I’ve talked to hundreds of contractors over the last few weeks. The ones who are thriving in these strange times are using technology to edge out the competition.
And we’re not talking big systems or million-dollar investments. Most of these successful contractors are finding huge wins with the tech capability on their smartphones.
Here’s how a few tech tweaks can help you solve problems and boost your business.
Problem: You’re losing jobs by taking too long to send quotes
Traditionally, a call comes in and you send out someone to evaluate the job and write up a quote.
Then you take days to send the quote back to the potential customer. Meanwhile, that customer has plenty of time to size up your competition.
Solution: Send quotes faster
Companies I’ve talked to say they are winning more business by sending quotes faster. Some of these companies adopt a policy to send out quotes the same day they assess a job.
And though it’s not super common yet, I’ve talked to contractors who issue quotes without even visiting the site first.
They assess the job over the phone by asking the customer to send photos, video, or even do a live video chat. That way, you save the hassle of sending someone out and the customer gets faster service. Speed equals more closed deals.
So you might consider using more digital tools to help you turn around a quote quicker. What if you don’t use much technology in your interactions with customers, and the idea sounds intimidating?
Contractors tell me they slowly incorporated more digital tools by starting small. You can’t expect to change all your processes overnight. That’s why they pick a simple, straight forward job, then build a process around it in their business that’s easily manageable. Depending on the size and nature of your business, you might consider having an engineer who’s on the phone fielding calls. They can ask the customer for photos/videos of the issue, then turn around a quote by text or email straight away.
If you wanted something a little more advanced, you could use a tool like Drift to let customers schedule their own appointment online. They could pick a same-day, 15-minute slot to speak with one of your engineers.
Again, using some form of technology to turn around quotes quickly will earn you more customers, and save you money from not needing to do as many site visits.
Ultimately, your customers just want their problems solved. In fact, 50% of customers choose the vendor that responds first.
Some potential customers will happily wait for the cheapest price. But the rest of us live in an Amazon Prime world and don’t mind paying a little bit more to get things quickly.
Problem: You’re wasting time (and annoying customers) by responding to small jobs
Few things make a customer angrier than an engineer spending five minutes on a job and leaving a bill for $200.
Plus, that uses time the engineer could spend on a more valuable job.
Solution: Soft fixing
Lots of contractors are embracing the world of ‘soft fixing’, where you talk a customer through fixing their own problems by phone.
This trend started with the popularity of long-term contracts and service plans. For example, the customer pays the company a subscription fee of $10 a month, which covers any boiler issues.
Obviously, the company wants to avoid coming on site if possible as it’s an extra cost. So if the issue is simple enough, they can walk the customer through how to troubleshoot it. Customers are happy the problem is fixed, and the company saves time and fuel by handling it remotely.
This is an especially popular option in the wake of the pandemic. Companies have fewer engineers to work with, and have the task of assessing if a visit is absolutely necessary. Some companies use even more sophisticated technology like augmented reality apps with extra tools to diagnose issues through video calling.
But that isn’t a requirement to soft fix. Something like Skype or FaceTime can do the trick too.
Many contractors say this leads to customer loyalty because it saves the customer time and money (and you too!).
Problem: You aren’t getting enough bookings after sending annual maintenance reminders
You send your customers that familiar message: “Your service is due in two weeks. Give us a call to book an appointment.”
Yet, few people actually respond and book.
Solution: Make it easy to book
They aren’t responding because you’re making it too hard. Even the line “give us a call” adds a barrier.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If it’s 3pm and I get that email from you, I’m at work. I may tell myself, “Yeah, I need to do that. I’ll remind myself later.”
But by the time I’m home and I remember to call you, your company is closed for the day. So now I have to call you on my lunch hour the next day…unless something else comes up. Make it easy on me.
Here’s an example. I was renting an apartment and needed to log a service request with the landlord. I used the online portal Fixflow, logged the problem, and less than a day later I got a text from a contractor. Just that easy.
The other issue is people hate using the phone. They would much rather text or book online, so it’s worth finding a system that lets them communicate in a way that’s convenient for them.
Whether it’s a link to an online booking system, or text confirmation of an appointment slot, take away the friction of doing business with you.
Even if you don’t use much tech in your business yet, you should consider how these digital tweaks can make life easier for you and your customers.
Thriving companies are always asking, “How can we streamline and improve what we do?”
Delight customers by being fast, efficient, and easy to do business with, and you will have the edge on your competitors.
Jason Morjaria became an entrepreneur in 2006, with the launch of Commusoft, a job management software designed to digitalize field service companies and help them sustainably scale their operations. With over a decade of experience running his own company and advising other would-be entrepreneurs and business owners looking for growth strategies, Jason has witnessed the comings and goings of many field service trends, developing a keen eye for what is here to stay