Imagine being able to print something from anywhere, whenever you need to. If a customer wants a printed invoice at the end of a job, voila! You can use your mobile device to print to a portable printer in your truck, and hand them a copy. If your office needs that same invoice (so they can sign off on it) before you leave your job site, you can print to the office printer as well. It is instant gratification in its simplest form, giving you the power to keep detailed records, stay on top of your business, and provide that little extra customer service for your clients at the same time.
Companies like Google and HP are offering printing in the cloud; just another one of the many benefits of cloud computing. This functionality allows you to print to a printer of your choice from any device that offers email services. Printers that offer cloud printing services come with a specific email address. As long as you have this email address, you can print to the printer from anywhere, at any time, without being directly connected to the printer. While this may seem counterproductive to the “green” movement, businesses have to face that fact, that at this time, it is not possible to be entirely paperless. E-print can help give your customers peace of mind, allow your technicians to capture signatures and approvals in real time, and allows your business to keep detailed records for auditors and tax purposes.
Cloud printing, or e-printing, is just another fascinating new technology that can improve your business processes. Combined with a robust service management solution, you can keep your business organized all while wowing your customer. Learn about printing in the cloud today, and think about its potential for your business.
To learn more, visit the below links:
Have you had experience with cloud printing? How has it helped your business?
A 21st century business has a lot to compete with. We are headed on the fast track to flying cars and robot maids. Long gone are the days when people went to the corner hardware store, used the only barbers in town, and were loyal customers for life. We live in a world of innovation, and in order to compete, you must use innovation to your advantage as well. Here are three innovative ways for making your business unforgettable to your customers, ensuring that they will continue to be drawn to your services and return often to buy more.
Have A Creative (and DIFFERENT) Web Presence:
It is easy to fall into the trap of creating a website that looks like your competitors’ sites. It is the safe, professional route to take. But you are making a fatal error by doing this. There is no differentiation. You don’t just want to look like your competitors; you want to BLOW them out of the water. Use bright colors, capture people’s attention with fun activities, wording, videos and other engaging tools. Take www.maidpro.com for example. They have an AMAZING site. Not only does it entirely reflect what they do, with no room for confusion, but they engage with their website visitors with fun interactive tools like a bubble popping game (who doesn’t like clicking things!) and a spoof video. The website captures the idea that MaidPro LOVES what they do, and they do it well. It is an unforgettable site, and leaves a lasting impression that visitors are unlikely to forget.
Set Yourself Apart with a New Reputation:
People stereotype. It’s what they do. And that comes from experiences that people have in their life, particularly their experiences in the retail world. Gem Plumbing used these stereotypes to their advantage. Knowing that people get frustrated with the fact that plumbers tend to track mud and dirt into their homes, and are usually known more for their “plumber’s cracks” than for their service, Gem decided to change the way people view plumbers. By implementing the business policy that all of their plumbing technicians were required to wear company uniforms and booties on site, they fundamentally changed people’s views of what to expect from a plumber’s visit. Come up with a creative way to change your industry, and use it as your unique selling point. If people know their service will be different and better if they call you, your business is sure to become unforgettable.
It’s MORE Than Just a Name:
A name is more than just what you register your business with. It is your brand, your identity, and your first impression. It comes with an image. You need to make sure that your business name is memorable, identifiable, and creative. Think about the Geek Squad from Best Buy. This service business provides IT services to homes and businesses throughout the U.S. Their brand is memorable because they used a creative, fun name as the jumping off point for the rest of their image; from their brightly marked technician Beatles to their employees’ uniforms.
The home service business industry is incredibly competitive. It is important to stand out from the crowd. It is the first way to wow your potential customers. Setting yourself apart from your competition doesn’t just show that you do things differently, it also demonstrates the passion you have your for your business. Start brainstorming…
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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!
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 management 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?
With the holiday season already upon us, trading for some home service businesses may suffer and slow down. Whether business is booming or not, offering gift certificates to current and potential customers during the holiday season is a great revenue generator. It is also a free and easy way to promote your business but it’s surprising how many businesses do not consider adopting this so here are three reasons why your company should consider providing gift certificates this holiday season and how you can implement a gift certificate program.
Why Gift Certificates?
1. It’s a Great Gift
Knowing what to buy for a loved one is a chronic issue that many people suffer from at this time of year. A gift certificate for house cleaning, lawn care, a repair service, or even a plumbing service is both thoughtful and helpful. Whether your loved ones have a leaky tap, a filthy house, or they are enduring a case of mice, providing them with the chance to better their home (something they probably won’t spend their own money on) is creative and easy.
Making gift certificates available gets your name out there. It promotes brand awareness because you are increasing the number of people that will hear about your business and then utilize your services. Purchases of the gift certificates to give to their friends or family (who may then tell others), creates discussion and interest in YOUR company.
3. Generate New Business
One of the best things that gift certificates can do is generate new clientele, and more business during the slower periods of the year. Slower periods are mostly a seasonal issue faced by home service businesses but by providing gift certificates you gain control and add new businesses and revenues while your competitors continue to suffer.
How to Implement Gift Certificates at Your Company
- Plan what types of gift certificates you are going to sell, and set affordable prices. Are you going to sell an entire service, (i.e. one full house cleaning), or are you going to provide a monetary value that can be used to pay for services of the customer’s choice?
- Make sure that you are tracking the gift certificates you sell. Ensure that you have captured the email address and phone number of the purchaser, and record the gift certificate number and amount in your CRM database, or an Excel spreadsheet.
- Have a graphic designer or print company such as Vistaprint create a gift certificate for you that you can have printed. It is best to get them professionally printed to promote a strong image. If you want to make it even easier for customers, you can offer e-coupons, gift certificates that you email to the recipient. Make sure you include your company’s name, contact number, website, and address.
- Promote the fact that you offer gift certificates. Include some blurb on the bottom of your customers’ invoices stating that you have gift certificates available. Include a note in your company holiday card. Post signs at your office, and advertize in local newspapers.
As a home service business, have you ever offered gift certificates before? Was this a successful initiative? Post a comment and tell us more!
One of the greatest challenges that any small home service business faces is survival. Maybe this is a constant, day-to-day worry or just an occasional concern about where the next order for your services is going to come from, but the risk is still there. In a typical small business, cash may be tight, operating budgets and investment opportunities limited, orders may be hard to find, and suppliers can be demanding payment. If things aren’t going to plan then the business’s survival, and your own livelihood are both threatened.
Regardless of whether it is a constant or occasional stress, the fear and risk of failure never completely leave us. So what is the answer? Build a bigger business perhaps? There is no doubt that a competently run “big” business solves many of these challenges by giving access to more funds; more power; greater personal wealth; and increased leverage over suppliers and the market. A position of power is desirable but long-term survival is still not guaranteed.
With size, come bigger challenges and more pressure to succeed. But success is not granted forever. Take Microsoft as an example of a “BIG” company who once dominated the software market, leading the way with their Windows operating systems and Office packages, the Microsoft technology stack, and a wealth of other innovative software solutions. Microsoft brought personal computing to the masses both at home and at work. In recent times however Microsoft has been under multiple attacks from the likes of Apple, RIM, Google, general anti- Microsoft sentiment, and the law courts.
Today, despite their size and past successes, Microsoft faces the very same challenge that many small home service businesses face; survival.
There is an increasing sentiment and expectation that Microsoft will collapse. Maybe not imminently but the warning signs are present. This subject was covered just this week by Business Insider and while their accompanying vision of the future may be somewhat entertaining and implausible, it paints a picture that bigger is not necessarily better.
There’s something unique and beautiful about being a small business; you have the flexibility to make decisions that are in your best interests; you are more agile and can respond quickly to changes and customer needs; there is no constant scrutiny from the media and the wider public. And, when the working day is done, your business is just that: it is yours!
As a small home service business, what are your thoughts?
Guest Author: Mollie Coons
Graphic Designers are perhaps one of the most important pieces to beginning or sustaining a small business. Hiring a good Graphic Designer to aide in branding your business presents additional expenditures in both money and time but will be the legs your business stands on for its entire life.
When you hear branding, you might instantly think logo and business cards. Branding is much, much more than just those things. A good Graphic Designer will assign your small business a visual identity that can be applied to any variety of mediums from a logo and website, to a style of writing or what color tie to wear when presenting to a board of investors.
I like to refer to visual identity as visual identification: how will someone pick YOU out of a crowd? A trained Graphic Designer will assist you in developing your visual identification. He or she will talk with you, not to you, share knowledge with you and brainstorm strategies with you to help you decide what will be best for your business. Consistent visual identification is the first step to building your reputation as a brand. Remember….
Consistency = Trust
Some key branding things to keep consistent are your logo, business card, letterhead, Facebook page, Twitter background and marketing materials. You’re probably wondering, “what’s the catch here?” The computer screen is only one area to check for consistency…here are a few others.
: the Digital world
: the Printed world
The digital world consists of HOW you use your logo and things like company colors. Is your logo always in the upper left corner of things or the upper right corner? Is your logo roughly the same size on your letterhead as it is on your envelope? Are all your company colors the same on your customers’ computer screens? These are all things a trained graphic designer will check and double check for consistency.
The printed world consists of HOW your logo and company colors look printed on paper. Is your company’s shade of green the same on your envelope as it is on your business card? I can guarantee if your envelopes are printed at a different place than your business cards the greens (for example) will be a drastically different shades. It’s because greens, yellows and oranges are the most difficult colors to print consistently. And remember…
Consistency = Trust
A great Graphic Designer will constantly scan all these areas, and more for brand consistency. He or she will make sure all of your business’s visual identification is consistent…giving YOU strong legs to launch your small business empire from.
You might be overwhelmed by all of this but don’t be. While there are many things to think about when it comes to branding your business, a graphic designer will take you through the steps and help transform your business into a professional, attractive company with a competitive edge. I would like you to imagine for a moment how freeing it would be for you to not have to worry about these things! It’s nice, isn’t it.
When starting to work with Gerald F. Crysler, owner of Crysler Encapsulated Sealing Systems and a colleague of mine, Megan Hughes of http://www.keenbeandesign.com (Graphic Designers often work in collaborative packs to provide the best branding and design possible) we began by simply starting a conversation with Jerry…asking him what he was passionate about and why he wanted to start his own company. From there we started designing his logo and gave him a sheet of 5-10 different ideas to choose from. After he chose a concept he felt represented his company well, we began to refine it and work it, much like clay, into the first foundational brand pillar of his small business, Crysler Encapsulated Sealing Systems .
Stay tuned for The Digital World Continued: Why you NEED a website
About the Guest Author: Mollie Coons is a freelance communications graphic designer based out of Burlington, VT. She holds a BA in graphic design from Champlain College. She is also a featured graphic designer for the company Keen Bean Design. She works with various companies from different industries in developing their brand through print and web mediums. For more information about graphic design or to hire Mollie to help design your home service business visit her website here.