It’s not big news that business in the construction industry is super crazy these days. We have all had to deal with supply chain issues, employees who don’t have the needed training or critical thinking skills, workforce shortages, increased demand caused by low interest rates and multiple price increases on supplies and materials. People are overly strained, frustrated, demanding and sometimes unreasonable. But, no matter how stressed we are, we’re doing the happy dance all the way to the bank.
However, I remember pre-2008, when businesses were making money in spite of themselves. And then it happened. The Great Recession. Companies no longer earned money just by osmosis, and many closed their doors. The businesses that survived were the ones that maintained a positive cash flow regardless of the economic climate, and they were able to this by being smart, efficient and providing unparalleled service and quality.
There has been a lot of grumbling lately about a possible recession. Interest rates have risen to 2008 levels leading to lower demand, and inflation rates are the highest they’ve been in over 40 years, forcing consumers to cut back on the non-necessities. And, stock market declines are making some investors nervous.
As impossible as it may seem because we are so busy, now is the time to think about taking steps to ensure your business is strong enough to outshine your competition during an economic downturn. Don’t be complacent regarding the money you’re making. Now is a great time to surpass your competitors and prepare for whatever the economic future holds.
Setting Your Business Apart
Competition is fierce these days, and there are many players in your market with approximately the same price, availability and service. What is going to set you apart so you can garner additional business and gain market share? What are you going to do to make sure you maintain revenue and even grow, regardless of the economy?
I have a simple idea.
How about making it easy to do business with you? This works for any sector in our industry, whether you’re a manufacturer, sales representative, showroom owner or salesperson, wholesaler, designer, architect, builder or installer. Everyone benefits when you make your business easy to do business with and make the customer’s hectic life easier.
There are three actions you should consider when looking to make your business more user friendly.
First, ensure any changes you implement help both you and your client, not just you. Before you make any changes about how you and your clients conduct any trade activities ask yourself, “Is this new policy or revision going to make it easier for my client to do business with me?” and “How will this modification affect my customer?”
Often, companies make changes because it makes things easier for them, not their client. This type of business practice is shortsighted and may harm your industry relationships and reputation. Don’t give your customer an excuse to go elsewhere; don’t force them to work within your perimeters, work within theirs.
Put yourself in you customer’s shoes. When you are the customer, you want to be able to order and secure products or services as easily and quickly as you can without any hiccups. The same holds true for your clients. Ask yourself, “Am I doing everything I can to make my customer’s purchase from me as easy as possible?” If the answer is no, this is a great time to look into making changes.
Second, make your company accessible and respond to customers as quickly as possible. For example, many manufacturers cannot hire enough customer service representatives, so they are not answering phones and are requiring clients to communicate via email only. The problem with this is the number of emails that are compounded, and the increased response time because your team can put off responding. You email customer service and when you don’t have a response in the time you need or want, you email again and again. When people are busy, they need an answer now so they can get the task at hand off their plate and move onto the next.
Think about how quick and efficient it was in the “old days” when you could call a company to get needed information. You phoned and someone answered, you said what you needed, and they connected you to the person who could help. The task was done in a matter of minutes. This also gave you the opportunity to verbally express your need and, if you were not clear, you immediately knew so you could reexplain right then and there.
Today you have to play email ping pong or, if you do call, you have to go through five minutes of press 1, press 2. Sometimes we even get disconnected and have to the start the entire process over again. Talk about a time waster and increase in the frustration level. Studies have shown that one of the major determining factors customers use when deciding to buy products or services is how easy it is to reach the business if they have questions or need support.
Lastly, offer multiple business transaction options so clients can select the method that works best for them. Each one of your clients has the method they like to use for handling commerce, so give them multiple ways to work with you, allowing them to select from the method they prefer.
For example, what are all of the ways a client can pay you for services? Give them options. Some still use checks, others like wire transfers or ACHs (automated clearing house), and some prefer credit cards or even Venmo or Zelle. It might be inconvenient for you to offer all of these options, but doing so makes it easier for your client – and you get the added benefit of getting paid.
If you are making your clients jump through hoops to place orders with you, making it burdensome for them to reach customer service on the phone or making it challenging to get information, you are giving them a really good reason to go elsewhere. Cultivate a mindset at your company of making it easy to do busy with you. Ask your staff for ideas and opinions since they are the ones dealing daily with your clients and are the ones who hear complaints from customers about their frustrations about doing business with you.
While it makes sense in hectic times for your company to take the path of least resistance, in doing so you don’t want to complicate the process for your clients. If you make your company easy to do business with, the more likely it is clients will keep doing so. ▪