Solve Your 3 Biggest Service Business Tech Frustrations Once and For All (Part 2)
Welcome to part 2 of our series on solving your biggest service business tech frustrations once and for all. In part 1 we acknowledge the very real and all-too-common frustrations service providers have with business tech, walk you through an exercise to examine your mental/emotional relationship to technology and explore the first biggest tech frustration service providers have.
So 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. 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 (which we covered in part 1 of our series)
- communication and booking
- security and reliability
Let’s get back into the heart of it then and discuss our second and third challenging tech frustrations, glean some insight from the experts and share solutions.
Service Business Tech Challenge 2: Client Communication and Booking
While technology has largely improved our lives, making it easier to communicate with clients around the globe, the sheer number of communication platforms presents a challenge.
As a service provider, engaging your clients in all the places our clients show up these days — email, text message, one or more messengers or chats (like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger) and by phone starts to feel overwhelming pretty quickly.
Frequently changing contexts like this — for you and your client — has a number of negative impacts. In the customer service world, this is often called “channel hopping” when referring to your customer’s behavior and “channel switching” when referring to your customer’s response to failures in the digital experience you provide. Either way, it can have detrimental effects including:
- Burning you out just trying to keep up
- Delivering a siloed customer service experience for your clients
- Leaving your clients’ needs on the table
- Wasted time searching multiple platforms for a key piece of client information at best, and losing awareness of key client communication at worst
- Client churn
Seeking the tech solution for setting client comms and booking boundaries
One partial solution to this problem is to be choosy.
Pick specific channels for prospective and existing client communication. Then clearly and repeatedly set these boundaries with your clients. But keep in mind the balance you’ll need to keep between setting those communication boundaries and being overly restrictive. Unnecessary rigidity can also decrease client satisfaction.
Profi Tip: Choose one primary social channel for managing prospective client communication that you can realistically manage consistently. And for existing client communications, provide more secure, contained client messaging that’s integrated in-context with your entire workflow (from client booking, virtual sessions, packages, programs, blog content and billing).
As an example, Immigration Lawyer and Expert, Elizabeth Ricci, ran into significant client resistance when attempting to change client behavior in communications, with only partial success:
“One big tech challenge has been clients calling me for case updates rather than checking themselves. Our first solution was to put in our contract to check the case online first and contact us only if it were outside of normal processing. No one did that. Then, we had our receptionist ask callers if they checked online per our contract. And it got a little better.”
So what did Elizabeth do in her law practice?
Instead of trying to change client behavior client-by-client directly, taking the challenge personally and getting rigid with her clients or over-engineering more cumbersome processes, Ricci tried automation.
Approaching technology as a tool in service to her practice, she created an automated system “where clients get automatic emails anytime there is case news.”
The result? She saw decreased volumes of unproductive incoming client phone calls.
The problem of copious client communication channels
An excess of communication channels can also create inefficiencies within an organization.
While tools like Asana, Trello, Slack, Airtable can be valuable, too many tools used for overlapping or poorly defined purposes can challenge any size service organization. Take, Lead Developer, Salinder Kohli, of Coffeable, who notes that “the biggest IT problem we’ve faced in the past year is how to keep communication between team members efficient.”
And even more communication challenges come into play in the client booking process.
It’s common practice for service providers to take appointments through multiple channels, like email, phone and a web-based booking system. And in general, this is the customer service standard since communication preferences will vary by client. The goal here, though, is to focus on effortlessness in your client experience, or CX. The easier it is for clients to book appointments with you or your firm, the better.
But it’s absolutely crucial that your omnichannel communications be integrated into a central source of truth. Massage Therapist, Zeth Pugh, shares a cautionary tale for organizations that ignore this minimum requirement:
“As a massage therapist, I need to offer my clients online booking. Otherwise, I'm at the beck and call of my phone all day long. But I’ve had a terrible time keeping things in sync. Twice, a valued long-term customer showed up for an appointment at the same time as someone who booked online.”
A common service challenge and yet another argument in favor of a well-configured business management platform that integrates into your service design and consolidates various communication channels with an online booking system or scheduler.
With Profi, every critical touchpoint with a client — from a session request to a client message and payment — is automatically logged and securely stored in one place. This way, you can easily track your entire client engagement history and focus on helping your clients rather than managing disparate client messaging spread across a myriad of tools.
Service Business Tech Challenge 3: Security and Reliability
The more a business relies on technology, the more vulnerable it becomes to service interruptions.
Management Consultant, Paul Oppong, shares from his experience that even a “single power outage, surge or spike may cause significant damage to costly electronic components and data loss.” While Paul acknowledges that this risk can be mitigated by using tools like backup battery devices and redundant systems coupled with regular inspections from an IT specialist, many providers are opting instead for cloud-based solutions (SaaS platforms).
Another security threat outside of your client sessions can come from hacking, phishing and ransomware attacks.
These have always been a risk for large organizations, but even smaller providers are increasingly vulnerable to hacks, phishing and ransomware. This creates an exponential risk for providers who need to store confidential client information — like those in the medical service model including counselors, doctors and other medical professionals.
It ultimately impacts any consultancy or training organization working with Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Personal Health Records (PHRs), Personal Health Information (PHI) and/or Electronic Protected Health Information (E-PHI) as part of HIPAA or GDPR compliance or more localized compliance like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). For more on PHI, you can geek out with privacy and security brainiacs in this article about personal information. Or check out this exhaustive list of security compliance-related acronyms in tech.
So what would a senior network engineer do to address security and reliability concerns?
The service business reality for most of us: it’s not practical to create and maintain appropriate cyber security systems and processes for our service organizations on our own.
It’s not only cost-prohibitive, it might not even be feasible in some cases for your service business due to a shortage of industry professionals. Eric McGee, a senior network engineer at TRG Datacenters, has observed a shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals and laments the “millions of cybersecurity jobs that have yet to be filled.”
Profi Tip: Leverage secure, cloud-based services with built-in redundancy and backup options. And if you’re dealing with sensitive health information, you must ensure the services you choose are HIPAA-compliant. This is a case where you’re better to allow the security and reliability industry professionals handle these challenges at scale so you (or your team of service providers) can focus on what you do best: help your clients.
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