Most businesses make life very difficult for their customers, but they don’t know it because it’s what they’ve always done things. Year after year of training and selling the same way creates a tunnel vision that people just can’t see past. The problem is that the market has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and what used to work no longer does—speed and convenience have changed everything.
Take Uber for instance. It used to be that getting a cab was one of the most frustrating experiences ever. You would have to stand outside (in the rain and the cold) waving like an idiot until you could flag down a taxi that didn’t already have someone inside of it. Now, we would never mess with that! Instead, we stay in the restaurant for another drink while we call a cab from our phones, see a picture of the driver and vehicle picking us up, and track their location to know exactly when they will arrive.
Let’s look at another example: Netflix. It used to be that when you wanted to watch a movie, you got into your car and drove to the local Blockbuster. From there, you would walk around the store looking for the movie you wanted to see and hoping that they had it in stock. When a new hit came out it could be reserved for weeks, so you had to put your name on the waiting list and wait for the store to call you. Today, we sit on our couch, scroll through Netflix where there is no store or line, find the movie that we want to watch, and click “play”.
Both Uber and Netflix have been major disruptors because they offer their customers speed and convenience.
Like it or not, these companies have raised the bar that all businesses are judged by when it comes to the customer experience and hearth companies must be aware of this. Going back to tunnel vision, we simply don’t understand how difficult and frustrating it is to do business with most hearth companies—it’s like waiting in the pouring rain for a taxi to stop.
Don’t believe me?
Think about the typical steps in a customer’s journey:
- Go to a confusing manufacturers webpage (we get desensitized to it, but these websites are extremely difficult for customers)
- Get blasted with all kind of industry jargon (“BTU’s”, Zero-Clearance Fireplace”, “Insert”, IPI System”)
- Get linked to a local dealer’s confusing website (most of these are even worse than the manufacturers)
- Drive to a dealer to get questions answered and find a price (dealers generally speak with the same confusing language and can’t give a price on the floor)
- Wait 1-2 weeks for an “estimator” to come to the house (they take a bunch of measurements and promise to “be in touch soon” with the numbers)
- 3-5 days later receive a bid from the estimator (only to find out that they need bids from other trades like electricians or tile setters)
- Get bids from the other trades (hopefully they all call the customer back)
- Drive back to the dealer to confirm options and place a deposit (and get any remaining questions answered)
- Wait 3-4 weeks for the product to be installed (maybe longer if it’s in “burn season”)
- Take 2-3 days off of work for the install (if the job is done with proper permitting)
That customer journey is exhausting and hearth companies don’t realize how bad it is since it’s the way that they’ve always done it.
Like it or not, we are being held to the same standard as Uber and Netflix even though our industry is completely different. Customers today do business with companies that offer speed and convenience (think about your own behavior)—the only time they will go through a hassle is if they believe they have to.
We have to change the customer experience and make it stupidly simple to do business with us.
Now, this doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel (neither Uber or Netflix did that), rather, it means finding the roadblocks that customers have and getting rid of them so that it’s an easy and simple ride. It would be worth mapping out your customer’s journey on paper to identify roadblocks and brainstorm ways to make it easy for them to buy from you.
Here are a few places you can start:
- Simplify your website (cut out 90% of the text on your site and make it easier to understand, yes, I said 90%)
- Train your team to explain the forest and not the trees (spend more time explaining why a fireplace is going to help them so much and how simple you can make the process for them before you talk about product features)
- Simplify your pricing structure (if you can’t quote a customer in less than 5 minutes, you are losing money)
- Practice your sales process regularly (yes, this means that you have to have a sales process, but you will be shocked at how much this helps)
If you start with these, you can make it radically simple for customers to buy from you.
If you keep going with how things have always been things will get worse. At some point customers will find an easier way to buy and they won’t use your company. But imagine if you invested in the customer journey, simplified your process and make it easier than ever for customers to do business with you—do you think they would? Absolutely.
You can make it easier than ever for customers and grow your company like never before, I know because that’s been my journey over the last 5 years. Simplifying what you do will rally your team around you and create customers that are wildly excited about your company, but it starts with an honest look at your company. They say that a life that is unexamined will never mature and I would argue our businesses are the same way.