Making your company business friendly

It’s not big news that business in the construction industry is super crazy these days. We’ve all had to deal with supply chain issues, employees who don’t have the necessary training or critical thinking skills, labor shortages, increased demand caused by low interest rates, and multiple increases in the prices of supplies and materials. People are overly stressed, frustrated, demanding and sometimes unreasonable. But no matter how stressed we are, we do the happy dance all the way to the bank.

However, I remember before 2008 when the business was making money in spite of itself. And then it happened. The Great Recession. Companies were no longer making money through osmosis alone, and many closed their doors. The businesses that survived were those that maintained a positive cash flow regardless of the economic climate, and they did so by being smart, efficient, and providing unmatched service and quality.

There has been a lot of muttering lately about a possible recession. Interest rates have risen to 2008 levels, leading to lower demand, and inflation levels are at their highest in more than 40 years, forcing consumers to cut back on non-essential goods. And stock market declines are making some investors nervous.

As impossible as it may seem because we’re 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 about the money you make. Now is a great time to outperform your competition and prepare for whatever the economic future holds.

Distinguishing your business

Competition is fierce these days and there are many players in your market with roughly the same price, availability and service. What will set you apart so you can win additional business and gain market share? What will you do to make sure you maintain revenue and even grow regardless of the economy?

I have a simple idea.

How about making it easier to do business with you? This works for every sector of our industry, whether you are a manufacturer, sales representative, showroom owner or seller, wholesaler, designer, architect, builder or installer. Everyone wins when you make your business easy to do business and make your customer’s busy life easier.

There are three actions you should consider when you want to make your business more user-friendly.

First, make sure that any changes you implement help both you and your customer, not just you. Before making any changes to the way you and your customers conduct business, ask yourself, “Will this new policy or revision make it easier for my customer to do business with me?” and “How will this modification affect to my client?’

Often companies make changes because it makes things easier for them, not for their customer. This type of business practice is short-sighted and can damage your relationships and reputation in the industry. Don’t give your customer an excuse to go elsewhere; don’t force them to work within your limits, work within theirs.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. When you are a customer, you want to be able to order and secure products or services as easily and quickly as possible, without any difficulties. The same goes for your customers. Ask yourself, “Am I doing everything I can to make it as easy as possible for my customer to buy from me?” If the answer is no, this is a great time to consider 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 do not answer phones and require customers to communicate only by email. The problem with this is the number of emails that get combined and the increased response time as your team may delay responding. You email customer service and when you don’t get 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 take the task at hand off their plate and move on to the next one.

Think how fast and efficient it was in the “old days” when you could call a company to get the information you needed. You called and someone answered, you said what you needed and they put you through to the person who could help. The task was completed in minutes. It also gave you the opportunity to verbalize your need and, if you weren’t clear, immediately understood so you could explain again right then and there.

Today you have to play email ping pong or, if you call, you have to go through five minutes of pressing 1, pressing 2. Sometimes even your connection drops and you have to start the whole process over. Talk about wasting time and increasing your frustration level. Studies show that one of the main determining factors that 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.

Finally, offer multiple business transaction options so customers can choose the method that works best for them. Each of your customers has a method they like to use to manage their trade, so give them multiple ways to work with you by letting them choose from the method they prefer.

For example, what are all the ways a client can pay you for services? Give them options. Some still use checks, others like wire transfers or ACH (automated clearing house), and some prefer credit cards or even Venmo or Zelle. It may be inconvenient for you to offer all these options, but it makes it easier for your customer – and you get the added benefit of getting paid.

If you make your customers jump through hoops to order from you, make it difficult for them to contact customer service on the phone, or make it a challenge to get information, you’re giving them a really good reason to go elsewhere. Cultivate a mindset within your company that makes it easy to work with you. Ask your employees for ideas and opinions, as they are the ones who deal with your customers on a daily basis and are the ones who hear complaints from customers about their frustrations in doing business with you.

While it makes sense in busy times for your company to take the path of least resistance, you don’t want to complicate the process for your customers by doing so. If you make your company easy to do business with, the more likely customers will continue to do so. ▪

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