We live in a world of volatile fuel prices, product shortages, heated competition, pressured margins and shrinking gallons.
At the same time your end customers are becoming increasingly savvy, they are price sensitive, less loyal, well informed on certain aspects and ill-informed on others.
At the intersection of these imposing forces are your customer service people. They are taking calls, listening to rants and raves, handling issues and educating customers. They are your human connection to your customer base and are hopefully doing the good work of helping you care for and retain those customers.
The job of a customer service person today is different than it was ten or fifteen years ago, yet most customer service people are saddled with software tools that were designed in the Clinton era (or maybe the Nixon era). To provide great customer service, your 21st-century customer service people need 21st-century tools to do their job.
We live in a world powered by software. Even the most non-technical users are on Facebook, they have smartphones and they buy things on Amazon. People are used to using the Internet and most people didn’t require training to be able to use those things.
This is because modern websites are designed in a simple way that’s easily understood. They perform the task at hand and guide you through it.
Contrast that to most of today’s and yesterday’s business software, which is traditionally clunky, hard to use, cluttered and confusing for new users. Yes, business software is intricate and more complicated than the average website, but it’s also often designed in a way that inhibits learning and rapid adoption by users instead of aiding that process.
But advances in user interface design have allowed business software to start to catch up to modern levels of usability. A better-designed interface means information is easier to find and understand quickly, and routine tasks are easier to accomplish and more guided resulting in fewer mistakes and saving money down the line.
And, less is often more. When looking at a customer, if you don’t offer installment plans for customers, that area should be hidden by default but easily accessible. If you don’t have card lock stations or bulk transport, those items should be hidden too, but easily accessible.
How that software is delivered to the dealer is also undergoing change. For example, web-based solutions are becoming more mainstream, which is an approach we have taken with Cargas Energy. That doesn’t mean it’s installed out in the cloud necessarily. It can be installed on a server inside your four walls or on a cloud server’that’s your choice. What it does mean is that you don’t have to install the software on your employee’s computer because they access the back office software through a web browser’whether on an office computer or an iPad at home.
The job of a modern customer service person is difficult and stressful, sometimes there is turnover and you often have to train new people. If the software they use is much easier to learn, that’s less training up front, more productivity and more return on your investment in technology.
Aaron Cargas, CPA, is vice president of product development at Cargas Systems. He leads and designs the product roadmap and strategy of Cargas Energy, software and mobile technology for heating oil, propane and service companies. Learn more about Cargass Energy at: www.cargas.com. You can contact Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org, and enjoy his humorous and valuable weekly blog posts at ManagerialMayhem.com.