Optimize Customer Communication Through Technology

Tools like mobile field apps make it easier to create the kind of customer experience that ensures you maintain a steady workload

Optimize Customer Communication Through Technology

Uriah Matthews, innovation and solutions manager at Successware

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Running a successful business depends a lot on communicating well with customers, ensuring such great service that they’ll never think of calling on another plumber to handle a job.

With the pandemic and the customer service challenges it has created, the importance of client communication has really been thrust into the spotlight. In fact, those challenges prompted Successware — a business management software company for the home service industry — to enhance its mobile app earlier this year to provide even more sales, marketing and service tools for its clients in the plumbing, HVAC, electrical and roofing industries.

Uriah Matthews is the innovation and solutions manager at Successware. He used to be a client himself, working as general manager at a plumbing and HVAC company, so he knows firsthand the needs of those in the field. He recently spoke with Plumber magazine on the topic of customer communication.

Plumber: What are the key things about customer communication you learned when you were a general manager of a plumbing/HVAC company?

Matthews: One of the key communication lessons I learned was to make it all about the customer. The goal is to achieve maximum operational effectiveness while minimizing its impact on the customer experience, so you ask yourself these questions: Can we have information at the ready to confirm rather than asking the customer to provide it? Are we making the customers repeat themselves over and over again? Is the front line empowered with awareness of all our marketing efforts and ready to speak to it with a customer? Do we have the time to service the customer?

The conclusion I came to as a general manager was to automate operations as much as possible. Invest in tools and processes that empower your agents to provide excellent customer service. It works like magic. Even before I joined the Successware team, I recognized the value of using software that can log and automatically pull up customer records, provide scripting, call taking and time slot capacity management. These operational efficiencies elevate the customer’s experience, which ultimately puts more money in your pocket. If you’re not using software to improve your operational effectiveness, then you are guaranteed to find yourself creating unfortunate customer experiences.

Plumber: What do you think are the biggest customer communication pitfalls that companies often experience?

Matthews: One of the most important aspects of customer communication is to reply quickly to inquiries. These days, customers have endless amounts of information available at their fingertips. They are no longer willing to wait too long for information, and with such a competitive landscape out there, prompt customer service has become a pivotal differentiator. Businesses should aim to get back to any inquiry a customer makes as quickly as possible (we’re talking seconds to minutes), through whatever channel they contacted you on. The most valuable visits are customers that need you now. If you do not respond quickly, customers will likely go elsewhere. 

Another issue companies often struggle with is gathering customer information efficiently to match them with the right technician and service during the dispatching process. Getting the right technician to the right job in a timely fashion will save time, ensure customers receive the help they need, and reduce the amount of callbacks your company receives. There must be a process in place to evaluate the needs of the job and quickly match them to the most qualified person. 

Plumber: What are some communication challenges that you think the pandemic suddenly exposed for companies?

Matthews: Workplaces that relied on “popping up” over the cube, walking to talk, or hollering across the office to communicate probably struggled with the migration from the office to the home. On the other hand, businesses that had adopted technology and were using keystrokes and headset-based calls to communicate were much more prepared for working from home and creating safe environments. 

Even before the pandemic, technology has empowered companies to be flexible and nimble throughout the many challenges thrown our way. For example, rather than coming into the office to drop off paperwork each day, technicians are able to fill out forms through our app which is sent directly to your back office. Companies using a paper-based system probably struggled a bit here, but those that were connected with mobile field apps had an easier time adapting to many new situations.

Plumber: What are ways that the technology available today can help?

Matthews: As I mentioned, mobile connectivity and mobile field apps are a powerful tool. Today’s service companies have the benefit of technology that can connect them directly with their technicians in the field, allowing them to effectively manage their daily workload, their timecards, their customer relationships, and much more. 

Technology also allows for better data collection, such as customer addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers, along with work history, equipment age and condition, membership status, and even history of repairs. This information can help businesses create customer-focused marketing that will drive big results.

Successware is effective here because it is an “A to Z” product. Rather than relying on multiple software solutions to try and piece together your business needs, you want a platform that can consolidate all of your data – accounting, communications, marketing, business operations, etc. all linked together – and give you the convenience of an easy-to-use mobile field app. 

Plumber: What are some best practices with technology that are important in order to truly unlock its potential for improving customers’ experiences?

Matthews: Data collection is really the name of the game. Constantly be thinking about how your data can be used and where there is opportunity to collect data. Something simple like prepping technicians with the details of a job prior to their arrival at a job site can have far-reaching effects. With this advanced knowledge, they can now take the customer service one step further before even walking through the door, allowing the technician to know what opportunities to be on the lookout for in their visit.

When that technician is also armed with a mobile field app that allows for digital customer forms and the ability to present multiple repair options right from the app, the customer is now empowered to make a choice between good, better, or best options and decide if they want to use financing or not right on the spot from a tablet.  

There is an interesting change happening in the industry where businesses are evolving their “kitchen table” discussions from service book to tablet. In addition to improving customer experience, this shift away from paper is all about the data.

Plumber: Give an example of a common customer interaction and the ways that technology can be implemented to improve that interaction?

Matthews: When calls come into your business, it can be the first live interaction a customer has with your company. Therefore, call taking might be the most important part of any business. It’s certainly the first step in gaining, retaining, saving, or converting prospects into customers. Technology can help tailor and standardize the message each of your customer service reps is giving to potential or current customers, so they are all conveying the same core message and options. You can build scripts your employees can toggle between, based on the reason a customer has called in. For instance, if a customer wants to talk with a manager and the manager isn’t available, the customer service rep can document this in Successware and indicate it needs to be followed up on. This allows you to track what issues are being followed up on and which are still outstanding. 

Technology can also help record and track all call information, helping you better understand the needs of your customers and how you can provide them with the best service and follow-up. If someone didn’t do a job appropriately, all related calls, or callbacks, can be logged in that ticket and you can track how your experience has impacted the customer. 

These kinds of systems also create accountability within your team to elevate customer service. That’s really what it’s all about. Streamline your operations and maximize the customer experience. 


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