A vague car mechanic. A stubborn event manager. A flighty esthetician. An unreliable contractor. It’s a horrible feeling to have taken the time to select the best company we could find and entrust them with something of major significance, only to then live with a pit in our stomach, hoping we didn’t just make a terrible mistake. In the end, for the most part, we are more than satisfied with the outcome. But why does the experience have to be so painful?

Customer experience is paramount for service companies. It involves how the customer feels when they are working with a company, as opposed to customer service, which is a support mechanism the company offers. The customer experience influences referrals and reviews. It often is the critical factor in the difference between a one-time purchaser and a lifetime loyalist.

The good news is, a little goes a long way when it comes to making incremental improvements to a customer experience. In the common scenarios above – car mechanic, event manager, esthetician, and contractor – just because they are providing a negative customer experience doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their job. They just might not be good at setting expectations, or what we at Gravity Marketing like to call consensus and clarity.

Define Your Roadblocks

The first step is to define why a negative experience might occur – most likely, it is due to a lack of education on the customer’s part about your industry or the logistics that go into doing your job well. That vague car mechanic might just care more about working on cars than working the phones. And the event manager knows that when you are cooking for 100, a menu with less will deliver more. How would the customer be on the same page if no one told them this ahead of time? Think about common roadblocks caused by lack of clarity, and important milestones where you need consensus.

Anticipate With Email or SMS

Email automation can fix this. If you are already using a CRM like Zoho or HubSpot for sales, or an email client like MailChimp or Constant Contact for marketing, you can leverage the same platforms to enhance the experience the customer has during the time they are receiving their service. Create a series of email templates that serve as reminders, guides, or decision points. Schedule the emails to go out around the time each customer will be reaching these points. If you send the emails through a CRM, they could be scheduled in the days leading up to or following an appointment.

Automation can be a helpful communication tool to make customers feel cared for, educated, and prepared. Like in these scenarios:

  1. Service providers where 9 times out of 10, the customer is experiencing this process for the first time. Such as building a home, installing energy efficient technology, planning a wedding, planning a funeral, or acquiring a business. Use email automation to offer helpful tools such as timelines and checklists; resources such as case studies and industry trend articles; and reminders about appointments, including what they need to bring and special instructions for checking in if CDC guidelines are in play. In some cases, throwing a “How are we doing?” survey into the mix can provide clarity on your end.
  2. Service industries with a high rate of no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Think hair salons, medical professionals, and at-home estimates. A series of emails can help encourage customers to set their next appointment, with links to conveniently do this from a mobile device. Once an appointment is set, send a series of emails and SMS messages and phone calls (if not too overbearing) to confirm the appointment, and give them an opportunity to conveniently reschedule if needed. Once they respond with a confirmation, messages can switch to reminders about the appointment and instructions, or links to paperwork that can be completed beforehand or upon arrival.
  3. Industries where a lack of customer service is expected, and negative customer experiences are the norm. Such as manufacturing, car repair, and residential contractors. A commitment to communication, real-time status updates, and improving the overall experience can be a pleasant surprise when customers aren’t expecting it. Going above and beyond with automated email communication means you don’t have to turn skilled craftsman into account executives.

We’re all busy. Customers hire service professionals because they are experts and they want to get something done right the first time. But that doesn’t mean they want to – or should have to – give up control over making their vision a reality. Give away your inherent value in bits and pieces so customers can learn from the best practices you have honed over years of trial and error. That way, you can influence their decision instead of clashing over it.

Service companies already rely on automation to draw in prospective customers through marketing, and nurture and convert leads through sales. But many companies neglect the space between the close of a deal and the services rendered. Automation that improves the customer experience provides the much appreciated consensus, clarity, and convenience that makes everybody’s job easier.