Smart tradies who recognize the power of the internet to leverage their business and automate many customer interaction processes have a significant advantage over their non-online tradie competitors.
In some of our previous articles we have revealed many system processes and services tradies can use, for very little cost, to connect with their customers, suppliers and complimentary businesses any time, anywhere, faster and simpler than their competitors.
However two of the most important actions any trade business should use to grow and be more profitable are Customer Service and Follow up.
Regardless of whether you are doing domestic or commercial work these should remain a priority.
So how does a tradie use online resources to increase their levels of customer service and follow up? Well, if you have been following this series you will recall we have covered some of the basic requirements already:
- Secure your domain name that reflects your business
- Set-up your professional email addresses and stop using free accounts such as Hotmail, Live, Yahoo and GMAIL to communicate to customers
- Enable your smart phone to receive and send emails wherever you are and aggregate your email collection and sending
- Use Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook for instant communication
These are the corner stone of the Online Tradie’s business model and without them you cannot be a successful tradie online.
Tradies Online Customer Service
Tradies typically don’t want to spend a lot of money on marketing and prefer to work in their business to generate their income. As a result marketing of any kind, including customer service is overlooked beyond the actual transaction.
That is, other than performing the work in a professional manner, turning up on time and undertaking the works as the customer expects, tradesman ordinarily offer little else as customer service.
The belief seems to be that this is enough and the customer is getting what they pay for. This may be true but how does this make you stand out in the crowd?
Do you think it would make a difference to how many referrals and how much repeat business you would receive if you provided just a little more customer service?
Tradies cannot sell what they charge for they must sell more than they charge for. For example: “What does a restaurant sell?”
Well..no, that’s not all they offer. It couldn’t just be food otherwise restaurants would be the most expensive place to buy food.
So what are they selling? An Experience, and this is true for every transaction of any value.
All your competitors are concentrated on the transaction itself and don’t consider pre and post customer service – so, if you do, imagine how surprised and happy your customers would be and how this could materialize into more money in the long term for your business!
Your biggest advantage is that your competitors wont invest in any additional customer service activities or systems.
We are not talking about giving away labour for free or not charging for all the materials used. This is expected as you have an arrangement with your customers.
Rather, providing pre and post customer service using free or inexpensive online services can ensure your business a real point of differentiation.
10 Online Customer Service TIPS to Differentiate Your Trade Business
- Provide an online form for contacting you – With specifics of what they want and when they need it – and actually respond to their enquiry quickly because you have your emails being aggregated and collected on your smart phone.
- For example: ask them their preferred time of contacting, their preferred method of contacting (land line, mobile, email, skype, IM, twitter, facebook, linkedin) and when they need the works done by – if you are operating in the domestic markets. (Such a small change to a normal contact form makes it obvious you actually really care about the customer’s needs.)
- Set-up a free online document & data storage account where you collectively share and store all of your projects drawings and tenders, quotes and invoices. See DropBox.com
- On your website offer a free downloadable report that will provide real value to them. (To get the report they have to provide you a name and email address that you can use for follow up later)
- This report can be written by you and printed to PDF, just think about what your customers ask you about most for the report’s content! If you want to make it look more professional then get a cover designed. These can be sourced from many places and we recommend Killer Covers. They can design your eBook cover and book graphics.
- When you have finished your projects, offer your customers a special direct contact email address instead of the generic company email address or provide them a VIP toll free number that you don’t publish anywhere but on the card.
- You can print special business cards that say V.I.P Customer with that special number and direct email address, that you ONLY hand out after the business transaction is completed. This can provide your customers the feeling of being more valued.
- Offer a links page on your website and ask other local business if they’d like to publish their details on it too. Your customers will appreciate the extra effort and the research you have provided to make their life easier and you may be able to generate business from those other businesses too!
- When your website visitors leave your site redirect them to an online survey page, build an online form on your website or have a survey form as part of your website. This will help you understand why your customers are leaving your website, how they feel about it and your service.
- During and after your transaction ask your customers for a testimonial about you, your company and your work. Testimonials will help new visitors understand how other people just like them have appreciated you and your businesses services
Your Fortune is in the Follow Up
Tradies can invest a lot of time and money setting up systems and developing relationships to only work once with a customer. This is crazy especially when you consider how easy it is to stay in touch with your customers and follow up.
Existing customers already know the quality of your work and have a relationship with you that you have developed with your Online Customer Service systems.
What tradesman need to do is ‘work their lists’ and sell to the same customers over and over to increase margins and decrease the money required in developing new customers.
The simplest way to do this is to generate an email list and engage in some email marketing.
An email list is essentially a list of customer’s email addresses that you periodically and automatically send useful information, special offers or news that they will find useful.
So how do I build a list?
Remember that free PDF eBook we discussed above in the 10 Online Customer Service Tips…Set-up a form on your site, offer the free eBook and all they have to do is provide their name and email address.
NOTE: We are not advising you to SPAM anyone or to send an email to them every day or even every week. You must also be sure to comply with all the relevant laws and regulations regarding to email people. If your customers choose to unsubscribe, then don’t be to concerned as they probably would not have worked with you again anyway.
You can use some online systems such as MailChimp or aWeber who make this emailing, email address collection and management of your customer lists really easy for a few bucks-a-month.
This Constant Communication and follow up is required to ensure they remember you and the experience you provided them.
You can be sure your competitors will be talking to them and trying to win their business from you so the more often and regularly they receive contact from you and your business the, more front mind your are!