Whether your operation is B2B or B2C, there’s no denying that customers — what they know and what they expect — have changed a lot in the past decade. Thanks to Amazon, most consumers now assume everything from tracking visibility and extreme variety in choice to easy returns, high-level customer service and supply chain transparency is as natural to the buying process as spending money. Thanks to Google, most consumers today are also much more educated than consumers were ten years ago, and while a truly well-educated customer is refreshing, a partially educated one can create headache after headache as unfounded and ill-formed expectations take centerstage.
For residential construction firms, city waste and recycling departments, custom cutting crews and other equipment-driven organizations, meeting the needs of this new customer can be especially challenging. Equipment-oriented work doesn’t exactly lend itself to the speed and transparency of the times. Given that there’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle, however, it’s important to find a way to keep customers happy while staying sane. Here are a handful of strategies to meet your customers’ expectation in the Amazon Age.
Just because you know your customers keep you in business doesn’t mean your company is actually customer centered. Most organizations say the customer comes first, but if what drives your decision making are shareholders, cutting spend regardless of customer experience or keeping executives happy, that claim is hollow. A customer-centric organization doesn’t just take customer needs and desires into the equation; customer needs and desires are the equation.
And customer needs and desires are changing. Where before the widespread influence of the internet and its giants what a customer wanted was the product at a good price; now a customer wants the product at a good price with a slew of value adds, including:
A good experience, both online and offline
A fast and on-time rate of delivery
Education, advice, etc. to alleviate customer pain points, regardless of whether or not those pain points are directly relieved by the product or service you’re providing
Excellent customer service throughout the experience and beyond it
And honestly, that’s just the beginning. Unless your firm is also meeting these new needs and desires, you aren’t yet being as customer-centric as the new customer expects you to be.
Improve the Customer Experience
Almost all of us now operate in two distinct but overlapping planes: the real world and the virtual world. Your organization likely already relies on telematics data to keep your fleet up and running, while helping to control costs, even though the work you do is literally in the real world. Your customers have a similar overlap, and while they know that your work doesn’t take place in the virtual realm, their expectations include the values, virtues and vices of the virtual realm.
So what does an improved customer experience for a gear-driven company look like? A little bit like a teenager on a smartphone. Here’s what we mean: Your customers are used to communicating instantly with co-workers, friends, family, brands — even their dentist — across a wide range of mediums, including text messaging, phone calls, chats, social media, email, Slack, etc. And they’re used to getting a response quickly. For an equipment-driven company to meet customer expectations in 2019, you’re going to have to do likewise.
According to a McKinsey & Company report, of 1,000 B2B decision makers surveyed, speed in communication was the number one pain point for customers, listed twice as often as price. What that means is that how quickly you’re able to respond to your customers — and on the communication channel they prefer — will determine the quality of your customers’ experience.
Customization = Flexibility
When Henry Ford famously said about the Form Model T — “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” — he was speaking from a place of power over the customer. There was literally no other affordable car available to buy. Those days have long since passed, and now, it's clear power resides with the customer, and the customer almost always wants whatever it is they’re buying to be a direct reflection of them, not the brand.
For gear-driven companies, this emphasis on customization is best expressed through flexibility. Your customers may all appear to be getting the same service or product, but they’re not identical to one another. Offering flexibility in deliverables from timeline to what materials are used to disposal methods employed and the like can go a long way in giving your customers a customized experience. Yes, it will likely mean more moving parts, but offering LEED-certification to those customers who want it or renting hybrid machines for a job where a customer is concerned about emissions is just one more way to broaden your appeal. Find out the specifics of what your customers want and then get flexible enough to offer those specifics.
For many of your customers, life isn’t just getting more and more digitized; it’s getting more and more automated. Temperature controls in offices and houses adjust automatically to changing environments. Digital calendar reminders act as personal assistants. Google lets us know if we're about to leave off an email attachment. Because of these new and increasingly robust tech-driven efficiencies and failsafes, it’s more important than ever to keep the human element in the customer experience. From the copy on your website to the voice on the other end of your phone lines, your customers need to feel like people who care about them are in charge of your company. Even while you invest in greater digitization to drive efficiencies, you still need to be investing in the personal. While we all may one day conduct our affairs via machines, that day has not yet fully arrived. And right now and for the foreseeable future, the company best able to wed the virtual realm with the real world to meet customer needs and desires is the company best positioned to win.
Find out more about how GearJot can help position your company to win with our powerful suite of cloud-based tools that improve and simplify everything from preventative maintenance to collaboration among team members.