Service Providers: Solve Your 3 Biggest Tech Frustrations Once and For All (Part 1)
Oh, the ever-contentious relationship we all have with using technology to run our businesses. As service providers, we all share common frustrations with technology. Some quick search listening from our collective therapist, Dr. Google, starts to paint the painful picture of our relationship to technology:
Over time these common experiences with technology when trying to establish, manage and grow our services businesses build up internal stories and beliefs around technology and our relationship with it.
I invite you to try this simple and really insightful stream of consciousness exercise:
1. Get out your mobile phone notes app or a pen and paper (or you can even start to do this in your head if you don’t have access to a writing tool right this moment and finish up later when you do).
2. I’m going to pose a question and I want you to notice and/or write down every response that comes to mind (stream of consciousness style) without thinking too long or hard about any one response. Keep writing until nothing else comes. No judging your responses and no editing yourself!
3. Okay, here’s the question:
Technology is _______________________.
So, what happened? What did you learn about your relationship with technology?
And, how do you think you’re carrying these stories (and beliefs) into your service business?
What’s the impact of that?
Getting to the Need Beneath Our Business Tech Frustrations
So, we can all agree that service business tech can be frustrating, addictive, expensive, bad, complicated and unreliable, yes! It can be and it is!
And tech is essential to growing any professional service business. Especially post-pandemic.
The reality is: using technology to improve our service delivery is no longer optional, or even seen as a differentiating factor. Clients increasingly expect it. And the economics of most professional service practices demand it.
Luckily, if we approach our frustrations with technology as simply expressing our needs for simple, professional, affordable, efficient, effective, reliable and secure ways of:
- storing our client data securely,
- communicating with our clients safely and securely, and
- keeping our business organized in one place more effortlessly
then we can actually go about the business of improving our relationship with rather than to technology.
Changing Our Relationship With Technology for Our Business’ Sake
The three processes I just listed above are core to running a successful service business. And they represent areas where technology can be in service to you as the coach, consultant, therapist or trainer, providing significant stress relief and business advantages.
We spoke with eight experts across both the technology and service industries — from a cybersecurity analyst and a senior engineer to an immigration lawyer, massage therapist and a CEO. And we’ll share what they see as the biggest tech challenges for service providers and how they’re solving them with… well, tech.
Adopting new technologies has never been free of risks, challenges or downsides. And as we’ll explore in this article, sometimes having too much technology, or too many options, can create just as many problems.
What we know from the professional service providers we call customers, and those we’ve interviewed for this article, is that we face common tech challenges in three primary areas in our service business workflow:
- time tracking and billing
- communication and booking
- security and reliability
So, let’s get into the heart of it then and discuss each challenging tech frustration, glean some insight from the experts and share solutions.
Service Tech Challenge 1: Time Tracking and Billing
One non-negotiable requirement most professional service providers share is the need to accurately track their client time.
This is especially important for service providers who bill hourly. But it’s also crucial for consultants and trainers who may bill on a project basis. While the client may see a flat fee on their bill, savvy service providers measure an engagement’s profitability by calculating their hourly rate divided by the project duration or level of effort. After all, time is both a service provider’s currency and can be their most limiting factor.
Cybersecurity Analyst, Veronica Miller, of VPNoverview highlights a clear line between utilization metrics and profitability for service providers:
“Maximizing the number of billable hours per employee in a professional services organization is crucial to preserving cash flow and boosting revenues. Time is the inventory of service-oriented businesses. And it’s a finite resource that deteriorates by the second.”
We understand that many service providers are engaged in more than simply trading their time for money.
And we’ve previously reviewed several approaches for how to scale as a coach, including how to scale when your schedule is full. What we’ve found is that most “scaling” activities (like group coaching) still lend themselves to a dollars-per-hour calculation.
So a devil’s advocate might ask: how complicated is it to track your time?
Could a solo provider with a handful of clients track their time effectively with a notes file on their smartphone synced to their computer? Well, if they have the discipline to manually keep it up to date, they can.
In the service world, time tracking doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And as a busy service provider, why would you want to waste your precious energy and expertise manually transferring time logs into an invoicing system when you can let technology do it for you? For teams, corporations and larger enterprises of service providers, manual time tracking simply isn’t scalable. And trying to piecemeal together your client’s invoice from several different notes copied into a Word doc. template can end up looking just as disconnected and unprofessional to your client as the process was to stitch it together.
Ultimately, this is why professional service providers have been shedding disconnected tools (e.g., standalone calendars, invoicing systems, video conference tools) and opting instead for integrated, all-in-one platforms that mimic the actual workflow and energy flow of their businesses.
As John Bertino, CEO of The Agency Guy echoes, “a modern SaaS capability is a platform, not a standalone tool, that enterprises build atop. Leading SaaS providers are responding to the need for integration.”
This deeper need for more integrated solutions to support completely virtual, post-pandemic service workflows and customer service interactions are at the heart of 21st-century software platforms.
Take Profi.io for example, the only unified platform being used by thousands of individual professional service providers, teams and scaling enterprise orgs. With a solution like Profi, the cumbersome, manual business processes above become literally effortless.
In service business tech solutions like Profi.io that have HIPAA-compliant video conferencing built-in, the system takes on the burden of auto-billing clients ahead of the session based on custom pricing you set that syncs up with your existing Stripe or Paypal accounts.
You can start to see how easily you can streamline all your service workflows, starting with pre-billing and overtime and extending well beyond! Your tech adversary now becomes your tech partner — ensuring you get paid for the time and value you deliver — instead of another drain to the system.
Keep in mind, though, that employing the right technology in your business doesn’t completely solve time-tracking or billing issues.
Remember Veronica, the cybersecurity analyst at VPNoverview? She reminds us of the importance of layering the right management technology over a foundation of thoughtful “record-keeping procedures and project management methods.”
While technology can optimize solid business processes and automate repeated tasks; it doesn’t completely replace sound service operations practices. The two are meant to work together as tools for organizing and managing your business.
Hey there, Carolyn here.
Stay tuned for part 2 in this series on solving your biggest tech frustrations, where we'll cover the last two common tech frustrations service providers face and how you can instead face them down and get on with providing great service to your clients.
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