Years ago, I read a rather naïve and utopian book called “The best service is no service” by Bill Price and David Jaffe.  The premise of the book was how a company could prepare their processes properly and offer such perfect service, so that actual “service” from call centres etc was completely unnecessary.  They argue that “doing it right first time” is far cheaper and more effective than providing “Have a nice day” after-service.

The book itself was written well before the giants of the internet started to use FAQ’s and robots to end the notion that you could pick up the phone and call a real person… Ever.

Of course, back in the real World, where small businesses have to provide better service (just to survive) neither of these models is acceptable.  Just imagine how long any small business would last if they would not speak to clients?

However, there is a middle ground where small businesses can benefit by using self-service.  Take a look at the ideas below and let us know what you think.

Self-Service – Benefits to customers

Customer service, satisfaction and loyalty are not the same things.  At Zway, we aim to keep our customers loyal.  We don’t aim to spend one penny more than is totally necessary on customer service, we want much more than to “keep our customers satisfied”.  A satisfied customer will leave as soon as something cheaper or quicker comes along. Customers want just one thing from your business – To go in, do their business, and get out as quickly as possible.  There are many times where self-service options are favoured far above calling and queuing. Customers love self-service, if they can save minutes every time they use it.

Self-service – Benefits to a small business

If you are old enough to remember the days that electricity and gas meters were read by men in brown jackets coming to your home once a month, you are probably too old to be running a business now :)  However, that is how it was done “back in the day”.  Now, the best suppliers give you the ability to log in to your own account and put your own values in there.  Their systems are intelligent enough to prevent fraud and the self-service portal they provide is quick and easy to use.  Now, consider how a small business could collect and provide information to and from clients, suppliers, partners, contractors and their own employees this way.  The benefits to your business are huge.  Probably around one hour per day, per employee.  If you own and run your own business, what will you do with your extra hour per day?

Self-service – How it works

Zway provides an excellent SaaS business management suite.  It is said to provide everything a smaller business requires, where everything is already linked to everything else.  No need for unconnected spurious apps from multiple vendors.  This saves hundreds of pounds each month, just in subscription fees.  In Zway, each user can log in and only see what they need / have permission to see. Further – nobody needs to know how to use the system as it is task based… If you want to create a service ticket – click on the button that says: “Add a new service ticket”.  If you want to Add a new employee – click on the button that says: Yes, you guessed it – “Add a new employee”.  This sort of functionality used to be reserved just for the big dogs that could afford six-figure IT budgets. Now it’s all in a £47 a month package.  I have heard people say that if the motor industry had been shaken up in the same way Zway has shaken up business automation, we would be driving from London to Manchester in minutes for the price of a Starbucks coffee.

This sort of functionality used to be called an “Intranet”.  But Zway has gone one step further and has now created the small business “Extranet”.

By giving “profiles” to all users – Your business can invite Suppliers, Partners, Sub-contractors, Employees and even Clients into your systems to see all of their information (or as much as you want to expose).  They can add their own orders, review quotes, add holidays, expenses, timesheets and see tasks inside projects.  Zway gives you full control over what they can do and what they can see.  However, once you start using “Zway self-service” and once your customers start to tell you how much quicker and easier it is to work with you, there will be no end to the things you will want to add.

Real-World example of self-service

Problem – After the 2008 debacles and subsequent financial crash, regulations were added, and restrictions put onto anyone purveying “financial advice”.  Quite rightly so, many would say.  People such as IFA’s (Independent Financial Advisors) were one such group penalised and tied up in regulations.  It was decided that before they could depart any advice to a client, they must collect (and document) information such as risk appetites, exposure levels and ambitions. All in all, about 50 pages of forms per new client.  Many IFA’s spent a whole evening in front of a gas fire with a middle-aged couple filling in forms and still departed no advice – or made any money.  Potential clients too were becoming impatient. “Just tell us what we should do and stop asking so many questions!” was a common cry.  But nothing financial could be discussed until these damn forms were complete.  In reality this meant that each new client intake had to be a two-session affair. Problem was, after the first onslaught many clients didn’t bother coming back for the second.  End result – Over-worked, under-paid IFA’s.

Solution – Zway produced all fifty pages of the IFA requirements into an easy to use self-service form that customers could go to with a secure password and fill in themselves. Single points of truth and drop-down boxes and sliders made the whole experience enjoyable.  They could do this as quickly or slowly as they wanted, able to pause, save, collect information and return as often as they needed.  The form was intelligent – as soon as enough information was added, it created and set up a meeting with the IFA.

The delighted IFA could visit the new client, with an iPad full of details, and was in a position to advise immediately on arrival, or at least as soon as the customary tea and biscuits had been offered and consumed.  The IFA can make any changes to the information provided on his device in real-time (even without being connected) and all of this information would be updated to his Zway business suite as soon as he connected to the internet again.

Clients love the self-service forms.  They love the idea that their data is all in one place.  They adore the fact that it is password protected and is theirs to change / edit anytime they want.

The IFA can now use every single piece of information for marketing and upselling.  No need to re-type forms into another system.  In five-years’ time, when a new product is released, especially suited to couples, over 40 with a mortgage over £100k and children approaching University age, they can search their database to find suitable clients in minutes.

It’s time to consider how you can start using self-service techniques such as these, to ensure your Suppliers are providing you with the best deal, your sub-contractors are never late to file information and your customer stay loyal.

Go to sign up for a free trial and explore what you can add to your self-service suite.