How Technology Enhances Customer Service, Even with Social Distance

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There’s a long-held assumption that the more technology you introduce to your business model, the less human interaction you get. Unfortunately, this rationale causes many businesses to put so much emphasis on their digital capabilities that customer service standards go to the wayside.

When you’re in the business of plumbing, delivering your essential services will always require interaction with your customers at some stage of the process. Therefore, providing poor customer service and hoping your advanced technology makes up for it might as well be a death sentence for your business.

In reality, technology should not be seen as a replacement for excellent customer service, but rather as a necessary tool for enhancing the overall customer experience.

For Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, we’ve found in recent years that not only does implementing various advanced plumbing technologies such as the use of video inspection equipment or video conferencing and consultations improve the work we do in the homes of our customers but incorporating technology into the customer relations aspect of our business has led to happier, more loyal customers across our global network. Here’s why…

Customers want convenience, and so do providers

Today’s consumers make their purchase decisions based primarily on convenience and instant gratification. Which restaurant is available and can deliver quickest through my favorite food delivery app? Which clothing store has a user-friendly website and offers free two-day shipping? The same mindset comes into play when looking for a home service provider: Which plumber is easiest to contact and can get the job done most efficiently?

Always try to think from the customer’s perspective. If someone is in need of a plumber, chances are they are stressed enough as it is. The least you can do for them is simplify the request and scheduling process with online and mobile options. Ideally, this simplifies things for you as the contractor as well. There is no need to invest all of your time, talent and resources in creating an intricate website for online scheduling, when the best approach is to make it simple and attractive with consumer-friendly usability. The more user-friendly your system is, the more customers you’ll attract. And with more customers, there’s a greater need for an intuitive system to help you keep track of those leads.

Technology can play a particularly important part in helping to improve the efficiency of phone systems. If you are a larger plumbing company that receives frequent phone calls, you may want to consider using technology to organize calls so that fewer calls are missed. This could include using call center workforce management software to allocate calls along with virtual phone menus.

Customers expect professionalism

If a homeowner is paying a professional to complete a home service project for them, they want to feel confident that their money is going toward someone who knows what they’re doing. In the past, a plumber’s success was based on how well they could “paint a verbal picture” of the issue and its solution for a customer. Nowadays, a plumber who arrives with a mobile device or tablet ready to visually explain their recommended approach instantly increases his/her credibility as a trusted advisor as opposed to a salesman. Figuring out how to appropriately use technology to convey expertise is a skill that requires more advanced and ongoing training of your technicians, but it’s worthwhile to ensure your team can respond to service requests with the utmost professionalism.

Electronic communication also streamlines transactions between providers and customers. Invoices can be delivered directly via email so they don’t get lost in the mail. Messages can be sent and received in real time so there’s no frustration over playing phone tag. Customers can better prepare a technician for their visit by sending photos and videos of the issue at hand, which makes for a more prepared technician upon arrival. All of this conveys the image you want of an experienced and professional provider.

Customers want to feel safe

Being an essential service provider during a pandemic is both an opportunity and a challenge. While issues that require a plumber cannot be ignored, it is also a health risk both to the homeowner and to the technician alike for us to deliver those services directly to an individual’s home. Being invited into people’s homes in order to do our jobs is a privilege, especially in today’s environment, making it absolutely necessary to work safety measures such as wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining social distance, and more into our standard service call procedures.

With technology, we can take our precautionary measures a step further to create an experience as close to contactless as possible. Electronic capabilities for transactions such as providing estimates, sending invoices, and receiving payments are a must. For the service call itself, being digitally connected with our customers allows us to send arrival alerts, to pre-screen customers, and to possibly even provide expertise and direction entirely virtually for select home maintenance jobs that homeowners could accomplish themselves. By introducing these creative approaches to doing what is usually a very hands-on job, we show our customers that we realize giving them the best and most comfortable experience goes far beyond the job itself.

The time to evolve is now

Of course, the idea of implementing all of this advanced technology to your plumbing business may be a daunting concept for some contractors. You might even question if it’s worthwhile if the old-school business model you’ve always had is still working as far as you can tell. But with the growing prevalence of technology across all industries, chances are refusing to adapt will leave you behind your competitors who are rising to the occasion.

If you’re not comfortable making the changes yourself, consider hiring a consultant or perhaps even converting your business to a franchise model like Mr. Rooter to get the digital support you need. But one way or another, it’s time for your plumbing business to step into the future.

Glenn Gallas is the Vice President of Operations for Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company. Glenn’s career in franchising began as a franchise owner in 2000 of a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise. Glenn became a multi-franchise owner when he purchased a Mr. Electric franchise and then a Holiday Lighting franchise. Glenn is a veteran and has served in the US Army in both the active and reserve capacity and sees franchising as the best fit opportunity for veterans transitioning from the military to civilian life.

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