The history of software applications for service contractors is dominated by accounting applications. Controlling the business was the first priority for computer deployment. I believe the next wave will be about collaborating with the customer via the Internet to deliver amazing customer service. The accounting application – the control point for your business – is the wrong starting point for customer collaboration. Someone on the Internet wants your customers. Your ability to do better inventory management, job costing, or payroll calculations will not matter one bit when that Internet enabled competitor steals your customer away with a better customer service experience.
Customer collaboration is about a free flowing exchange of stories and ideas between your business and your customer. The Internet is going to be the conduit, and the content will be pictures, videos, audio and free form notes inside an attractive user interface that conveys the value of the services you provide.
Examples of KEY communications between your clients and your business –
1. When it was broken, it looked like this. Now it is fixed! Here’s a picture!
2. Can I show you an improvement that will lower your power bill?
3. Our technician will be arriving at your location in 25 minutes!!
4. Please review your quote online and click -Approve- if it looks good to you.
5. Your “after service” report is online – contact us again if you need anything.
This is not accounting data. It does not fit nicely into a ledger. It is not revenue, nor COGS, nor inventory, nor AP, nor AR. Why would you expect your accounting application to be the core application by which you collaborate with customers via the Internet?
Let me ask these questions in a different way. Do you host your website on the server that runs your accounting application? Is your accounting firm the professional group that dictates the design and content of your website? If you expect your accounting application to lead the charge in customer service, shouldn’t this same function be driving your website presence? Of course not. Use this same logic when you are figuring out how you are going to expand your customer service capability from the customer’s driveway or parking lot, to the boundaries of the Internet. In your search for a software service partner to maximize your customer service experience, look for partners that think about what your customers want, NOT how to control the financial operation of your company.
Accounting is about control: limit the interfaces and the access so the data can be pristine, structured, and managed without any possibility of error or fraud. It is a VITAL aspect of your business. Customer service is an equally vital part of your business but customer service is about collaboration, not control. It is a free flowing exchange of unstructured data between a group of loosely coupled participants. Think about these differences when you begin to build your software foundation for delivering amazing customer service via the Internet.
And be sure that you pick a software partner that understands EXACTLY how to help you deliver this experience.