Whether your goal is lining up one new customer a day or one a month, having a strategy to manage customer leads will save you time and energy. This is the fourth of a four-part series on CRM, customer relations management. Read the first part, “Getting the Most Out of a Lead”, here. Read the second part, “Organize Your Leads for Max Profits”, here. Read the third part, “Benefits of Using Mobile Devices for CRM Systems”, here.
Last week’s blog entry mentioned that 75% of small business managers are doing work from their mobile device, but we all know that a good amount of work is being done from our trusty desktop (or laptop) computer.
When looking for CRM software, it’s important to have access to your data through a desktop or laptop computer. These machines can quickly access data from other sources (for example, your email program, and they are often connected to large monitors that let you view a greater amount of details than what you can see on the small screen of a mobile device. Desktop software in general offers more functionality and options than one made for a mobile device.
Equally important is having information stored in the cloud. When user data is kept in the cloud, it does not need to be manually updated or backed up. There’s also virtually no delay. When you type in new information or upload a photo, it’s instantly viewable and editable by your team.
The Service Proz Solution is accessible through both mobile and traditional computers, and data is kept in the cloud. This is why for many of our users, work crews and managers access their company’s information on their mobile device while the office manager or project coordinator is the one sitting at the powerhouse.
How do you use your desktop to manage your leads? Do you use the cloud? Tell us in the comments section.
Whether your goal is lining up one new customer a day or one a month, having a strategy to manage customer leads will save you time and energy. This is the second of a four-part series on CRM, customer relations management. Read the first part, “Getting the Most Out of a Lead”, here.
Organizing your leads in CRM, or customer relationship management, can be a chore, especially when you have hundreds of leads. Here are a few tips to keep your leads manageable.
Create Relationship Categories
Take a look at a handful of your existing leads, and think about how you know them. Are they former colleagues or strangers? Were they a referral from an existing customer, or did you gather their contact information from the internet? Come up with five or six categories that are not too specific so they can be used for different situations. For example, “Trade Show Attendee” is a better category than “AHR Expo 2015”, so it can be used for other trade shows you’ve gotten contact information for. You can always add extra, more specific information about the lead in your notes section. One piece of advice is to not use a number or code for a category — it’s one more thing to remember.
Keep ‘Status’ Updated
The status of a lead is important. You want to know whether the lead is likely to buy your service in the near future. Use “new” for leads you haven’t contacted. Then, change the lead’s status in your CRM system as their level of interest in your service changes.
Use “met”, “engaged” or “contacted” after the first contact and are still unsure if the customer is qualified to buy. Once you believe the customer is a possibility, use a status such as “hot”, “possible” or “future”. A lead that becomes a client can have their status updated to “active”, or simply move this customer’s information into your customer database. When a lead fizzles out, change the status to “inactive” instead of deleting their information — you never know if their situation will change.
Rate the Lead’s Quality
An easy-to-use rating system can help you sort through leads that have the same status. You can rank leads using a scale of 1 to 3, or if you have many leads, 1 to 5. A rating of “1” could mean that the lead’s company is young and unstable, or has a mediocre reputation. Whereas a “5” could be used for high-volume organizations with a highly respected reputation.
Assign Leads to the Right Employee
Every employee has his or her own strengths that should be considered when assigning leads. An employee with experience in fireplaces might not be best to pitch your services to plumbers, just as experienced employees might be better pitching your services to large corporate organizations. Randomly assigning leads is also an option, but your odds of landing a new customer increase when you can match your sales person to the right prospect.
Keeping your leads organized will make reviewing your leads less of a hassle. The Service Proz Solution contains a CRM module that allows sales staff to enter contact information for your lead. Within the module, staff can type notes after every contact or “touch” with the prospect. The system shows all this information in an organized layout, for both desktop and mobile viewing.
How do you organize your leads? Tell us in the comments section.
Choosing a workforce management system (WFM) for your home cleaning, HVAC, electrical, plumbing or landscape company isn’t the easiest task but can be if your company looks for a provider that offers a few important key features of WFM software.
Most WFM software is cloud-base today because of the benefits that small l businesses receive when moving to the cloud, and reports are showing that for small business heading to the cloud is imperative.
A recent report from InfoWorld explained that small companies today, honestly just can’t afford the traditional IT—so heading to the cloud is most cost effective.
If you think about employing a company that handles your IT business or paid IT on staff, your company has to be ready to make a commitment for thousands of dollars being paid out of the budget–which for many small businesses is impossible.
But with a cloud-based WFM product, a monthly or annual fee, along with possible maintenance along the way and a little education for you and your employee’s,
is really all that is required.
So, the investment isn’t nearly so steep with WFM software—and many products also will easily integrate with QuickBooks to keep all of your important data streamlined, stored in the cloud and able to be accessed from anywhere!
What features to look for in WFM software:
- Customer Management: make sure the software can create service orders that includes the customer’s exact requests, history and the ability to communicate exact instructions to technicians
- Billing: accurate invoice billing for exact services, make sure you will never miss a billing cycle with good software and the ability to create invoices while still at the job
- Technician Management: efficient WFM software will have a technician management feature that will create time sheets, note availability, create driving routes for efficient use of time and energy
- Scheduling: is one of the most important WFM features, you should be able to create schedules using interactive techniques, only schedule technicians who meet job requirements and provide the customer with reliable appointment times and copies of work order.
- Mobility: Most important is the mobility feature that cloud-base systems provide. Communication is key because everything will be in real time including new jobs, updated jobs or cancelled jobs. This feature will remove wasteful and inefficient paperwork by communicating directly from the office to the field.
The end of the year is filled with exciting holiday festivities but it’s also a busy time for your business as you begin preparing for the tax season, compiling reports and tracking expenses, etc.
This can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be, there are many software applications out there that can organize your small business’s critical information but we at Service Proz believe that QuickBooks is the only way to go. If you aren’t using QuickBooks—an essential application for small business to stay organized—you should be!
QuickBooks is a way to store vital information that is easily accessible, like customer information, inventory, expense reports and critical billing information. Other features that come in handy include the ability to create invoices and logos—a must for any small business. You also can create a detailed calendar that tracks all appointments and other important information.
Luckily, if you haven’t bought QuickBooks for your business yet, there are new editions each year along with new features. The 2012 version has an option to track customer leads and a document management system—along with the ability to bill more than one customer at a time.
If you are struggling to manage all of your documents, billing and invoicing, QuickBooks would be a wonderful Christmas gift to yourself and your small business this year!
Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a day dedicated to supporting small business across the country. Small Business Saturday is Nov. 24 this year and American Express says that over 100 million people participated in the event last year and made it a point “Shop Small” in their local communities. What better way to show your friends in the community that you appreciate their small business in your city or town. It is up to all of us to create strong local economies and grow from there.
Black Friday has become almost a national holiday but if you could spare some of the large crowds and long lines at big box stores to support local businesses; the effects will be immense in your community.
Service Proz fully supports Small Business Saturday this year and urges you to participate in such a worthy cause.
From all of us to all of you, enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family—and remember we all have many blessings to be thankful for!
As a small business, one of the most important things you can do to stay ahead is to keep your finances organized. Streamline your billing and payment processes with the right software to save you time, make your job easier, and ensure that calculations are accurate and invoices are being delivered on time. A service management software that provides your company with automatic billing and integrates with QuickBooks is an easy, assured way to keep your finances in order, all while taking the headache out of tracking your finances. What can automatic billing do for your company? Here are three things that automatic billing can do to help your business, and save you the headache:
- Finish your job with the press of a button. Automatic billing gives your technicians the freedom and convenience of billing your customers directly on site, with the press of a button, from a mobile device. The technician just has to enter the job details, and an invoice can be generated, and emailed to the client right on the spot. No need to wait until you are back at the office; saving you time, and ensuring you will get paid more quickly.
- Custom Invoices. An automatic billing application that comes as part of a service management solution like Service Proz allows you to create and send custom invoices containing the information you want your customer to see. It can also include your jargon, your logo, and your business details. The invoices can then be printed on site, emailed, or sent in the mail, whatever way you choose to invoice your customers.
- Integration with QuickBooks. Your invoices and payments will be sent directly to QuickBooks, so that you can balance your books and all your billing information will be stored in one place. It eliminates extra steps you might take in tracking your billing information, helping with your accounting, filing taxes, and more.
Automatic billing simplifies your job, saving you time, human errors and other complications that come with keeping track of business finances. It can cut down the time that it takes customers to pay you. Once you make the commitment to add automatic billing to your business processes, you will wonder what you ever did without it.
Visit Service Proz’s YouTube channel HERE to see how their billing applications work.
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…
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?
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?