The way people look for service providers has changed a lot over the years. The first telephone directory was created in 1878 in Connecticut. The phone book ruled for the next 120+ years as the best way to get your name out to prospective customers.
They’d find you in the phone book or hear about you from a friend and give you a call. You’d discuss prices & availability and hopefully all would agree you’re the best company to test their backflow device. You’d gather some information from them and you’d have a new customer on your books with work to schedule.
And that was just how business worked for the most part through the 20th century. You talked to your customers before working for them.
But the internet has changed consumer preferences. You need to make sure to keep up with these changes or lose customers to others who are willing to adjust.
You wont survive without a website
Studies vary on exactly what percentage of US consumers use the internet for purchase decisions. But all of them agree, it’s well above 75%.
Gone are the days of the phone book. That’s not a shocking revelation. In fact in 2012 a few cities actually enacted laws to ban phone books (they were later overturned.)
I’ve talked about ensuring you have a positive brand presence online through managing social, customer reviews, & your website (start at the first of my Marketing series.) Studies say more then 50% of consumers use social media & review sites to make decisions before deciding on a business. (Most recent study supporting this was Yodle’s)
What’s that mean? 50% of consumers want to know about you before they even engage you. You’re going to be pre-selected. There is a good chance your brand & online presence is going to speak for you.
The same study found 42% of small businesses have websites.
Our analysis of backflow & cross-connection companies across the US & Canada shows our industry is lagging greatly – only about 10% have websites!
Customers want more than a phone number on your website
You need to provide value to win.
Another key finding in the Yodle survey –
Consumers ranked website improvements as the change they are most interested in seeing from local businesses over the next year, and also identified offers for returning customers as the best way for a local business to stand out from its competition. When asked about a variety of different types of communication such as service/appointment reminders and advice/helpful tips, consumers identified a significant gap between what they are currently getting from local businesses and what they are open to receiving.
Millenials & Gen Xer’s are the growing market segments. They want ease of use over everything else. They don’t pick up the phone to call and schedule a service if they can click a button on a website. They want a copy of their test report via email, not paper. They haven’t seen a check in a decade to pay a bill – it’s credit card payment or nothing, preferably online.
Your website is the store front most of your potential customers see first. Why ask them to jump through another hoop of calling you to discuss things – your website should be doing that. Cover their common questions (price, how soon, do you send to the city, repairs, we all know these…) and even let them schedule a test or manage their past tests. Don’t lose customers because you don’t get to the phone fast enough. Welcome them in with open arms 24/7 on your website and make it easy for them to be your customer.
I’m obviously biased but I think our Customer Portal is the best possible solution to the website problem for our industry. Our beta customers have had absolutely amazing results. I’m really excited to make it available to all of our customers very shortly.