All businesses need digital transformation. Being local doesn't protect the neighborhood computer or phone repair shop from the pressures of increased competition and customer needs.
Digitalization is an overused buzzword for businesses today, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic restrictions. However, overused as it might be, adopting cloud-based data-focused tools is not a temporary trend.
Does the same apply to businesses like repair shops and service businesses, though? After all, these are local businesses that can expand their reach only so far even with the best digital models. This is particularly true for small and medium repair and service providers.
Well, digitalization is important irrespective. The gains just happen to be in other areas of the business. Digitalization can still help expand local businesses by offering services to a wider customer base, even with the limitations of a repair location.
What is digitalization?
Technology is at the center of digitalization, specifically software. Digital transformation involves running business processes using digital solutions to improve the efficiency of work.
For a repair business, this could mean more repairs per technician, faster turnaround time, improved customer satisfaction, fewer errors in the process, and so on. The ultimate goal would be to gain complete control of your business.
Even with digital software, you need to focus on two things. One, choose something that runs on the cloud. It’s usually faster to adopt, more secure, and gets updated faster. Two, you need to be able to gather data at a granular level. That’s when you can analyze and optimize for gains.
Why is digitalization important for local businesses?
All businesses need digital transformation. Being local doesn't protect the neighborhood computer or phone repair shop from the pressures of increased competition and customer needs. The average customer with a smartphone no longer expects to spend more time interacting with a person at a shop than managing things online.
In addition, digitalization tools go beyond just collecting data, but also analyze and visualize information in ways that make it easier for business owners to make decisions, track the impact of changes, and correct mistakes.
So, here are some of the ways in which digitalization can improve your repair and service business:
A significant portion of your consumers are likely to be digitally savvy, and this number will only increase. From email newsletters to an online presence, there’re a number of ways to engage customers who prefer to communicate digitally.
"To be able to automate (customer interactions) saved a lot of time and gained a lot of customer trust through communication. The communication functions raised our CSAT (customer satisfaction) score by about 10 percent or so."
Noah Gibson, CTO, MacRent
Digitalization goes beyond creating a website or having a social media profile. For instance, your clients will expect to have access to a self-service portal to check in repairs and track its status without having to call your shop.
If you have the time, you have the ability to understand your customers much more based on the data you can access from your website and your social media profiles. If you have a CRM tool in use, it also gives you the chance to act on what you know about your customers.
What is the best time to run a discount campaign? What characteristics define long-term customers? How do you build a brand and stay on the radar?
Using data from website analytics and social media is straightforward. Apart from building your brand online, digital marketing campaigns can become more effective as well. These campaigns allow small businesses to have an impact even on modest marketing budgets.
Advertising in the online space is more targeted as well. As a local business, you’ll benefit from engaging with the right audience. Apart from location, you can create content that speaks to a number of customer groups.
Personalization is a key component of doing business, and digital transformation allows you to personalize the customer service experience. It should be a focal point of your digital strategy.
Google Ads and Third-Party Technical Support
Google’s policies prevent third-party repair shops from advertising themselves. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t advertise your business. But you need to be able to craft ads that respond to what users are looking for without using keywords that Google does not allow in their ads. In addition, list yourself in Google Business to show up when users check for local listings (“repair shops near me”).
Meeting Data Privacy and Anti-Spam Laws
Depending on where you live, there are data privacy and anti-spam regulations that you have to keep in mind when launching your digital marketing campaigns. The US has CAN-SPAM, EU has GDPR, Australia has the Spam Act, and other countries within the EU — like Germany and Austria — have separate regulations. (add more)
The most important benefit of digitalization is the increased efficiency in business operations. Business leaders say digital improvements have increased revenues.
There are a number of cloud services in the market that can help businesses manage their workflows, access and analyze data, and integrate key applications. Less than a decade ago, such applications were available only to large organizations.
Part of the reason was that specialized hardware and dedicated IT teams were needed to run such software. Software as a solution (Saas) and web-based services have changed this.
Optimization isn’t limited to analyzing data and making manual improvements. In fact, the greatest gains in a business like a repair shop are in freeing up employee time from processes that should be automated. For example, time is often wasted in duplicating data entry over multiple processes. Modern solutions run on macros that avoid such repetitions.
Apart from saving time, automating tedious tasks cut down errors. A good use case is queue management. The right tool will make it as easy as possible to keep track of orders and will proactively inform a service manager if tasks are incomplete and devices have been overlooked.
All of this also helps improve employee satisfaction. A technician would much rather be repairing a device than following up on paperwork or ensuring that all the data that is required is captured.
APIs, or application programming interfaces, allow almost all your tools to work with each other without any manual work involved. This might mean a little bit of development work, but APIs have made it easier to do this. It saves businesses time and improves the speed at which you are able to run your shop.
For a repair shop, this means that you can have your business management solution as a central platform to run your business while integrating payment solutions or even a CRM. This ensures you have one or more dashboards on one platform that truly represent your business.
"Technicians want to do technical work. They want to repair a unit, they want to order parts. They really don't want to mess around with a system. It has to be quick and fast."
Sven Busselot, Operational Services Manager, Switch
Remote Access, Data Compliance
Saas businesses are designed to work from anywhere. While the pandemic might have put the focus on remote work, Saas also allows for easier adoption of new technologies. You no longer have to invest in specific hardware, as long as you have an internet connection that can manage the data you need to handle.
There’s also the added benefit of security. The regulatory frameworks (GDPR for example) for digital data storage and use often require SaaS platforms to be kept updated. This could also include updates against security threats. No more downloading patches to keep your software up to date.
Repair Business Marketing
It doesn’t matter what sort of repair business you’re running, marketing is something you cannot avoid. You might not need a full-fledged CRM (customer relationship management) tool to get started. Some basic things can keep you on the customer’s radar and ensure that you’re in contention when there’s a choice to be made.
Have an Online Presence
You don’t need a website with a lot of features to be online right now. A basic website through which you can offer information on all the services you offer, what sets you apart, and maybe the option to book appointments. In addition, it’s a great way to get some feedback and reviews.
In addition, add social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These are great channels to tell customers about your repair and service business. The content should increase the trust that prospective customers have in your business.
Get yourself listed on Google Business so that you appear among the search results for queries about repair businesses in your area, town, or city. Do a bit of research on which keywords need to be included. For example, Apple Authorized Service Provider is an easy choice.
Investing in digital marketing needs to be done systematically. Focus on local visibility. Don’t go overboard if you don’t have a lot of time to track and test what you’re doing. Maintain a uniform brand voice and stay consistent. It doesn’t help if you choose to engage only when you’ve got to publicize special offers, discounts, and sales.
Offer True Aftersales
Having a clear understanding of the customer would be the most important part. Repairs are a forced customer decision. So you have to ensure that when they have an issue, they immediately think of your service. You might not need a full-suite CRM to do this and it might be wise to avoid the extra costs if simple methods will work.
Local businesses also rely heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. So it’s very important to meet expectations. Never promise something that you cannot deliver. The digital equivalent of word-of-mouth would be ratings left on services like Google Business listings. You could consider providing incentives to current customers to leave a review.
What you need to do during digital transformation
Digitalization will not be easy and is likely to need investment. If your strategy is centered around being digital without a long-term view of future-proofing your business, then it’s unlikely that you will gain as much.
It’s okay to take small steps. You don’t need to start an expensive digital marketing campaign if you’re not ready for it. But it doesn’t cost much to have a social media presence and one or two posts a week much before you begin paid advertising.
So, be ready for the following when you opt for digital transformation.
Invest in technology
Be willing to invest and commit to the technology. It’s okay to take your time doing the research, but you’re unlikely to find the perfect solution. It’s about choosing the best available one right now rather than waiting for one that might be developed later.
There might also be a need to invest in new hardware and employee training. It could be anything from updating your internet connectivity to subscriptions to digital-first solutions that can add value to your business.
In addition, integration is a huge part of digital transformation. Choose solutions that offer API documentation and the ability to develop integrations with the software that you already use. Essentially, you want to do away with siloed infrastructure. Data from all processes need to have an impact on decision-making.
Digital transformation for your local business is not about cutting-edge software. The software solution is only useful if the data that it provides is used cross-functionally. It’s just a fancy way of saying that people need to work together, and the person in charge needs to have greater trust in employees.
The best solutions in business often come from combining the experience of different job functions and processes. Just as data integration makes for a clearer bigger picture, your staff also needs to use and work with open data.
For example, the customer service representative must be aware of what information is vital for the technician, and the amount of time a proper check-in can save the technician. Not all repair orders need technician time, and the most efficient step would be to have the service rep identify only the ones that need to go into the workshop.
Collaboration also ensures that there are innovations in the way you do business. Everyone involved in the work can offer solutions and you’ll have data to validate such ideas.
The ICT industry needs digital tools
Small and medium-sized businesses within the ICT (information and communications technology) industry, especially those involved in aftersales, are surprisingly struggling with true digitalization. This might be because there hasn't been the required investment and research to build tools that could manage the complicated aftersales logistics chain.
There are repair businesses relying on solutions based on FileMaker to manage repairs and services. Others use modern-day POS (point of sale) technology, but these platforms do not offer users the ability to get the granular information that digitization offers.