According to the old parable about the tortoise and the hare: "slow and steady wins the race", but what about when it comes to short-term situations where quick thinking and even quicker action is often necessary?
Where your customer service is concerned, speed is almost always going to be your friend and this is particularly true when it comes to money and processing payments.
If you’re not optimised to deliver the speedy interactions that customers expect, it’s going to hurt your business. So, let’s ask the question:
"Are you offering your customers a stress-free way to pay?"
Nothing will frustrate a customer more than a delay in paying for a service, especially if it’s not their fault. Whether that’s to do with paying an initial deposit or the entire invoice, if you’re still using old-fashioned methods—like over-the-phone payments or by cheque—you’re simply not providing an efficient customer journey.
That’s why this week, we’re investigating the importance of Estimate Portals—you might also see them referred to as gateways or web-pages—and Digital Payments.
- Digital vs old-fashioned payment solutions
- Adapt your business to help your customers
- Update your business to help your staff
From the moment you start handing out estimates and requesting deposits, it helps to have a digital software solution at your back: a paperless business is the way forward and will help you deliver an efficient, fast, and meticulous service.
1. Digital vs Old-fashioned Payment Solutions
Before diving into all the details about the superior tech-based alternative, let’s consider the dated processes that you may still have in place. Keep in mind that if these sound at all familiar to your current processes, it might be time for an update!
- A customer calls to enquire about your service and requests an estimate.
- You send the estimate by post, phone, or email and wait for them to accept.
- If they accept, they respond, but you could also be left waiting when they've already moved on to the competition.
- You reach out to the customer to take payment of the deposit (if one is required).
- The customer makes the payment, sometimes by cash or cheque, which is time consuming to deposit yourself.
- You record that data manually to a filing system or inefficient database.
There are some obvious problems that come with these steps. Time delays being the most prominent one. This is particularly true if you’re sending requests by post and waiting for responses. These things can be easily forgotten, or messed up by butterfingered employees, where mistakes lead to even further miscommunication and confusion.
It’s a common saying that "time is money", and no one wants their time wasted.
Ultimately though, crossed wires are a sure-fire way to frustrate everyone and all of these issues result in missed opportunities for revenue, especially if a customer decides to look for a less convoluted solution elsewhere.
Use an Online Estimates Portal
That’s where an estimates portal can come in to alleviate tension, and even limit the chances of it developing in the first place. Adopting an estimates portal is all about reducing friction and making payments easy.
The steps we listed above become condensed and much of the administration time that your staff might spend on each step becomes significantly reduced, or can even be dropped entirely. When a customer inquires about a job, you can:
- Email a web-link that takes them to a webpage (aka, a portal).
- They review the details and can accept the estimate with a few easy clicks.
- If you require a deposit, the same page can allow them to pay then and there.
Easy, right? The first option clearly comes with a greater administrative burden. It’s laborious and time-consuming with more manual data-entry than most people would like. With the second, there’s little-to-no chasing and certainly less waiting around for everyone.
Data can also synchronise (ideally) with your job management software too, making it clear what steps have and have not been completed yet, further reducing that admin burden again.
Time is of the essence when it comes to securing a job. After all, you know that the sooner you get paid, the sooner you can start the work. It follows that the sooner you start, the sooner you finish, and can then move on to the next job.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rush through jobs as quickly as possible—the quality of your work and the customer relationship come first.
For the customer, though, having a speedy, efficient process to make a payment helps meet their expectations and can bring them peace of mind.
2. Adapt your business to help your customers
The way that customers pay for things are all being tailored toward convenience. The UK itself is just one of the many countries that are getting closer and closer (for better or worse) to becoming an entirely cashless society. As we saw, in 2018 The Guardian reported that UK debit card transactions overtook cash for the first time in 2017, and the trend has only continued to grow since then.
Whether it’s ApplePay, Android, or other Contactless Payments options, not to mention the growing popularity (particularly with younger audiences) of digital banks like Monzo, Revolut, and Starling, it makes sense that businesses follow suit to benefit as well.
There are certainly differences in spending habits between younger and older customers, but it’s not wise to ignore the changing trends and stick to the “traditional” way of doing things just because it’s familiar.
Yes, change is intimidating, but the way that customers interact with businesses has changed. Not adapting—especially with simple solutions like this—will cause you to fall behind the competition and limit your ability to grow.
Security is also a major concern for the customer who likes to pay online. They like being able see where their money is, where it’s going, and that it’s securely arrived at the service provider.
A frictionless experience is going to help them feel more secure in their decisions about who they do business with. It also removes the step of having to draw cash out (sometimes a lot of it), which your engineers would then be responsible for carrying around all day (risking loss), then have to process and physically deposit.
3. Update your business to help your staff and business
For your business, an estimates portal is another way to really enhance your cash flow.
You may have seen our conversation with Clear House Accountants on the very subject of cash flow. In it, we focused on why—particularly in the present day—a digital, integrated way of managing your accounts is necessary, not just manage your finances, but ensure that your business grows in a way that's easy to manage, with insight that you can apply.
It may seem like a small thing, but if you’re using an estimates portal to quickly secure a payment, that’s money you can use to help you succeed in the jobs you’re doing for your clients. It gets you moving faster so you can get the parts you need, pay for staff, and get the job off the ground.
We’ve said before that those time delays are costly, and while it might sound like I’m repeating myself, it’s because I can’t stress enough the importance of time when it comes to securing payments and limiting frustration.
Being able to clearly explain the process to your customers is a great way to build trust.
Besides, you’re not trying to deliver a frustrating customer service (we hope), but if your processes aren’t efficient, then your customer service staff aren’t going to enjoy dealing with customers, and customers aren’t going to enjoy working with them, either.
When processes run smoothly, you know they’re more likely to feel happy in the work they’re doing and when that’s the case, the same impression flows over to customers.
This way, you’re helping them to trust your business and enjoy using your services.
Staff will certainly appreciate the convenience afforded them thanks to solutions like these as well, where information can be logged automatically into your database software (assuming you’re using one, like Commusoft) which also simplifies admin work.
We’ve also discussed how a Booking Portal and Invoice Portal can assist in much the same way, and it’s no secret that with a host of accessible digital tools at their disposal, your staff and be empowered to take customers on quality customer journeys that helps elevate you above the competition.
Without tools like an estimates portal, staff can become frustrated and, much like your customers, and even end up wishing for better alternatives too. What you’re doing by implementing simple solutions is building up your business to not just win more revenue, but become sustainable as you do grow, as well.
So, while you might think your current method of taking payments is fine, you need to think about how the decisions you make will impact everyone connected to your business.
With it, you’ll be able to set up a solution that gives customers all the incentive they need to pay accurately and on time. Click below to download!