Before we get started on our blog post, an update on Weston’s dog themed, 2nd birthday party. Although the weather was a bit sketchy for a couple of hours before the party, and we had to scramble at the last minute to move our set up outside, everything went off without a hitch! Lots and lots of food (thanks to my wonderful in-laws for helping to get it all together!), family, friends, and fun. And lots of Weston guarding his presents with his life! I can’t wait for next year! But for now, let’s get to it.
During our many preparations for Weston’s party, one of our to dos was getting our asphalt driveway repaired. It was ugly, broken down, and needed a facelift. So, I googled around and found a company to do it. Filled out their online “contact us” form, and didn’t hold my breath for a timely call back because that never happens. Except, for the first time, ever, I could have. Within moments of me filling the form out, I actually got a call following up to confirm that I wanted an estimate. I was pumped. Wahoo! FINALLY, a company that is actually on top of their customer service. How refreshing. Ahhh, this will be so easy. Finally a company that takes the lead, rather than me having to push for the next step each time. But, as it usually goes, that’s where it stopped being easy or refreshing.
The Customer Journey Has to be Efficient
Their system of actually following through was awful. The only part of the “customer journey” (the corporate term for all of the interactions a customer has with a company from beginning to end) that worked, was calling clients once they filled out a form. The rest of the steps were slow, inefficient, and completely business focused.
“We’ll send someone out to give you a bid. Thanks, bye.” Wait! When?! Dang it, they hung up. A few days later, oh, who is that random man walking down my driveway early in the morning while I’m still in my robe? I guess/hope that’s someone from the asphalt company. Hmm, he didn’t leave a bid behind. Days go by. I call, umm, do you have the estimate? I saw him here, I think. It’d be great if we could done this as quickly as possible as we’d like to get it done for a party in a few weeks. “Hmm, I don’t see the estimate. I’ll have your bidder call you on Monday. And let him know you need the bid emailed so it’s faster.” Neither of which happened.
I get the bid in the mail a week later. I call, “Bid looks great. When can you come out?” Oh, sorry, that’s not our process. You need to sign the bid, email it to us, and then at some point we’ll call you back to set up an appointment.” “Huh? Are you being serious? I’m on the phone with you right now. And you’re the person who I would set the time up with anyway. Oh, and it will probably take you 2 more weeks, from whenever you call me back, to even come out? (Wow…. this is a great system you’ve got!)” I got a call back, from the same person, a week later, to set up the time. The entire process, from beginning to end, took almost 4 weeks. I thought it would take about a week or two from the moment I called, to the moment they would come out and do the work. Not even close. And although they weren’t prompt about getting the work done, they were certainly prompt about asking for payment.
Your Systems and Processes Have to Work for You, and the Customer
So here’s the thing, maybe these processes worked for the business. Maybe having all of these back and forth steps somehow works for them (although I doubt it as it seems like a number of the steps were completely inefficient). But who they didn’t work for, was the customer. They were actually quite ridiculous, and irritating, and confusing. I can’t tell you how many times I asked Aaron, “should I stop this inefficient madness and find someone else?” But we didn’t because we were afraid to lengthen our wait time by contacting someone else, and we had signed an official bid. Now maybe if we weren’t doing this for a party we wouldn’t have been in such a rush, but it still would have made us very anxious, never knowing when or if this work will actually be done. Never knowing when they will ever decide to grace us with a phone call to set up their work time. Never knowing when a random man would come and walk our property.
The systems and processes that you use to run your business have to work for the customer too. They just have to. It’s a non-negotiable. In fact, the systems and processes that you use to run your business, is one of the greatest factors in how your clients feel about working with you. I would say it’s actually the #1 or 2 priority in great client care. Being unbelievably kind, or fun, or creative just isn’t enough.
If a prospective client calls to set up a first meeting, you don’t want to say, “I don’t have my calendar but I only meet on Fridays from 9 am to 11 am. I’ll have to call you back to see which Friday I have available.” And then not call for four days. You want to be ready, calendar in hand, whenever you pick up your phone. If you can’t be, then don’t pick up your phone and call them back later. And have reasonable meeting times available, even if it’s a few weeks out. Being booked out a few weeks is of course ok. But telling clients that no matter what week it is, you only meet prospective clients from 9 to 11 am on Fridays, is not ok.
Or when you’re making your selections, you don’t want to email them with every single gorgeous item that you find. Group your selections in one email, at the end of the week, or at the beginning of the next.
Or when you meet a client for the first time, don’t leave your contract at the office assuming, they won’t want to sign right away, so I’ll just send it in the mail if they say yes. Bring it, have it filled out as much as possible. And have any documents that need to be filled out with personal information, already filled out with what you learned from the screening phone call. Make it as easy and efficient as possible for them to work with you. The more work a client has to do, the less likely they are to hire you, and the less enjoyable they find the experience.
Make Hiring You as Easy as Possible
So, think twice when making your systems. If you wonder to yourself, when a client calls for the first time, should I just set up a time to talk more in depth, or should I talk to them then? The answer is, whenever possible, be ready to do your screening call on your first call. No need to waste more time of yours, or theirs. When you wonder if you should tell a prospect the simple process to begin working together, or just tell them the very next step, tell them the process. When in doubt, remember “Make it as easy as possible for someone to hire me, and work with me.”
Now, knowing just how to do that, isn’t always easy. How do you know if a system is efficient, for both parties? Is there a way to even really do that? Well, lucky for you, we’ll be going over exactly that next week. So in the meantime, do what you can to look at your client interactions and think, are there any steps I can cut out? Or simplify? Anything to make this process just a little bit more straight forward, streamlined, and understandable, for everyone involved. I’ll bet that if you look hard enough, there is.
If you’d like even more help making sure your systems are just as efficient for your customers as they are for you, go here to find out how!