Customer experience is one of the most important factors when it comes to assessing the health of your business. I'd even go so far as to say that businesses can live or die by their customer experience, especially in today's digital and hyper-connected world.
In fact, more than 65% of people have higher expectations for customer service today than they did three to five years ago. And it's not hard to figure out why either. I mean just think about it, how far can a bad customer review go nowadays? Social networks, Google business reviews, and online forums are just some examples of the types of channels where these conversations can happen now.
Even if your business has been providing great customer service for decades, one bad review can trigger a domino effect that can spiral out of control if you're not careful. It's time construction contractors take this much more seriously!
So how can contractors offer the best client experience possible? Simple: you MUST offer an outstanding digital customer experience.
As all of us in construction know, keeping your clients satisfied all starts with communication. While the industry has grown accustomed to the chaos of emails, phone calls, and text messages used to communicate with clients, it's time to ditch these methods in favour of something much better and also more efficient.
What if your clients could be fully aware of the status of their projects automatically without your team needing to make a phone call or send a single written communication? Well the good news is that this is now possible using modern software tools!
The tool that makes this happen is the 'Client Portal'. A client portal is basically a software tool you can offer to your clients that essentially acts as your business's own app. You can provide each client with their very own account that they can log in to in order to see any relevant, real-time information for any of their projects or other business they are doing with you.
But before I dive deeper into how you can offer your own client portal, it's time to do a quick reality check on your business to see if you're even in a position to be thinking about a tool like this. You must look inward and ask yourself the most important question: "has my team fully digitized our internal operations first?"
If the answer is no, then now you know where you need to start. If the answer is yes, but in reality you're still using paper and/or spreadsheets, then you're likely misleading yourself (which is much more dangerous).
You shouldn't think about offering a great external digital client experience if you haven't even managed to maintain a great internal digital experience for your own team yet.
(Check out our recent post here for some tips on introducing your workforce to new technology!)
Step 1: Digitize Your Internal Operations
What we need to keep in mind is that, in order to offer a great automated and digital experience for clients, we will need to produce a good set of actionable data first. The only way to do that is to deploy modern, digital solutions for your personnel to use before, during, and after the project lifecycle.
Whichever platform you choose for this, you should make sure it covers all your needs, from managing field and sales operations to project documentation and back-office administration. If you pick a tool that doesn't truly cover your unique needs, you'll introduce a new problem into your organization by rolling out too many tools to cover too many different things.
Your best bet is to pick from one of the next-generation software tools which are highly customizable and let you decide exactly what your team requires the software to do, such as Construction Workflow Automation (CWA).
Be careful with the one-size-fits-all construction management tools as they do not offer the flexibility contractors need in order to meet their unique needs and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Ideally you want to pick a platform that you can mold over time as your business grows and takes on new kinds of projects and clients.
With a CWA platform, you get to decide exactly how you want to automate all the mind-numbing manual tasks across document management, communications, time tracking, safety forms, quoting, sales development, and more. CWA is also designed to integrate existing systems together and even add automation layers on top of existing systems using APIs, enabling organizations to maximize the efficiency of existing IT investments.
After deploying the right internal digital tool, your team will automatically start producing the data needed for a great digital client experience.
Step 2: Design Your Client Portal
Once you've nailed the internal digitization project, you can now start to think about extending this experience out to your clients by offering them access to their own client portal that your business provides.
When selecting your software platform for internal operations, you should check to see whether the platform even offers a client portal since a lot of the construction software out there is outdated and still doesn't offer this type of experience.
You also need to make sure that the software platform gives you complete control over exactly which data you want to expose to your clients and even how the client portal is designed. You want to be able to add your company logo and show/hide specific aspects of the project for your client. After all, some things are better left for only your internal team to see!
At Ontraccr, we've built a great client portal into our CWA platform that you can modify to your exact preferences. Whether you want to show your clients how much work has been done on your project, which of your field workers were on-site, give them access to certain documents, or even if you want to let them submit service requests directly from the portal, Ontraccr's client portal has you covered.
Step 3: Give Clients Their Own Login!
After you've digitized your internal operations and designed your client portal experience, now it's time to provide your clients with a login to their portal.
Note: Here is where you need to be a bit careful, make sure your software platform gives you the ability to manage your client accounts easily. For example, what happens if your client forgets their password or changes their email address? You need to have the ability to manage client accounts seamlessly so you can support them throughout.
An excellent customer experience can separate you from your competition and do wonders for your brand. If you invest in this initiative, before you know it you'll have project requests flooding in through the power of word-of-mouth, referrals, and online reviews!
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