By now it’s cliche to talk about how “terrible” 2020 has been, how “weird” things are, how confusing everything has become, how polarized many people seem to be, etc. No matter your opinions, or the leanings of your Facebook posts, one thing is for sure: People’s perception of the most effective way to buy items has radically been altered. Consider Amazon’s stock price on March 12, 2020 ($1,676.61) versus the end of September 2020 ($3,178.57). That’s almost DOUBLE in six months.
This isn’t a sales-pitch to sell online. My point is that at every stage of the game, both consumer and vendor have stretched their creativity as to how to keep things as normal as possible, and keep the things we want flowing. That creativity has revealed efficiencies in places most didn’t think to try. Our industry is no different, and a quick snapshot shows that those who adapt have an upper hand. Here’s what they’re doing.
1. Embrace the “new” landscape
Whatever normal is, and whenever it returns (or doesn’t), it doesn’t really matter. Events like this through history have a transformative power to breed change quicker than time itself. The moment the telegraph was accepted, it was expected. You couldn’t get away with running a business without email as so many did just 10 years ago. Remote communication tools using cloud collaboration are not going away, but rather now we’re have a discussion about how to best use them.
2. Leave your assumptions at the door
First of all, dump the assumptions you had. Some of the old stereotypes were the first to go in the very complex landscape of the pandemic. I know Trump supporters who won’t leave the house without a mask. I know “liberals” who won’t wear hand sanitizer. I know “Baby-Boomers” who love Zoom, and Gen-Zers who prefer to do things in person. The landscape is surprising in some delightful ways! Don’t assume because someone is 59 years old that they’d prefer to come into the showroom to go over hardware. And don’t assume because someone has gauged ears and a Starbucks in their hand that they only want to text you. Be prepared to serve your customers on multiple platforms no matter the demographic.
3. Use the proper tool at the proper time
You wouldn’t use a planer to sand, and you wouldn’t use a jointer to edge. You don’t have to become a no-touch showroom and you don’t have to shun remote meetings any more than you have to choose just one tool for your shop. Consider adopting the tools to use different types of communication in the correct context. (I did a whole article about this here) For example: Texting someone to verify the correct texture on a wire-brushed door will be ineffective. Setting up a zoom meeting just to ask a simple yes/no question will also be ineffective. Know when to use different types of communication and employ all of them when they’re appropriate. Tell the customer “I want to talk to you about XYZ, and the most effective way would be using XYZ, can you pick a time on my calendar (more on that in a second)?
I’m not going to go too far into when to use which type of communication here, but rather introduce you to a few you might not be familiar with. You probably need no introduction to phone, phone conferences, text, email, and face-to-face. You’ve probably been using those for years. Here are a few new(ish) tools that you’ll need to embrace if you haven’t already.
4. Implement a video conferencing option
To “Zoom” someone has become a new verb, take note. Video conferencing is a new normal across all cross-sections of society. It’s never going “back”. Schools are teaching, business deals are happening, and singles are even “dating” through Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. It doesn’t have to be Zoom, but make sure you give your customers the video option, and push them towards that option when it’s the most effective. Remember the communication spectrum, don’t waste your time on the wrong type of communication. For an extra bonus, have many options available to accommodate your customers. Try: Zoom, GotoMeeting, Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Messenger.
5. Make sure your website has chat
Your website is often the first contact a customer has with you, no matter your product. Customers want to land there, scope you out, type a question, and get a fast answer. The best way to accommodate that is by embedding a chat tool into your web site. They’re simple, inexpensive, and powerful. On most platforms you sign up, set up your preferences, and copy an embed code that you can put right into your site. Anyone that was able to get your site up and running can do this in seconds. From then on, visitors can chat right there on your site to you. You can choose to get the messages on your phone, on a computer, or distributed among a bunch of employees. Try: Intercom, Purechat, Olark, Zendesk, Hubspot, or Livechat.
6. Use cloud calendars
Imagine this scenario from your past (or present). You need to schedule an appointment with a client to go over a bunch of changes, gather hardware preferences, and get a payment. You search for the number, call, and it goes to voicemail. You leave a message. 2 days go by and the thought crosses your mind late that night in bed that the number you didn’t recognize yesterday might have been that client, and now you’re stressed because you think you might have just lost that job. You call back in the morning, no answer. They call you back, but you’re on the toilet. You call them back but they were at lunch with an important client. They call you back and FINALLY! CONTACT! This is when you both joke about how hard the other one is to get a hold of. And then the business… “When can we get together?”
Another version of this problem is this:
You: when can we get together to discuss xyz? (5 hours pass...)
Client: I can do Monday afternoon (2 hours pass…)
Workday is over, (14 hours pass…)
You: I’m full Monday, can we do Tuesday? (3 hours pass...)
Client: Sure, what time?
All of that JUST to set a time to get together? Don’t tell me it hasn’t happened to you. Times this by multiple meetings with multiple people a day and your time and sanity can get away from you very quickly. You’re probably used to it by now, or it’s a badge of importance you wear as a person who is important and needed. But the reality is, it’s costing you growth, peace, inspiration, and clear mind. How can you think of a new way to arrange your machines to save labor if you have 10 micro-thoughts of stress running around in your head? How can you organize your thoughts to solve a problem about an employee when your phone is buzzing 100x more than it really needs to? You can’t. If this isn’t you, maybe it’s one of your employees, and the same principle applies.
Implement a cloud calendar that you can quickly send to customer, eliminating all the back and forth and scheduling appointments that give reminders and keep things so clean and simple. Try: Calendly, Acuity, or Appointlet.
As always, make sure these tools integrate into your current systems, and check out Allmoxy!
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.