Take a moment to consider how you interact with your customers…are you doing all you can to provide the best possible experience?
How are you interacting with them throughout their entire customer journey? Or, better yet: how are they able to interact with you?
Customers aren’t always the most patient people; but let’s be fair: if they have a problem, it makes sense they want it fixed ASAP. Not only that, but it's best to avoid making them wait for the information they need - whether it’s confirmation on an engineer, receiving an estimate, or obtaining the final invoice.
We’re sure that you're making every effort to help your customers (that’s why they come to you, after all), but it’s likely true that there's more you can do.
In this case, Online Portals can be a great way to enhance your customer's experience, taking them on stress-free, straightforward journeys that enable them to resolve their queries quickly, and even encourage them to come back time and time again.
We'll explore What an Online Portal is, then discuss 5 Essential Portals for your business:
- Online Booking Portals: Streamline your communication
- Estimate Portals: Provide clarity in a secure setting
- Engineer Profile Portals: Inspire trust by relaying important information
- After-Sales Care Portals: Obtain quality feedback to increase customer satisfaction
- Invoice Portals: Improve cash-flow, reduce debtors and take the strain out of chasing payments
First: What is an Online Portal?
Online Portals (also Customer Portals) allow your business to engage with customers with minimal effort, but provide massive gain. They're often simple, but don't be fooled...they're powerful when use correctly.
Portals are generally hosted on secure web-pages (and can often be linked to your business management software) and allow you to quickly provide your customers with important information that is specific to them. For example, you might send them a personalised invoice, or provide details about an appointment.
The great thing is that as these portals are all web-based, they can be amended and saved easily, thus providing customers with up-to-date information, any time of the day. This way, you can offer them peace of mind through increased transparency, which is a great way to build trust and stand apart from the competition.
1. Online Booking Portal: Streamline your communication
The ability to organise our lives online at the click of a button continues to be revolutionary. With that in mind, shouldn’t inquiring and booking a field service job be just as easy?
As more and more people use mobile technology to connect by text, email, or messenger, an Online Booking Portal is the first step you can take to streamlining the way customers interact with your business, making your services as accessible as possible. Without adopting one, you may be missing out...
Consider the following scenario:
A customer’s heating has gone out, but it’s 10pm at night and your office is closed. Your customer knows you provide a reliable service and they’d prefer to use your services again over an unknown competitor. Unfortunately, they’re stuck for a way to contact you and, due to work constraints, are unable to call during your office hours the following day. What solutions do you have in place to avoid losing their business?
That’s where an Online Booking Portal comes in.
Usually integrated into your website, an Online Booking Portal (also called an online booking form) gives your client the freedom to make a direct inquiry at their convenience. Not only does this give your customer satisfaction that an inquiry has been made quickly, it’s also good for you as you’ll be notified instantly as the query will go direct to your chosen email.
Another great aspect of a booking portal is the information it can let you capture. A basic form could be as simple as asking the customer to provide a name, email address, and phone number.
However, you could take this a step further by customising your portal in an attempt to discover acutely specific customer data. Your form could ask the customer to indicate the type of request they’re after (i.e. from a drop down menu of options), you could also ask them to state their availability, or even the best way to contact them.
Knowing how to tailor your approach to a prospect is a great way to engage them in the right way and get off on the right foot to building an effective relationship.
Not only can they reduce admin time for your staff, Online Booking Portals act as a 24/7 window of opportunity, opening you up to a whole host of new customers who spend their time online.
2. Estimates Online Portal: Provide clarity in a secure setting
Online Portals are all about enhancing the way you interact with your customers. It won’t surprise you to hear that most customers want to know how much a job will cost them and be confident that it will be handled securely, especially if the work is expensive.
Your engineers may have already done an initial assessment of the required job and simply need the customer to confirm they’re happy to go ahead. Rather than dealing with this over the phone, or even going back and forth between numerous email responses, an Estimate Portal would provide you with the opportunity to tidy up the whole process and present a transparent breakdown to your customer.
Estimate Portals can do more than simply relay the cost related information. These portals can also be adapted to act as secure access points, particularly if you’re integrated and linked to services such as Stripe or WorldPay. Using this method, customers can quickly fill in their payment details and process them with ease.
Whether your engineer is with them in person, or if an estimate is being sent by your office staff, this digital solution significantly reduces the potential for errors caused by unclear notes, forgetful minds, or missed over crackly phone calls.
Not only that, but it also demonstrates a more environmentally friendly process (reducing the need for printing and signing paper), which can save time and additional cost from constantly sending details in the post, or handing them over in person.
Estimate Portals offer a digitalised solution that mean customers can access, review, and even send a payment online and be confident that only they can access and review their unique query. How great is that?
3. Engineer profile portal: Inspire trust by relaying important information
No one likes being left in the dark. The anxiety brought on by uncertainty is something that you no doubt try to avoid; it’s why you make plans, seek advice, or research information before making a decision, right? This is also true of your customers.
Consider the following two scenarios concerning a man named George. George is an elderly gentleman who lives alone: he’s not the most confident person and he doesn’t like to cause a fuss, but unfortunately his boiler has stopped working and he needs help.
George calls one company and speaks to a member of the office staff. However, it’s busy in the office and the staff member is distracted: they tell him an engineer will be over at 10am on a Tuesday but don’t successfully relay any other useful information before ending the call. George is already anxious and with no confirmation other than the brief phone call, he has no idea who will come to his house, what the engineer may look like, or any other useful details. He’s stressed and uncertain the issue will be resolved well.
George calls your company to arrange an appointment with an engineer; unfortunately your office staff are swamped as well, but they tell him they can book an engineer and will send additional confirmation details by email. George provides his email address and - shortly after - receives an message with all the details he needs. It includes the engineer’s name, their qualifications, and even a smiling photograph so George knows who to welcome into his home! He's now happy and feels confident the job will go well.
With just a little bit of information and minimal additional effort, you can provide customers with peace of mind and satisfaction, even before a job has started!
It's certainly true that we as humans connect to names (didn’t you sympathise more with "George" than if we’d just said “Customer X”?), but we also connect with faces too. In this regard, an Engineer Profile Portal is a great way to give your business a distinct personal edge with a pleasing visual touch that helps build trust with your customers.
That level of trust is invaluable and super important to maintain! Not only would a trusting customer be more likely to use your service again, they may also spread the word and bring additional business to your door.
For an even more tech savvy solution, you can also consider vehicle tracking as well:
4. After-Sales Care Portal: Obtain quality feedback and increase customer satisfaction
In your business, it’s not just attracting new customers that’s important, it’s also about how you support them after you provide your service. Understanding what a customer thought about your service is the best way to do this.
You’re never going to improve if you don’t take the time to learn from the people who are using your service. While it's true that obtaining useful customer feedback can be tricky, it is immensely valuable once it’s in your hands. That’s where an After-Sales Care Portal is especially helpful.
When a job has been completed you might consider sending a simple message to your customer that requests some feedback. Whether you automate this or not is up to you - but making the effort to obtain feedback (good or bad) is important.
- It shows you care what your customer thinks,
- It shows you value their opinion,
- It gives you the chance to reflect and improve
In addition, direct feedback can help you identify if a customer is dissatisfied before they post a negative review online. This can transform your customer-care into an active, rather than a reactive system.
There’s a great deal of value to be found in being able to record, monitor, look back, and learn from the feedback of your customers. An After-Sales Portal ensures that feedback won’t be lost or ignored altogether and gives customers the freedom to respond in detail, encouraging them (subtly) to respond swiftly, too, but without too much pressure.
5. Invoice Portal: Improve cash-flow, reduce debtors and take the strain out of chasing payments
Similar to the Estimates Portal, the Invoice Portal is a secure place that will provide a clear and simple breakdown of payment for your customer to review. They can rest easy knowing payment's are dealt with swiftly and with less friction.
No one likes chasing payment and you certainly don’t want customers to feel hassled, even if they genuinely are responsible for a late payment.
Another particularly positive benefit is how easy these portals make it for you to track invoices online, which ultimately helps reduce debtors and non-payments by letting you keep on top of details in an easy-to-manage location, online.
In addition, you could consider setting up simple reminders to send to customers, thus automating the process of securing payments and letting you focus on other tasks. This works both ways as well, so you and your customers can feel confident that records are organised, safe, and easy to manage.
Discover more: If managing cash flow is a problem, check out what the experts have to say. An interview with Clear House Accountants with advice on managing cash flow.
As with many of these solutions, by streamlining your processes and taking simple administration tasks online, you can put them at your customer's fingertips and free yourself to focus on benefiting in all sorts of ways!
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If you'd like a convenient collection of all this advice, you're in luck! We've put together an awesome infographic that's sure to delight! Highlighting the significance of Using Portals vs Going Without, you can see the Benefits of Crafting an Excellent Customer Journey for your business.