Defining the challenges of professional services businesses
A discussion of the issues facing the industry and remedies for common issues.
Service industries, by the very nature of their work, face special challenges. Unlike manufacturers, their product is intangible and so quality control is more difficult.
A customer may complain that their office wasn’t cleaned to their satisfaction, for example, but determining where the service delivery process went wrong is complicated. Every step of the process has to be checked and inevitably there will be variables: the number of people or touchpoints involved, as well as inconsistencies in human actions and behaviour, will all have an influence.
Setting standards by imposing a clear set of procedures are therefore essential in the service sector. Whether it’s mopping floors or repairing vehicles or equipment, the process must be firmly established, documented and monitored in order to retain existing customers and gain new ones. To stay competitive, a service provider must have a range of information at their fingertips – the sort of information that only an intelligent business management system can provide.
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Capturing invaluable customer feedback
For the service industry, customer feedback is crucial, yet some companies still don’t make sufficient use of this valuable information. A 2017 Australian survey of CEOs conducted by PwC  found that seventy nine percent (79%) we concerned about chaning customer behaviour and felt they didn’t have enough information about what customers wanted. Having access to such information was considered a problem; either customers weren’t being questioned enough or their responses weren’t recorded.
A customer relationship module (CRM) within an integrated ERP system is designed to capture such information. In addition, if the service company sets up a web portal that customers can access, it makes them feel both empowered and valued. They can check progress on the work the company is doing for them, and leave comments. What’s more, if they contact the company’s helpdesk or call centre, the person answering their call has all of the customer’s data in front of them.
Armed with live customer information, a manager can better assess whether the company’s practices are doing the job properly. In addition, by analysing the costs and revenue generated by each customer, the service company can offer value-added services.
BI: an essential tool for survival
Business Intelligence (BI) can mean the difference between life and death for a service provider. The service sector is the biggest industry in the world today; competition is fierce and survival isn’t just a matter of undercutting one’s rivals in price. In fact, that could spell doom. Tendering cheaply for contracts may attract a large volume of work, but resources will then be wasted doing numerous jobs that only deliver a meagre return.
The best service providers never focus on price; they focus on quality. BI helps by allowing managers to drill down into each job to determine its financial viability and make adjustments. Proper BI breaks down all the individual costs, so areas for improvement can be identified. It can also deliver valuable information on how to organise other such jobs in the future – or even determine whether it’s profitable to take them on at all. Then when auditing time comes, BI delivers a fully documented report.
Forecasting is another benefit of BI. In service industries that are subject to seasonal variations, a pipeline of work can be established so there’s always revenue coming in. For example, a company that services refrigeration and air conditioning can identify customers whose systems are in need of servicing or upgrading, and encourage them to make a booking at a time of year when system usage is low.
"Business Intelligence (BI) can mean the difference between life and death for a service provider."
The best experience: digital is the future
At the end of the day, a service company stands or falls on the image it presents to its customers. They expect service that is prompt, effective and affordable. They want to feel that their business is valued and if they have a query, they expect an answer that shows they’re dealing with someone competent.
Intelligent business systems facilitate all this by giving service companies the right tools. As evidenced by recent research from PWC, 12% of CEO's are focused on boosting technology capabilities. For service providers it is integral you deliver quality information in real-time to crews on the frontline, staff at the service desk, and managers in the back office. Service professionals must embrace the age of digital technology to deliver the best customer experience.
Finding the appropriate system
Professional service providers need to know the status of all their jobs, and their business system must be flexible enough to integrate into all areas of day-to-day operation. The system needs to:
- track and manage the status of each job, and all the jobs being done for each client
- be usable by multiple staff across the company
- report on accounting, finance and costs in real time
- manage customer interactions and billing.
It’s essential too, that all data can be accessed from a central point, offering management a snapshot view of any aspect of the business, at any time.
Minimising downtime and disruption is a key concern too – making it critical that the new system is not only able to adapt to the changing shape of the business, but integrate seamlessly with existing legacy systems.
It’s this ability to expand and co-exist with other systems where an integrated business management system can add value way beyond specific features or functionality. They provide a platform for growth not limited by the constraints of rigid programming – and a means of actively improving the efficiency of operational tasks and activity throughput on an ongoing basis.
"It’s essential too, that all data can be accessed from a central point, offering management a snapshot view of any aspect of the business, at any time."
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