As you know, we enjoy talking about all things related to plumbing and heating and try to offer as much advice as we can. Whilst we try to do so regularly both on and off our blog, we’ve come up with this post to bring some of our most commonly provided advice together in one place.
In the trade industry, it is a constant battle (some would say a struggle) to keep ahead of competitors and rival companies and businesses. Playing catch up as a new person in the trade industries is not an easy place to begin.
A dog-eat-dog world springs to mind.
Offering customers a fantastic service is obviously the main objective; but an impact is needed to be made in other areas to ensure you stay at the top of the game.
And there are plenty of ways to stay ahead of the competition in the trade world, whether you are a builder, electrician or a plumber in Bishops Stortford.
Here, we will walk you through five ways to keep on top of any competitors you come across whilst building up your portfolio of work, experience and knowledge.
1. Having a company website
A large majority of the United Kingdom will have access to the internet, and will use it on regular occasions, via phones, tablets or laptop computers. Being accessible 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the internet is an extremely useful tool.
If a customer was to pay a visit to your shop – if you have one – and it was closed, then if you have a company website there is the possibility of them contacting you through that, or leaving you a message.
The same works for the telephone; you may not be able to answer it for any number of reasons. But with your website being available at all times people can find out what they need to know without speaking to anyone, and leaving a message or an email means you can reply to them as soon as you check your emails and messages.
It works out as a much cheaper solution to advertising as well. If you currently use posters and print outs to advertise your works, then is all fair and well, until you need to make any alterations (phone number, email address, pricing, for example). This then means that you will need to get a load more posters and leaflets printed out to make sure the word is spread about your company changes.
If you have a website, these type of changes can be made quickly and easily, probably without most people and customers noticing.
Please, do not think we are suggesting you only use a website to advertise yourself. By all means, have leaflets and regular adverts in the local newspaper, but these can be used to entice customers to check out your website where they will find out more information, in more in-depth detail.
A website also provides convenience for both the service provider and the customer. Convenience in the way that a customer doesn’t have to go to a shop or make a phone call to get the information they require, and that the service provider isn’t unnecessarily hassled for information.
With this convenience, the end result is that you are giving your customers a higher level of satisfaction and value.
Featuring a section on your website that entertains your readers – advice, tips, what not to do, etc – will keep them interested and will help them to remember you more. Keeping at the head of the customers memory is the key to success.
Having an ‘About Us’ section gives you the opportunity to tell potential customers and admirers of your website exactly who you are, what you do, your experiences and why they should trust you to do their work. Many people do research on a certain industry and companies before making decisions on who to hire.
Word-of-mouth promotion comes form the customers as well, so putting relevant and recent news and stories on your site is a must. For example, if you have just relocated to a new area and your heating wasn’t working during the winter freeze, someone you work / socialise with might give you the contact details for a plumber in Saffron Walden, so making sure your name is out there means people will pass on your information to family, friends and acquaintances.
2. The need for training to be ongoing
Ongoing training is a tremendous way to keep up with the industry and to ensure you stay employed. Constantly evolving technology and legislations mean it is extremely rare for a tradesperson is ever fully qualified in their role; therefore, regular training updates are the best way to go.
From an employee’s perspective, ongoing training and updates keeps them interested and motivated to do their work to the best of their ability with the new skills they have learnt. This will also mean they are less likely to leave for another job, if their employer is doing everything they can to keep them at the top of the game.
Any learning from these courses must be transferable to their actual working environment, and ideally be accredited and certified to have long-term value to their careers.
Keeping any qualifications up-to-date is essential. For example, a first aid qualification expires after a certain length of time, so attending a refresher course is a must, otherwise you will have to do the entire course all over again if you let it expire; which, if anything, is a massive inconvenience of your time and money.
As we said earlier in this post, technology and legislations are constantly changing meaning continuous learning is a crucial part of any job.
Keeping all certificates you have attained is definitely a must – especially if you are looking for work, as you will need to show these to prospective employers. You are always more likely to get employed if you have relevant experience and qualifications.
Even if money is tight in your household, paying for your own training could be worth it, especially if it gets you a job. For example, if you have done some plumbing / heating courses, you will be ahead of someone with no experience or training for that plumber job in Epping.
Maintaining a good level and standard of knowledge, through refreshing your learning, is very important, otherwise it gradually becomes less useful as you either forget parts or there has been a change in training.
If you do not occasionally use or update what you have been taught then it will eventually be forgotten about. Single-event training is the sort of format from which training can be forgotten, so it is best to follow this up quickly to get the most out of your training.
Ongoing training can be expensive, but in the end it works out for the best for your company as it keeps you ahead of any competitors. Don’t be fooled by single-event training, this is more like a band-aid solution to fill short-term gaps. Keep these for inductions or raising awareness of anything important.
3. Listen to feedback from your customers
How often is it that you take the time to speak to your customers and ask them how they feel about the service you provide? And when you have received their answers, how long do you spend taking into account what they have said?
It is extremely important that you understand where your customers are coming from with their points of view; this will help you provide a good, or improved, service and will help you connect with your customers on a better level.
Getting customers engaged in what they want and like from you as a service provider can help you shape what you do to meet and exceed expectations.
Being proactive in your communication with people is another important role you need to take on. Regular updates of your website, with news and information, keeps customers involved – and if they know you update things on a regular basis then they are more likely to check your website more often.
For example, you might be able to do what a client needs, but if it hasn’t been put on to your website then they won’t know you do, therefore might go to a competitor to get their work done, meaning a negative impact on your business.
Also, you need to take into account the views and feelings of your staff that will be face-to-face with the customer – this will have an impact on how they interact with them. It is of huge importance that you engage with your staff and be active in your communication with them.
If your staff are extremely well informed, they will display this confidence when communicating with the customers. Sadly, often communication drops as it is not seen as a high enough priority.
Customer service has always been, and will always be, an important factor in selling your product and / or services. Even if your price is slightly higher than a fellow tradesperson’s, if your customer service is of a higher standard then you are likely to be the one they choose.
4. Use social media to your advantage
Nowadays, you will struggle to find a company, business or organisation that doesn’t use social media to promote and sell themselves. Being active in the world of social media is becoming more important by the day, as every company is fighting to be that little bit ahead of all the others.
Social media work is a must – but it wasn’t always like that. A few years ago, people were unsure about it and didn’t know if it was worth the time, energy and manpower to be posting on Facebook and Twitter, for example.
But the reality now is that it is estimated over 100 billion minutes every month are spent with people using social media, whether that is posting things or just having a general check of it. This alone shows that it is common sense to use these areas to promote your business and your brand.
The fact that the older generation have started to use social media then the impact that it has already made on the younger generation is essentially irreversible. Social media is now a part of everyday life and it plays a big part in how people interact with one another.
Being involve don more than just one social media site gives you a wider range to aim your voice at; it also shows your fans and followers that you are more than just a company.
By sharing off-topic posts, interesting images or cool videos, you can show your readers that there’s more to your business than simply making sales. Showing this side of you can really help you further down the road.
Once you have built up a good trust with your followers, you can be sure that next time they need something you offer then you will be at the top of their list for who to contact first. People tend to buy and use services of people they know and trust, it is human nature; become friends and followers and reap the rewards.
5. Offering a great customer experience
Great customer experience has always been a huge factor, never more so than now.
In the current climate, customers have more choice than ever before when it comes to choosing a service / product; that means to get attention from them you will have to provide exceptional experiences for them.
The experience a customer has is made up of all the times the two of you have interacted, whether that’s via email, telephone or face-to-face – as a result, this forms the view they ultimately have of you.
Many interactions offer opportunities for companies to learn more about the customers needs and preferences and to strengthen the relationship.
Failing to amass as much knowledge as you can about your market leads to missed new product opportunities and annoyed customers. On the flip side, good data helps you predict customer needs before they’re even aware of them.
Do not be afraid to study competitors that are recognised as fantastic service. There is nothing wrong with seeing what they do, but don’t stop there – network at conferences and events to learn what others are doing.
Converting good customer experience to fantastic, unforgettable customer experience needs deliberate and consistent action from many people.
An effective approach to getting to ‘unforgettable’ is to focus on a certain area until you get the results, and gain momentum and credibility, whilst always keeping the long-term goal in mind, but getting short-term success.
Sustainable competitive advantage was once based primarily on characteristics such as market power, economies of scale, technology lead, and a broad product line. The advantage today has shifted to companies whose customer focus is superior.
Great customer experience is something that cannot be copied, matched or lowered – like prices of products – it is one of the few remaining ways to gain a competitive advantage. Use it to your advantage!
Here at Aquatech UK, we are committed to giving our customers and clients the best service possible. We look after our customers as best as we can, we show them we are the best plumbers in Braintree and the surrounding areas.