Some businesses, particularly in customer service industries, professional business services or care industries, have not integrated e-commerce into their web platforms. There’s a seemingly simple reason: what these organizations sell is not easily monetized via transactions. Rather, the longer sales cycle involves relationship building, customization of a service package, and a fair amount of negotiation before a sale is closed. This courtship between an industry provider and consumer has not, to date, been well designed to proceed on the internet. However, the reality of the situation is that even the most traditional service business are beginning to recognize there are aspects to their offerings that are, or can be, transactional, opening up new avenues to connect with clients.
Process Improvement and Work flowing
You don’t need to have flash-backs to TQM in order to know the importance of how information moves through your company. If your processes are unclear, it’s going to be difficult to determine which ones are able to be work flowed into the web. Before you start anything exciting regarding internet sales, take a few minutes to flow chart the two or three processes you think might be the best fit. For instance, if you’re a residential real estate services company, you might outline the intake process for a new property management client. What information, documents, signatures and so forth are needed to bring a property on board? Who inside your organization needs to approve the intake before it goes live, and then who needs to be made aware of it? Outline the pieces of information each person should get when a new property comes on. This is easily an area in which many residential real estate customers could gain efficiency, lowering internal operating overhead, and it’s also a way of becoming a Just In Time provider to your clients.
Transparency In The Relationship
Even if you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into a 24/7 service provider world, you can still keep your clients engaged with your web site as you work toward making your services available online. Obviously, keeping your content fresh is the key, but if you’re a service vendor, it’s likely your clients have no need to know about what you do – they are already familiar with your product. You can, however, provide them with a different reason to visit your site. Offer your clients transparency to their accounts, and you’re offering them an operational overhead reduction. Take the issue of billing. There is often documentation (be it a contract or a purchase or change order) that proceeds the invoicing process in a service industry relationship. With a simple, but secure, online document management portal, you can offer your clients the ability to see into their entire cycle with your business. Upload contracts and POs, and connect them to invoices, and then link in change orders, amendments and other follow-on documents. Show the relationship, and offer the documentation. Not only will it make your clients’ lives easier, it will give a visual reminder of how meaningful you are to their company.