We can all identify with the pain of having a client text us after hours (usually interrupting family time). Most of us don't have the sophistication to handle incoming text messages in a meaningful way that gets our clients taken care of quickly. Most of our frustration has less to do with getting the text message after hours and more to do with our lack of after-hours or scalable support for ticketing via text message. That needs to change quickly.
Most of the prevailing attitudes around the CEDIA space seem to take on a few distinct flavors:
1.“I don’t give out my mobile number or my installers’ mobile numbers.”
a.Pros: you won’t have clients texting you or calling you on your mobile devices.
b.Cons: failure to adapt to client communication preferences may mean trouble for your business down the road.
2.“I’m available anytime 24/7 for my clients.”
a.Pros: good for you! That’s not easy and many CE business run this way
b.Cons: not a scalable solution. After a certain point, you can't handle everyone or heaven forbid you go on vacation!
3.“I don’t like getting texts from my customers but I deal with it anyway.” (the most common)
a.Pros: you’re doing what you need to for your clients and they appreciate the support
b.Cons: being reactive and unhappy with your texting policy may ripple through to your customer service efforts resulting in lower customer satisfaction
Think of the last time you used a service like Uber or Airbnb. Were most of your interactions on the phone or via text? I bet they were via text, and I also bet you (the customer) loved it. Who wouldn't? Texting is easy, sends the message to the recipient that you expect a quick reply and is now firmly way beyond the realm of giggling teenagers. Clients now expect us to respond to text messages anytime, day or night. Instead of complaining about the water flowing downhill, divert the flow into a business text messaging system. There are numerous companies catering to the need for business texting and here are some clear next steps:
1.If you don’t already have a CRM, get one and implement it. Companies like Zoho, ConnectWise, and others make solutions for our industry which will help streamline your record keeping. You can't run your custom installation business with QuickBooks and Outlook past the million mark. If you want to grow, begin with the end in mind.
2.If you have a CRM, ask your CRM vendor whether they offer support ticketing. Most of the larger CRM vendors offer in-house text ticketing support or partnerships with third-party applications (Zendesk, RingCentral, TextUs, etc.).
3.Determine how you’ll offer texting to your clients. Does everyone get to text you or only clients who’ve signed up for your support plans?
4.Roll out your new texting solution by communicating consistently with your clients and letting them know they can now text you for support. Make sure your employees know the new process and keep communicating to your clients. Determine a rotating call schedule for answering after-hours texts. This part takes time.
When you step back from your business, consider your most valuable and profitable product. What’s your biggest differentiator? I bet you say “service” when someone asks that question. You offer the best customer service but won’t text with your clients? Companies priding themselves on excellent customer service have figured this out and use it as a competitive differentiator.
A good friend recently showed me his phone and bragged that he could text with the American Express concierge. If you think about it, we’re expected to act as a concierge for our clients, and most of us begrudgingly do after hours. Why not take the bull by the horns and implement a solution that will at once formalize your business texting and serve as a huge competitive differentiator. How many of your competitors will implement something like this? Not many, I’d bet.
Stay frosty and see you in the field.