Six Ways To Improve Your Business In Lockdown
We all know that staying home means staying safe right now. Unfortunately, we also know that for many self-employed and small and medium-sized business owners, it means an uncertain future as the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is felt.
This is especially true for tradespeople, even those who can work under government guidelines with the correct precautions in place. Many of their customers are putting off non-essential work, for example, calling them only in emergencies. This can have a significant financial impact. While times may be hard now, there are ways you can use lockdown to your advantage and prepare for an even more profitable future.
Planning for the Future
Thankfully, we know this pandemic will eventually come to an end, and life will return to normal. When it does, however, many businesses will find they need to rebuild. This won’t always be easy. Their customers may not have the money to spend on projects, for example, while some clients may have gone out of business. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
In fact, the lockdown is a perfect opportunity (because it provides free time) to think about what the future holds and how, as a trade business, you can be better prepared to meet the challenges it presents. Here we look at six ways companies can do this, from upskilling you and your staff to investing for cost savings.
Six Ways To Improve Your Business In Lockdown
1. Upskilling staff
Whether you’re a sole trader or a business owner with a team of staff, now is an ideal time to look at the skills you need to operate more effectively. Depending on the type of work you or your staff do, this could include starting an NVQ, for example, or signing members of your team for an apprenticeship.
Look at every part of the business, from the office staff to field workers. Ask yourself if your office-based staff are expert users for all the systems they use, for example? And are your field technicians able to use all the tools effectively? Remember too, that during this pandemic, many training providers are offering free or discounted services, so look for this to make your money go further.
2. Keep in touch with customers
Just because you aren’t working for them right now, doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch with clients and customers. Schedule regular check-ins to see how they are doing. This will give you an early heads-up as to whether you can count on their return business when all this is over.
Use social media and newsletters to share updates on what you’re doing during the lockdown. Linking back to upskilling staff, for example, if you decide to train staff in a new system or tool that will improve the quality of your work, let clients know. Customers might not need this skill now, but they will no doubt appreciate it when the lockdown is over.
3. Use your CRM
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is one of the best ways to keep in touch with existing and potential customers. Every business holds a whole host of information on their customers, often in multiple places (including spreadsheets, emails and scraps of paper pinned to noticeboards).
A CRM allows you to store all this information in one place and means nothing important is missed. You can record any and all interactions, including what they have shared about their post-Coronavirus plans (and how you can fit into them). Spend time reviewing your CRM and use it to your advantage to reach out to customers and prospects to help ensure you have work in the pipeline for the future.
4. Invest in new software/systems
If you have a CRM, now is the perfect time to make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate. If you don’t, consider investing in one. Not sure which to choose? Look for one that combines a way to manage customer data as well as staff time, workloads and finances.
Workforce Field Management software is a perfect example of this.
Its all-in-one solution is affordable and easy for staff to use, whether they’re office or field-based. It allows businesses to produce quotes, raise invoices, assign jobs and communicate with customers, all at the push of a button. It also has the added benefit of integrating with other critical business software such as cloud-based accounting software Xero and QuickBooks.
Over the long-term, this can save you time and money and help you become paper-free. Furthermore, this lockdown period is a great chance for you to get to grips with the system and train your staff on it before you all become too busy in post-lockdown work. Not sure it’s for you? Take advantage of the risk-free, 14-day trial, so you can ‘try before they buy’.
5. Raise your profile
Many tradespeople have grown their businesses organically, relying on word-of-mouth to build their customer base. As this base shifts as a result of the Coronavirus, however, word-of-mouth may no longer be enough. Potential customers will be looking for businesses they can rely on if they’ve never worked with them before, which means they’ll be looking for online reviews and accreditations.
If you aren’t already, consider signing up for sites such as Rated People or My Builder and ask your customers to provide you with a review. Do the same for Facebook, where personal recommendations make a huge difference to people’s decision-making. At this time of difficulty, many people are doing all they can to support their local businesses. So, by showing how much it would mean to you if customers left a review (on whatever site you choose to use) could make all the difference to your success post-lockdown.
Finally, make sure you’re registered with trade bodies and apply for quality marks; these will vary dependent on your business but are a sign that you know what you are doing and can be trusted. Joining a professional body can incur a small fee and may take time, but can be an investment as they provide networking and advertising opportunities. Furthermore, clients often look for certified traders that they can trust.
6. Identify trends
Use your time in Lockdown to look at industry trends. We’ve already talked about one of the main ones for 2020, using technology to help make your business more efficient and save you money. Prevention, however, is also a key trend. More and more, your customers will be looking to you to provide them with solutions to the problems they face before they become problems.
Many plumbers, for example, are beginning to use Planned and Preventative Maintenance to proactively monitor plumbing infrastructure and address issues before they cause significant damage to infrastructure.
We’ll Get Through This Together
Finally, make sure you take time to know your rights and what you can apply for during the Coronavirus pandemic, including government loans and repayment of staff salaries. These could have a significant impact on your ability to operate during this challenging time and come out the other side with a success-ready business.
Workforce is a real-time management solution for Field Service & Service Management businesses. Whether you have a small mobile team of five field workers or a large enterprise with hundreds of field staff, Workforce field service management software makes your job simple.
Increase productivity, reduce paperwork and save admin time with our easy to use field service software for both the office and your fieldworkers. Why not sign-up for a free trial today?