Hey, Service Professionals: It’s Time to Modernize
(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
Calling all contractors: We need our driveway re-paved. Where are you?
How do I find you? Why is it so difficult? How come I do a search and get a disappointing number of results? In the rare occurrence when I can actually find and then visit your website, why do I feel like I’ve stepped back into the ‘90s? Is this even a business? Did your 8-year-old daughter design this?
Sure, there are services such as Angie’s List. But don’t you think it’s sad that the level of mistrust and dissatisfaction with contractors in general requires a site like this? Please take a look at your business and make it easy to find. Have a professional website prepared and indexed on popular search engines. Make sure it can be easily navigated on my phone or tablet. Get listed on popular directories such as Yelp, Google Places and Yellow Pages and get established on Facebook and LinkedIn too.
OK, now I found you. Given how difficult this was and how lousy your website looks, I’m not going to risk emailing you (is that an AOL address?). So I call. Wait, is that — an answering machine? Like on the Seinfeld episode when Jerry had to swap out the cassette because George had left an angry message on his girlfriend’s answering machine by mistake? Because it sure sounds that way.
Can I speak to a human? Oh, there’s no human. Wait, the message box is full? Let me call back. Did I just get a busy signal? A busy signal at a business? You are running a business, aren’t you? Please hire someone to answer your phones. Or hire an answering service.
Consider a hosted phone system such as VirtualPBX or Grasshopper so your “receptionist” can be anywhere and you get text messaged when a call is received. Please make sure this person has a system (Outlook? A simple spreadsheet?) to make sure that you don’t forget to return calls because you’re busy doing the work.
Great talking to you. I’m happy to hear you can stop by next Wednesday sometime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. I appreciate you narrowing down the ol’ time frame and being so accommodating. Luckily, my driveway is outdoors so you can come by anytime whether I’m there or not.
If you did indoor work that requires someone to be at home, let’s please hope that you’ll place your prospect’s schedule above your own, and arrange visits during the day, at nights or on weekends as preferred by your customer. Yeah, that may be inconvenient for you. But this is the life you chose. All the Wall Street, Hollywood leading men and professional baseball player jobs were taken when you applied.
Oh darn, you didn’t show. Well, something must have come up, right? I wouldn’t know because I haven’t heard from you in a week and I had to call you. Sorry about the “scheduling snafu.” Please do what you say you’re going to do. Like, oh I don’t know — showing up? Being on time? Submitting a quote as promised? Getting the job done as committed? And you may want to consider starting that practice now, before I commit my money to you later. My confidence (and patience) is at its edge.
You know what? Good job my friend. The driveway looks great. You are competent and hats off to you. So, don’t you want to get paid? It’s been two months and I’ve left a couple of messages. I’m a pretty honest guy but I’ve got a few other things to do besides chasing you down just so I can give you my money. Maybe you should invest in a simple mobile system such as Square or QuickBooks Payments. That way, the day you finish the job, you can whip out your iPad, finish up the work order and invoice and get my credit card right then and there.
The paper, clipboard, pen, pink copy, checkbook — like disco and M*A*S*H, that was great back in the ‘70s. But it’s a whole new world and the younger people you want to hire and take over your business one day want new, mobile, cloud, quick, cool and convenient. And they’ve never heard of M*A*S*H. But go ahead — ignore this advice. Your competitors aren’t.
Well, it’s been a couple of years since I last saw you. How ya been? I don’t hear from you. That’s a shame. I had some other work to be done and forget that you could do it, so I had someone else in. It’s so inexpensive to have a part timer send out a monthly email with some home repairs tips, or give me a call to see how my driveway is doing (it could use a few touchups, but who has the time to remember that) or to maybe recommend one of your other contractor friends to come around and look at my dilapidated roof, crumbling plumbing and horrific landscaping. That would really help me a lot.
I bet they’d be interested in the work too — and happy to return the favor someday. I’m not just a customer for a job. I should be your customer for life. What are you doing to make sure you’re always keeping in touch with me for when I’m ready for the next job?
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