name for running applications and holding data, securely of course, in the Internet.  But let’s keep in simple: if you have used an email package such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail then you have already embraced the cloud.  Nothing is held on your PC, mobile device or tablet, and you can access your email from anywhere in the world.  It’s that simple.  Now just take the same concept and apply it to the world of business applications.

What are the benefits of being in the cloud?

1.        Security

The cloud is immune from natural disasters such a flooding, hurricanes, and fires.  If you still operate on a paper filing system, or use downloaded software on your PCs and you become the victim of a natural disaster, say goodbye to your business records.  If your computer crashes, say goodbye to your business records.  This worry is eliminated by using the cloud.  Your information is hosted on secure servers, and is backed-up on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute basis.  Your office could burn down, and you could lose everything; however by embracing the cloud you can go to Best Buy, buy a laptop, and continue running your business all in the very same hour.

Some people worry about data security in the cloud.  However companies that offer cloud computing use encryption to guard against hackers, or other ways company data could be shared.  This means your data is for your business’s eyes only, and cannot and will not be shared.

 2.       Freedom and Flexibility

By operating your business using cloud applications, you have the freedom and flexibility to access your business information from anywhere at any time, as long as you have an internet connection.  You can access information straight from your smart phone on the road, or from someone else’s laptop.  You aren’t confined to laptops or PC’s that have your downloaded software on them.

3.       Reduced Costs

With cloud applications, you don’t need an IT team, servers, or other large expenses that often come with downloadable software.  Updates are included in the low monthly subscription fees and you aren’t tied to paying for a large “piece” of software.  If you don’t like what your cloud based software does, you can simply cancel your subscription and move on.  There is no risk of purchasing a product and spending the time downloading and implementing it, just to realize that it doesn’t actually help your business, or isn’t what you are looking for.  The cost is manageable for small businesses, and the rewards are high.

The truth is, thanks to Apple’s Apps, CRM companies like Salesforce, and a strong push for social media and digital marketing in the business world, the cloud IS the future.  Quite frankly, businesses that don’t recognize this, and don’t act accordingly, will be easily surpassed by those businesses that embrace the idea that new technological advances will indeed give them the competitive upper hand.  At the end of the day, as a service company, how do you expect to deliver the same value that a competitor with information at their fingertips 24/7 can?  The solution is: get your head IN the CLOUD.  It’s designed to make your life easier, so maybe it’s time for you to embrace it.

For more information on why the cloud is the way to go, watch this video produced by Salesforce:

Sign Right Here… It’s That Easy

Sometimes, the hardest thing to capture from a customer is their signature.  It may sound silly, but while a signature is an important part of your business transactions, it is often hard to chase down.  I sent a client a business contract the other day via email and asked him to return it signed.  He called me and asked me how he was supposed to do that; was he supposed to snail mail it to me?  I kindly suggested that he sign the document and take a picture of it on his iPhone and email the picture to me.  Needless to say, the concept of actually capturing a signature can be a difficult one, particularly if someone lacks a scanner, a fax, or even a pen.

In comes service management software in the cloud, dressed in Superman outfit, cape and all.  Its 2012 after all!  Technology is all about making life easier.  Well how about making your business process easier, and making your techs’ lives easier too with a signature capture application, available whenever, wherever on any mobile device.

Imagine this.  Your plumbing tech has just finished fixing Mrs. Jones’ very leaky sink.  After putting his tools away he takes out his tablet, or smart phone, and connects to Service Proz’s service management solution to access the CRM.  He fills in the details of the job and pulls up an invoice.  He asks Mrs. Jones to use her finger to sign it and asks what email address she would like it emailed to.  He records the email address in the CRM, emails the invoice, wishes her a good day, and gives her his best smile.  He gets in his truck, leaving Mrs. Jones awestruck at the easy, quick, and impressive customer service she just received.  Not only have you provided Mrs. Jones with excellent customer service, but you just captured her satisfaction with a job well done in the form of a signature.

It is that easy!  Never get stuck again tracking down a signature.  Don’t wait your time or your customers’ time.  Demonstrate that your business is on the ball all the time.  A service management solution doesn’t just help you run your business more smoothly; it helps you provide tip top customer service as well.  Next time you are waiting for a signature, think about what you could be doing instead if you had Service Proz!

5 of The Biggest Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Sometimes, it’s hard to be the little guy.  You don’t have a big budget behind you like a large corporation does, you don’t have the manpower that a business with 500 employees has, and you probably don’t have an executive team of Harvard grads making the big decisions for you.  Lacking the things that bigger businesses have can make life difficult, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful.  However there are some big mistakes that small businesses should avoid at all costs in the endeavour to make their business profitable.  Here are the 5 of the biggest mistakes that small businesses make, and suffer from.

1.        Not Having a Website

It’s 2012.  Cars that can drive themselves are in development, our phones can do SO much more than call people, and the world might end.  Not having a website is detrimental to your business.  In fact, while your business might survive short term without a website, it definitely won’t long term.  Today, people want information about your business at their fingertips so they can ensure your company does what they need and compare you to your competitors.  Why would they take the time to call your company to ask you these questions when they can easily get the answers from a competitor’s website?  Not having a website makes you invisible to most of your potential customers.  Being invisible eventually means you won’t have a business.

2.       Not Having a Call to Action on Your Website

Ok, so you have a website.  That’s good.  But that’s just the first step.  Then there is the website content, the SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and most importantly the calls to action.  What is a call to action you ask?  That is your first mistake.  A call to action “is a term used for elements in a web page that solicit an action from the user.”  These usually come in the form of buttons such as “Contact Us Now,” or “Learn More Here.”  Buttons like these allow you to capture information about your website visitors.  They give you free leads that you can then follow up with.

3.       Not Investing in Branding

Your brand is your business identity.   Not only is it your customers’ first impression of your business, but also what sets you apart from your competition and makes your business memorable in people’s minds.  It is why people can spot a McDonald’s from a half a mile down the road; everyone knows the golden arches.  If you don’t have a unique, identifiable logo, a catchy tagline, and a consistent color scheme, you not only fail to look professional and competent, but you also look cheap.  Why would someone choose to use your company if you don’t LOOK like a capable company?

4.       Not Having A Strategy Plan

Too many businesses open their doors and start operating without a written strategy plan.  What is your chosen target market?  What is your mission statement?  What is your pricing structure?  Is it flexible?  What marketing tactics are you going to use to gain a customer base?  Businesses that don’t have a written plan that addresses these questions and more are foolish.  It’s like shooting without a target.  Without a defined direction you risk missing the perfect opportunity or, worse still, chasing customers who actually do not match your business’s skills and competence.  It’s the quickest way to waste time, effort and money, all resulting in no new customers and jeopardizing your existence.  Having a strategy plan gives you, and your employees, direction so you are all chasing the right type of business.

5.       Not Managing Cash Flow Properly

It may sound like a cliché, but the phrase “cash is king” is very true.  Without it, your business is doomed and your survival becomes very short-term.  Many small businesses are quickly excited by their initial successes and overall enthusiasm.  And the result? They extend themselves too far, and too soon and simply do not have sufficient cash to fund their progress.  It’s simple; no cash means no business so build a business within its means by managing your cash flow properly.

Take a look at these five mistakes.  Is your business the victim of any of these?  If so, take the time, effort, and money to correct the mistake.  It can be the difference between your business succeeding or failing.  And remember, it takes a little more effort and money now to get things right the first time.  Usually the ROI is much better if you invest now, you will end up saving in the long run.

3 Essential Reasons for an Online Business Management Solution

Why Scheduling with a Whiteboard Can be Detrimental to your Home Service Business

With the economy still suffering and customers becoming increasingly demanding and choosy when picking a service, home service businesses must be at the top of their game in order to remain successful and profitable.  One of the best ways to stay ahead of your competition, provide superior customer service, and save time and money is to streamline your business processes.  In this day and age, a business simply cannot survive in the longer term without investing in the technological advances that are now available.  Things like a well-designed website, smart phones, and a comprehensive accounting system are essential to the longevity of any home service business.  But the most important technological investment a company can make is an end-to-end business management solution.

Why?  Here are 3 reasons this is a must for the survival of your home service business:

1.  Saves Time and Money

With features like drag-and-drop scheduling, route optimization, recurring billing and mobile access, an end-to-end business Biddingmanagement solution hugely impacts efficiency and resources.  Employees spend less time on paperwork, in all aspects of the business from scheduling to accounting, and anyone in business can tell you that “time is money”.

2.  Increases Customer Satisfaction

Promise and deliver the best customer service to your current and potential customers with features like a customer portal, contact management, and technician access to important information through their mobile devices.  By having customer preferences at your fingertips and simplifying your customers’ lives with signature capture and the ability to pay their bills online helps you exceed their expectations.

3.  Reduces Human Error

From scheduling, to accounting, to navigating to a customer’s house, there are many things that can go wrong.  A business management solution helps reduce these errors by consistently performing calculations for you; giving you complete access to all your information whenever and wherever it is needed; and even providing accurate directions and routes to customers’ locations.  These all ensure that you are creating a professional and trustworthy business.

A complete business management solution, like Service Proz, WILL streamline your business processes.  Not only does it keep all your business information and interactions safely in one place (online) which makes your business easier to track at every step of the way, but it also gives you immediate access to the resources you need, such as reports, contracts, proposals, and invoices.  It takes the guesswork out of running your business and the interface is so easy to use that anyone who uses Facebook can navigate it easily.

With all these benefits and more, and at a low monthly cost, the question becomes, why wouldn’t you make the investment for your business?  What are you waiting for?