This 2-part blog series shines some light on what we’ve come to know as the “Amazon Effect.”
It seems like every day there’s a new industry the online retail giant is taking over; there’s not much you can’t find on Amazon. From clothes and books and food, to far crazier things like 1,500 live ladybugs or even an entire prefabricated home — it was only a matter of time before HVAC-related services began popping up there as well.
We think it’ll still be a while before Amazon takes the lead in the field services industry, but this doesn’t change the fact that they’ve changed the game for customer expectations in every industry. Part 1 of this series will introduce you to the Amazon Effect and how it’s impacting the way contractors service their customers, while Part 2 will provide you with actionable steps to take advantage of these new standards and set your business apart in the process.
Part 1: The Amazon Effect and What the Heck It’s Got to Do With HVAC
“Alexa, Explain the Amazon Effect”
Investopedia describes the Amazon Effect as “the impact created by the online…marketplace on the traditional brick and mortar business model due to the change in shopping patterns, customer expectations and a new competitive landscape.”
And not only has Amazon set the bar for the ultimate online shopping experience, but they’ve also changed the game for behavioral expectations — which is exactly what this has to do with HVAC.
So, here’s the deal: Customers are now demanding more out of every consumer experience they have. No longer is it just a seamless online transaction they expect to take place, but they’re looking for the same level of service in the actual services they’re receiving as well. And due to the expense involved, as well as the fact that most consumers don’t understand the ins and outs of HVAC, the standards and expectations are actually even higher.
Introducing the Information-Age Customer
The information age and modern-day shopping are driven by an internet search engine that makes yesterday’s Yellow Pages obsolete. When search results instantly produce a listing of HVAC repair services, customers can filter the list through online neighborhood communities and the Better Business Bureau.
And that’s just the beginning. If information is power, today’s customer is more powerful than ever. The service industry is no longer protected by an umbrella of trade secrets and dissatisfied customers no one has heard about.
Customers have easy access to professional credentials and for proof of good (or bad!) service. They got accustomed to that power with online shopping, and now they expect offline businesses to operate at the same level of efficiency, transparency, and exceptional customer service.
Time to Step Up Your Game
The field service industry has a ways to go before becoming fully digitized, seeing as many contractors still operate on pen and paper, and photo and video are a far cry from the half-assed notes going into service reports. However, most everyone’s already got a high-definition camera and communication tool right in their back pocket that’s not seeing nearly the action it could (and should).
If technicians can effectively leverage the tools they have available to them right at their fingertips, they can make significant strides in tending to their customers. In this day and age, customers want to be shown, not told what’s going on with the assets they’ve already sunk so much money into. They want their service to be fast and done right the first time, and they want to know they can trust the people they’re paying to do it.
In Part 2, we’ll take you through steps for delivering on these standards and how they can make the difference in differentiating your business and creating customers for life.
Part 2: Taking Action — Following Amazon’s Lead to Exceed Standards and Create Customers for Life
If you missed our first installment, Part 1 talks all about what the Amazon Effect is and why it matters in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing space. The gist of it is that, thanks to Amazon, the customer experience is held to so much more than it ever was before. Customers seek convenience, they want quick resolutions to their problems, and they need transparency in order to build trust.
And these expectations go far beyond the online retail market where they started, extending particularly into services, like HVAC, that have traditionally kept customers in the dark. Now, regardless of the fact (or perhaps because of it) that the average consumer still doesn’t have basic mechanical knowledge, they want providers that will be transparent with them, educate them, and guide them to make the most informed decisions they can for their homes and facilities.
That being said, it’s on the service companies to equip their field technicians with the tools and resources they need to satisfy customers at that level. Those tools must be able to fully communicate the scope of work involved, coach and support onsite techs, and provide instant communications for troubleshooting and collaboration. As you can imagine, the best tools are really just one tool that does all three.
The following are 3 significant steps a service company can take in meeting the challenge of the Amazon Effect:
1. Build customer trust through job site documentation.
A photo is worth a thousand words when it comes to showing versus telling (and don’t even get me started on what a video’s worth). Your techs should be able and encouraged to attach visual content of their job sites to every invoice, receipt, or deliverable going to your customers — and they can do it right from the smartphone devices already in their pockets.
Evidence and documentation they can see and hear are what today’s savvy customer wants and expects. How else are they supposed to know you’re not just trying to pull a fast one on them? What’s stopping them from buying on price if all they have is a dollar amount and a couple scribbled notes to base their decisions off of?
2. Equip technicians with the data and resources they need to get the job done right the first time.
An online, cloud-based info portal can arm your field techs with the manuals, diagrams, and internally created training content they need to get the job done — all without spending countless hours on the phone with their service manager or requiring an additional truck roll when they’re not sure about something. In case of unexpected complications, there needs to be a simple, quick, and reliable way to get information from the office to the tech that needs it onsite.
3. Enable on-the-job video calls for field technicians.
Technicians on the lower end of the experience spectrum need access to colleagues who “have been there and done that,” and that need will only continue to grow as the skilled trades gap grows. Video calling and collaboration is the time-sensitive answer to onsite repair problems.
Today’s information-age customer expects a high level of transparency, efficient service, and outstanding results for their investment. Service organizations who meet those expectations and strive for excellence on every job will have the customer loyalty that leads to business growth and success, no matter what the market outlook.