Commercial service contractors, do delays in sending repair quotes to your customers impact your approval rate? How much? Are quotes more likely to be approved if they are paper or digital? Do pictures and videos help? These are easy questions to answer! Simply connect a business intelligence (BI) tool, like Amazon QuickSight, to the application you use to build and send quotes, like ServiceTrade, and analyze the data. It’s easy as pie.

OK, maybe it’s not that easy if you don’t have access to all these applications. On top of that, you also need loads of data that spans enough time to find statistically significant results. Don’t have access to all of those resources? That’s OK. We do. We analyzed 254,484 quotes created in ServiceTrade between January 1st, 2017 and July 31st, 2018 that were submitted to facility customers. From that data, we found that if you want to get quotes approved, they should be fast, rich, and easy.

Fast

We analyzed the time between when quotes were first created to the time they were first submitted to the customer to determine how much delays can impact the approval rate. This analysis does not take into account the time between the initial discovery of quoted opportunities to the time the quotes were created, but still offers a glimpse into the impact of delays on a customer’s probability of saying “yes.”

There’s no real surprise here. The longer it takes to get quotes into your customers’ hands, the less likely they are to approve them. The approval rate drops less quickly than I would have expected, but drops nonetheless. Turn quotes around as quickly as possible for the best outcomes.

Rich

Here’s your get rich quick tip of the day: Take more picture and videos, but not too many. Analysis of quote attachments, like pictures and videos, suggests there’s an optimal quantity that can maximize your quote approval rate; it’s 5. Fewer than that and you probably aren’t showing customers the full story and why they should approve your quote. More than that and you are likely overwhelming your customers with too much information.

Easy

Companies like Amazon and Uber set a high bar for customer experience and convenience. Data shows that commercial facility customers expect the same from you. You’re not going to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure to revolutionize commercial service contracting. However, simple conveniences go a long way. For example, sending quotes to customers online in a format that includes rich media and easy, one-click approval makes a big difference. Our data shows that ServiceTrade quotes that are viewed online are approved at a significantly higher rate than those that are not. For those that were not viewed online, this data does not distinguish between those that were delivered in a more traditional manner (email, snail mail, etc) or were just ignored by the customer. Either way, more views online mean more approvals.

You’re competing for a share of your customer’s attention and wallet. Their flooded inbox and growing to do list make it easy for them to lose track of priorities like your quotes for equipment repairs. Data suggests that email reminders give your customers the extra nudge they need to remember and prioritize your quotes. Reminders have diminishing returns but are effective at boosting overall quote approval rates.

 

Data knows best. Make your quotes fast, rich, and easy to get the highest quote approval rate. Want to dig deeper into your own data? Check out the Amazon QuickSight reporting enabled by ServiceTrade.

Shelley Bainter asked me to write this blog post explaining why I decided I needed to write The Digital Wrap and Money for Nothing in support of ServiceTrade’s marketing strategy.  It’s a great question. Interestingly, the books are mostly an extension/expansion/elaboration on a collection of blog posts and research that I along with Shawn Mims delivered in connection with ServiceTrade marketing activities.  There are two fundamental reasons that I write, and the books are just an outgrowth of those.

The first fundamental reason I write is because it helps me lead. I believe the best way to prove you are sane enough in your thinking to lead an organization is to commit your most important thoughts to coherent prose.  It did not surprise me at all when I read that Jeff Bezos banned Powerpoint in executive meetings at Amazon and instead required all important decision matters be committed to six-page memos with narrative structures.

If you cannot tell the story you want others to believe and commit to action, you are not prepared to lead. So I use writing to organize the ideas I want ServiceTrade to embrace and extend to our customers as our value proposition. It proves to myself that I am coherent in my thinking, and it gives my executive team something to debate, debunk, or improve for their own narrative purposes with their teams.

The second reason that I write is because I am a big admirer of the trick that two other MIT alums pulled with their company, Hubspot.  Long before Hubspot had a product that was worthy of market leadership, the two founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, had a concept that was worthy of market consideration.  They coined the term and wrote the book Inbound Marketing. It gave the new company, Hubspot, standing in the market prior to the product Hubspot having any significant leading features. Customers will invest in leadership ideas and demonstrate patience with the product if they see a bright future. Halligan and Shah demonstrated leadership and bought their company mind share that they were later able to convert into market share as the product matured.

Similar to inbound marketing for Hubspot, the concept of a digital wrap for ServiceTrade is new and novel among service contractors seeking technology solutions to enhance their business.  The digital wrap gives ServiceTrade something cool to share with prospects in order to challenge their notion of what it means to be competitive in a world dominated by digital experiences from Amazon, Uber, Netflix, Apple, and others.  How am I going to compete with an online customer service experience when my customers are comparing me to these mega digital experiences? ServiceTrade has a novel concept called the digital wrap that enables scalable and memorable online customer engagement.  Writing the books gives our small company standing in the market because we are talking about something unique, differentiated, and important.

You don’t have to publish books to benefit from these reasons that I have adopted for writing. Use the concept of narrative memos like Bezos does to force you and your management team to organize your thoughts into ideas that can be acted upon.  Build compelling stories about your unique capabilities to share with customers in the form of blog posts or videos. It is easier for a customer to consider your product when they see or read a story that compels them to change their assumptions because they believe you are predicting the future.  A good story helps them buy into your value.

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We’ll give the first ten readers to respond a copy of Billy’s new book, Money for Nothing. Send your request and mailing address to  shelley.bainter@servicetrade.com

Megabrands like Amazon and Domino’s are outselling their competitors and changing consumer expectations by going on offense and providing better customer experiences that are convenient and transparent. As easy as it is to dismiss these examples because they are seemingly unrelated to service contracting, even the local mechanic is giving their customers a better service experience. Take a look:

Do you trust that this mechanic delivered the services they were supposed to? Of course, you do. You watched them do it! The mechanic could have hoarded this video to play defense and cover their own ass in case the truck owner decided to fight the bill. Instead, they sent this to the customer online in order to be more transparent and provide a better customer experience than their competitors.

Be more like the mechanic. Be more like Domino’s and Amazon. Stop hoarding data just in case you have to defend your invoices. Go on offense and start sharing content with your customers to give them more than your competitors ever will – a contractor they can trust.

Every Sunday evening I receive an email from the software investment banking team at Key Bank Capital Markets. The subject line of the email is “Software Valuations,” and the email contains a link to a weekly report that details the valuation metrics of about 100 different software companies. All of these companies are public corporations, so their stock information is readily available for the folks at Key Bank to analyze. Most of the companies they follow are software as a service (SaaS) companies, and because ServiceTrade is a SaaS company, this report is very interesting to me as the CEO and a shareholder of ServiceTrade. It is my job to maximize the value of our stock for the benefit of all of our shareholders, and the Key Bank team helps me do this through their analysis of SaaS company valuations.

Here is an annotated version of a table they publish for about 70 different SaaS companies. I limited the table to 10 of the entries to make a point about the importance of growth to shareholder value.

 I sorted these from high to low based on the value-to-revenue multiple. The value-to-revenue multiple indicates how much the total of each company’s outstanding stock is worth as a multiple of their anticipated 2018 revenue. The number-one performer is Shopify, with a value-to-revenue multiple of 17.2X. The total value of all outstanding Shopify stock is equal to 17.2 times the revenue expectation for Shopify in 2018. You are reading that correctly. Investors are willing to buy Shopify stock at an extraordinary premium because they believe Shopify is going to grow, grow, grow. And Shopify is delivering on that promise. Note that Shopify expects to grow revenue by 51.1 percent in 2018 compared to their revenue in 2017. That’s a terrific growth rate. Also note that Shopify has a value of NM (Not Measured because they are not making a profit) in the category of price-to-earnings. That’s because Shopify is going to lose money in 2018. They will probably also lose money in 2019 and 2020 because they are investing like crazy to continue to grow. Despite this lack of profit, their stock is still extremely valuable.

Contrast Shopify with ChannelAdvisor. Their stock trades for just 2.9 times the revenue expectation for 2018. It’s interesting that Shopify and ChannelAdvisor offer a similar value proposition with their software applications – they both help small merchants sell their products online. The biggest difference is that Shopify is expected to grow 51.1 percent in 2018 and ChannelAdvisor is expected to grow only 6.8 percent. The expectation of growth explains why Shopify is almost six times more valuable than ChannelAdvisor.

Why is any of this relevant to your business? It is very relevant because their business model is similar to yours in that they sell a subscription program to their customers. If you are following my advice and developing a subscription program for maintenance, monitoring, and inspections for which you sell an annual or longer contract, your business is similar to these companies, and investors will ultimately value your business in the same way they value these businesses. The point I am trying to make is that growing is better than grinding when it comes to creating value for shareholders.

Grinding means pushing everyone in the organization to squeeze more profit from the current revenue stream. I have nothing against profit, and I think you should aim to be profitable. But grinding does not significantly increase the value of your business if there is the possibility to grow the business instead.

Growing is much more fun for everyone than grinding, for all of the obvious reasons. Growing means that new stuff is happening all the time. New products are being introduced to the market. New customers are being served. New employees are joining the company to help take care of the new customers. New promotions are being handed out because there is more responsibility to be shared. New offices are being opened. New equipment is being purchased. New tools are being deployed. New training is underway on how to use new tools. New, new, new means fun, fun, fun.

Grinding sucks because old tools are breaking and not being replaced. Old employees are leaving and not being replaced or taking on more responsibility for no increase in pay. Old customers are complaining because they are not getting good service. Old trucks are breaking down and disrupting the workday. Old, old, old means suck, suck, suck.

What is your plan for growth? How are you going to orient your company in a direction that gets to the fun of growing? It begins with a commitment to growth. If there is no expectation in the company that growth is an important metric, then no growth will occur. Set growth targets as part of your planning process, and don’t be shy about asking people to stretch to achieve something ambitious. For organic growth, plan to grow by 10 percent per year, and think about pushing for 20 to 30 percent (depending on the size of your company). All the best employees in your business will rally around the growth goal because none of them signed on for a career in which not much was achieved. Your employees will get much more career development from an aggressive growth strategy.

Maximizing the value of your business is the most tangible outcome associated with a successful growth strategy. The difference in valuation of the companies tracked by Key Bank in the SaaS market based on their respective growth rates is extravagant, and it should be a lesson for anyone who wants to build value with a subscription business model. The intangible value of having a growth strategy is that you will attract, develop, and retain a better class of employees who value your company because they expect to experience greater career development. They will be exposed to ever-increasing levels of responsibility, which leads to higher job satisfaction and better retention. Growing is fun and grinding sucks, so aim for growth and get more pay and have more fun along the way.

You won’t make your customer feel good if you provide convenience, transparency, and avoid bad surprises. Those are the bare minimum to meet their expectations.

From my last blog post:

Dr. Feelgood, from the 1989 Mötley Crüe single, was a drug dealer who got the name because he made his customers feel good. This kept his customers coming back for more. Do you make your customers feel good? It doesn’t really matter if you do a good job for them. If you don’t make them feel good about it, they won’t come back for more.

Obviously, commercial service contractors shouldn’t give their customers illicit drugs, but they can stimulate the same brain receptors that release dopamine, the feel-good hormone that drives positive reinforcement in the human biological reward system. Unfortunately, that same reward system has negative reinforcement mechanism called cortisol, the stress hormone, that’s easily triggered by bad customer service. Understanding what triggers these hormones is fundamental to creating an amazing customer experience that reduces stress, gets customers hooked to your brand, and differentiates your company from the competition.

In my previous post, I dove into the three stressors that trigger cortisol in your customers: inconvenience, uncertainty, and bad surprises. This week, I want to shift gears and talk about the three dopamine triggers you can take advantage of to make your customers feel good. Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult to elicit a dopamine response in your customers than a cortisol response because the typical triggers like sex and drugs are not tools you get to use. Instead, you’ll have to rely on subtle psychological triggers that require finesse to provoke.

Good Surprises

Our brains are wired to be delighted by good surprises. Neuroscientists from the Baylor College of Medicine conducted a research study in which volunteers played a computer game where they were presented with a red and blue deck of cards with the objective of accumulating as many points as possible by determining which deck contained more “reward” cards. They could select to flip the top card of either deck to receive a reward card that gave them points and triggered the cha-ching sound of a cash register, or a card that would remove points from their accumulated gains. Over time, they would learn which deck gave them more reward cards so they could accumulate points faster. Researchers modeled the volunteers’ expectation of reward based on their selections to classify gains and losses as expected or unexpected. On average, an unexpected reward resulted in highest release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.

Take advantage of this psychology and provide facility managers with the great surprise of an amazing customer experience. While all of your competitors manage their service cycle and customer service with calls, paper, and ad hoc emails, you’ll stand apart when you offer a convenient, novel experience that includes online summaries of services with rich media, automated notifications (MIPS), and the ability to leave reviews. Here’s what a facility manager told a service contractor about the online service reports (Service Link) he receives that include loads of pictures, videos, and audio notes pertaining to the services:

“I love this feature and report. Your competition has nothing like this.”

The unexpected surprise of a better experience made him feel good. Now, this novelty will wane, and that’s OK. After the novelty is gone, you’ll have set a new precedent for a great customer experience that your competitors can’t touch. Their approach will feel inconvenient and uncertain. As I discussed in the first installment of this blog post, that’s a formula for the stress hormone cortisol – and a bad customer relationship.

Storytelling

Everybody loves a good story. Entire books, like Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, are dedicated to the science of great storytelling. Gottschall tells us about an experiment performed by Paul Zak, a neuroeconomist, found that our bodies release more oxytocin, the hormone that causes empathy, when we consume information in a story format as opposed to a simple factual summary. College students were offered $20 to take part in a study where they were presented with either a story about a father and his dying child or a factual summary about the impacts of cancer on children. After the presentation, the students were asked if they wanted to donate any or all of their $20 to a cancer research institute for children. Students that were presented with the story had significantly higher levels of oxytocin in their blood and, on average, donated more money. A good story with a classic arc makes us empathize with the main characters. We feel how they feel.

After the novelty of your shiny new customer experience wears off, you can take advantage of this empathetic trait to trigger dopamine by telling your customers the story of the challenges your team overcame. Start by introducing the hero, your technician, with an en route notification and an in-person greeting when they arrive. Next, show customers the challenges that the hero faces with pictures and videos of the equipment issues. How ever will the hero succeed? Present a solution with an online quote that shows how your tech will save the day and an explanation of the bad outcomes that will occur if they don’t act. Those unfavorable outcomes are the villain that add tension to the story. Most importantly, show your customers exactly how the hero saved the day with pictures and videos of the repaired equipment. When you properly craft this story, your customers will empathize with the main character, your technician, and receive a hit of dopamine from the happy ending that avoided the perilous bad outcomes.

Anticipation

Interestingly, our bodies often reward us with more dopamine when we anticipate a reward than when we actually receive a reward. Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist, performed a study on monkeys that were trained to, after given a signal, press a button 10 times to receive food. The monkeys’ dopamine levels rose immediately after the signal, but subsided when they were done pressing the button. The anticipation of the food released more dopamine than the reward of the food itself. When the food was only dispensed 50% of the time, their dopamine levels doubled in comparison to what they were when then the food was dispensed every time. Just like a slot machine, the mix of anticipation and uncertainty about the reward yielded a significant dopamine release in the monkeys.

You’ve already shown your customers that you’ll give them a hit of dopamine when you show up with a novel customer experience and a great story. That’s their reward. Now, all you have to do is train them to anticipate it. Teach them to anticipate a feel-good experience when you give the signal of an appointment reminder or en route notification. You’re not going to have an exciting story for every service. For example, routine maintenance work and inspections where your techs don’t find any issues don’t make for an enthralling story. That’s OK. As the monkeys show us, you don’t have to deliver the reward 100% of the time. Instead of a mediocre story on every job, tell them an incredible story, full of challenges and and successes on the jobs where your techs save the day. The important takeaway is that you should give your customers the signal on every job in order to elicit their anticipatory dopamine response.

 

Just like Dr. Feelgood, you can keep your customers coming back for more. Instead of drugs, you can use consumer psychology to hack their evolutionary reward system to prevent the release of cortisol and evoke the release of dopamine. If you succeed in making your customers feel good, your service brand will be impervious to the competition and your customers will be happy to pay you more for the premium experience you give them.

ServiceTrade is launching a new version of its mobile application for Android and Apple devices. The new app gives users an intuitive and efficient experience so they can collect more information that matters to customers.

Users familiar with ServiceTrade will find all their appointments, job details, customer contact information, and media-rich documentation features intact. Where those features are located and how they look is new. Based on user feedback, the new mobile app offers:

  • Clearer display of appointments and job details
  • Intuitive, guided workflows and more visible clock-in and -out buttons
  • Improvements in offline mode and syncing when reconnected
  • A consistent experience for Apple and Android users

This change will allow us to make more customer service innovations faster for commercial service contractors.

Learn More

Everyone is invited to join a live demo of the new mobile app during one of these two webinars:

Wednesday, October 3 at 1pm ET / 10am PT
Thursday, October 11 at 4pm ET / 1 pm PT

Sign up at this link.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • See the new mobile app
  • Learn how you can begin to transition users to it
  • Learn about training resources for the new app

About timing

  • You can begin to transition users on October 1st.
  • Everyone will be upgraded to the new application on Wednesday, November 28, ready or not!

This demo is a good first step to planning your transition. Join us on Oct. 3 or Oct. 11. Register at this link.

Motley Crue at Studio shooting, Tokyo, July 1985. (Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

Dr. Feelgood, from the 1989 Mötley Crüe single, was a drug dealer who got the name because he made his customers feel good. This kept his customers coming back for more. Do you make your customers feel good? It doesn’t really matter if you do a good job for them. If you don’t make them feel good about it, they won’t come back for more.

Obviously, commercial service contractors shouldn’t give their customers illicit drugs, but they can stimulate the same brain receptors that release dopamine, the feel-good hormone that drives positive reinforcement in the human biological reward system. Unfortunately, that same reward system has negative reinforcement mechanism called cortisol, the stress hormone, that’s easily triggered by bad customer service. Understanding what triggers these hormones is fundamental to creating an amazing customer experience that reduces stress, gets customers hooked to your brand, and differentiates your company from the competition.

If customers associate your brand with stress, they’ll look for a competitor that makes them feel better. Avoiding this should be simple, right? Wrong. Cortisol and other stress hormones are extremely easy to trigger in the human body. Have you or a loved one ever experienced the raw, unfiltered anger associated with even being a little bit hungry? This symptom, more commonly known as “hanger,” has definitely lead to more than one argument in my family. Relatively speaking, hanger is on the low end of the spectrum compared to the stress caused by bad customer service. You must be extremely sensitive to all of the stressors your customers experience when they deal with your brand. Start by examining your customer communication and service cycle for three critical stressors:

Uncertainty
Nobody likes being in the dark, especially facility owners and managers dealing with critical building equipment. A research study by a team from the University of London published in Nature Communications in 2016 found that uncertainty is more stressful than a known bad outcome. Participants played a computer game in which they overturned rocks, some of which hid snakes. If they discovered a snake, they received a small shock. Over time, participants would learn which rocks hid snakes so they could predict whether or not they were going to receive a shock. When participants overturned rocks that they knew hid snakes, and therefore knew they were going to receive a shock, had lower stress levels than participants that were uncertain about the outcome. Wherever possible, you must provide your customer with clarity about what you do for them and what outcomes to expect. Automatic, electronic Marketing Impressions Per Service (MIPS) are a great tool for delivering certainty and transparency throughout the service cycle. From appointment reminders, to tech en route notifications, to job summaries with pictures and videos, MIPS will tell the story of every service you deliver and provide certainty that your company is delivering value.

Inconveniences
We all get stressed out when we feel like others are wasting our valuable time. My story about returning a broken amplifier to MonoPrice, an online electronics retailer, is a great example of common inconveniences found in most customer service processes that lead to loads of stress. I wasted hours on phone calls, online chats, and email exchanges because their team lacked the information they needed to solve any of my problems. Their customer service data was scattered across different systems, divisions, and employees. Getting answers and resolution to my problems felt next to impossible. Eliminate inconveniences from your service cycle and organize your customer service data so that everyone on your team, from techs to receptionists, can answer customer questions and resolve their issues to the best of their ability.

Bad surprises
Be proactive in your services and communication so your customer is never surprised by bad outcomes. Even if those outcomes aren’t your fault, you will be associated with the stress your customers experience. For example, if a piece of equipment that you manage fails due to something out of your control, your customer will still associate the stress of that experience with your brand. Or, if they are unpleasantly surprised by a large invoice because you didn’t communicate proactively about the potential expense, they will associate that stress with your brand. Set expectations early and often so your customer is never surprised by a bad outcome because the surprise is worse than the outcome.

Stick around for the continuation of this blog post next week where I’ll tell you how to hack your customers’ reward system to trigger dopamine and make them feel good throughout the service cycle with tools like stories, technology, and pleasant surprises.

It’s been a tense week of watching Hurricane Florence grow, intensify, and pin a bullseye on North Carolina. There’s a lot to worry about: gasoline for the generator, storing water since I’m on a well, stocking up on healthy, easy-to-prepare food without resorting to Hot Pockets.

There’s plenty to worry about without fretting about the availability of our app. Even if I’m sitting at my house in the dark, I’ll know that our app will be there. Our customers’ data will be available in their office. Technicians will get their schedules. Customers will be able to login to the portal to check on their upcoming appointments.

Thank goodness for software as a service!! Amazon Web Services (AWS) — where the ServiceTrade application “lives” and customer data is stored — is co-located across the country so there’s no risk of a natural disaster disrupting service. If one location were to be impacted, the others in the AWS network would pick up the slack.

On the human side, it’s a little tougher to predict availability. Everyone at ServiceTrade in North Carolina will be working from home on Thursday and Friday for as long as we have electricity and Internet service. If we end up falling off the grid in NC for a few days, our teams across the country – we have people in Maryland, Kentucky, Illinois, and Arizona – will be there to help you out.

If you need help from support or sales, reach out as you always do and we’ll route your call or email to whoever can respond first.

If you are also impacted by Hurricane Florence, be safe! I’ll pass along what Billy Marshall asked of us, take care of your family first, then do everything you can to take care of your customers and responsibilities.

happy amazon customer receives amazon box delivery

Several dozen books (at least) have been written about the Amazon phenomenon, and I could probably go on and on myself about the lessons that can be drawn from its success. The lesson for the service contractor is that making your customers feel good about your service will likely lead to greater riches for you and your company. Jeff Bezos is the richest guy in the world, and he has been pretty clear that his success comes from innovations that make the customer feel good about doing business with Amazon. Many of these innovations are directly applicable to a commercial service contracting business, and you should take inspiration from them to deliver your own version of “feel good” customer service features.

Pictures and video. Amazon understands the psychology of human decision making. Images impress us.  They help humans understand their environment and make decisions. We are more easily impressed by images and stories than we are by bullet points and descriptive prose. I challenge you to find anything for sale on Amazon that does not include at least one picture. Generally there are several, and Amazon gives you tools to zoom and pan to get a better view of the details that might interest you. It is easier to feel good about a purchase when we can see the images that reinforce our buying decision. Increasingly video is also becoming a part of the purchase review because it combines imagery with a story about the product.

Reviews. Reviews are the stories other customers choose to share about their experience with the product. Like images, stories are a powerful learning mechanism for humans. By reading stories, we get comfortable with the experience we can expect from the product. We also understand any trouble we may face through these review stories. Reviews further empower the customer as well because a poor customer service experience and a bad review is often the catalyst for a company to correct the problem. The ability to hold the company accountable to a good experience through a review process gives the customer more comfort at the time of purchase.

Convenience.  One of Amazon’s first innovations was one-click purchasing.  They applied for and were awarded a method patent on this invention back in 1999. Amazon famously sued Barnes and Noble when they copied the innovation. Amazon had streamlined the purchase process by eliminating the hassle of checkout, and the company was not going to stand by quietly when their fiercest competitor attempted to copy this convenience innovation. Now the company offers a mobile app (of course) so customers can easily browse and buy from their phone.  Additionally Amazon provides multiple delivery and gift options, smart speakers that let you buy with Alexa commands, push button buying using a little connected clicker called a Dash button for common items like laundry detergent, and many more buying innovations. The company is even experimenting with flying drone delivery. Eliminating all of the barriers between your customer’s money and your bank account just makes sense.

No Hassle Returns. Amazon never argues with a customer regarding a request to return an item so long as there is some reason for the rejection (fit, color, quality, whatever). They make returns easy with a self-service process from their website. Customers feel better about placing an order when they know they can return the product if something is not right.

Mobile experience. Amazon enhances convenience with their mobile app because shopping is always available. Most customers are never more than three feet from their phone, and therefore I believe mobile is worthy of its own feel good category. Because my smartphone has a camera and a microphone, I can take photos (or scan barcodes) to search for products as well as giving verbal commands. I can also manage every aspect of my relationship with Amazon through my mobile device, which means I can manage it anywhere and anytime.

Feel good by doing good. The Amazon Smile program allows me to select a charity to receive a donation from Amazon equal to .5% of my qualifying purchases when I begin my shopping at smile.amazon.com. Do you imagine that a customer feels good when they begin their shopping experience by typing “smile” and then direct a contribution to a favorite charity when they buy something? It is easy to feel good when your vendor helps you do good.

Notifications and visibility. Amazon gives customers a number of ways to track their orders and their order history with the company. Any shopping activity, whether resulting in a purchase or not, generally results in some level of follow up from Amazon. If I place an order, Amazon continuously informs me of the status from a “thank you” order confirmation. They send a shipment notice plus an arrival notice. If I shop and do not order, Amazon often follows up with deals on items that I viewed hoping to push me over the edge to actually buy the product. After I receive a purchase, I am generally offered an opportunity to review the purchase, and I will typically be offered several complementary items. Beyond these notifications, Amazon tracks my purchases so that I can reference that information to make decisions regarding future purchases. All of this attention and account visibility certainly helps the customer feel good about their relationship with Amazon.

Subscription membership. Amazon offers customers a subscription program called Prime. Prime bundles all manner of Amazon services and benefits into a subscription program for which customers pay an annual membership fee. The subscription offers access to a library of books and music along with lower costs (usually free) for shipping and guaranteed two-day delivery for any purchases. Statista, the online statistics portal, estimates that Amazon had 95 million US Prime members as of June 2018.  That amounts to nearly seventy-percent of US households participating in Prime. It feels good to be a member of a club with a wide range of benefits and a subscription business model with its predictable and guaranteed cash flow is a powerful foundation from which to build a dominant brand.

Commercial service contractors should take a lesson from Amazon: making customers feel good about your services will likely lead to greater riches for your company. The best part is, many of the innovations that make customers feel good about doing business with Amazon can work for you.

They spent hours on it. Brad Boggs at B&W Mechanical and Shawn Mims of ServiceTrade met several times to discuss how to integrate B&W’s accounting system with ServiceTrade. They planned it strategically, they talked with an integrator about the details, they held several follow-up calls. But as they say, the struggle of connecting ServiceTrade’s open APIs to a closed accounting system, was real.

Brad decided that since accounting was happy with their process, an accounting integration shouldn’t stand in the way of getting a new customer service and service management system in place. B&W Mechanical got started with ServiceTrade so they could meet their goals of growing their service division.

We caught up with Brad a couple of years later to see how it’s going. In this video, Brad tells us that now, B&W measures its success by things that matter to its customers – that their systems are operational and their facility needs are being met. B&W Mechanical communicates clearly and accurately with customers so they know everything they need to about their systems so there aren’t any surprises.

Their customers really like that they get clear data and visuals with a quote or an invoice. B&W no longer has to justify what their quotes or invoices are for – the customers have a clear, rich record that tells them what they’re paying for.

As Brad says at the end of this video, at B&W Mechanical the right things get done quickly. He isn’t talking about accounting.

 

Read more about choosing good software with open APIs and why customer service isn’t an accounting function.