Secure eBusiness Solutions

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sell Your Services Online and Gain Competitive Advantage

Take the irritation out of making a booking

There are many bricks and mortar service providers that have not considered the ability to sell online and what benefits it might bring. If you run a hair salon, motor mechanics, personal training, or really any service business there are benefits to be able to sell and book your  services online. If you can define a resource or resources and allocate them in a booking period you can sell those services online. It will offer better customer service and maybe free up some of your time for other things.

So if you want to sell services online what are the benefits and pitfalls?

The benefits can quickly be summed up in terms of customer satisfaction and less distractions for the operators. More and more people feel comfortable buying online and will start many new purchases by doing a Google search. It is far simpler to search online for products and services than any other way. Most of us have stopped letting our "fingers do the walking" and the phone book has been relegated to the recycle bin.

If you are going to compete locally, nationally or internationally you need to have an online presence. Creating a website to present your business to the customer on the web is a simple first step.

If your potential customers can find you online, review your capabilities and maybe some recommendations, then book online it means an easier and more fulfilling process that can put your customer in control of their own information. On the other side, if you are not distracted answering the phone to discuss available booking times then your in shop customers and your staff will be much happier.

Some people feel that they might lose that personal touch but a simple follow up phone call or email after an online booking could save you time and complete the personalisation of your business.

What do you have to do?

First you need to be able to define a resource that can be booked. Resources are different from the typical online product in that they can be sold by the minute, hour, day, year or whatever. If you look at your business you will have different resources that perform different tasks. In a Information Technology business for instance you may have designers, developers, managers, consultants and so on. Each may have a different bill out rate and booking requirements.

For each resource you need to be able to setup their availability as well as the period that might exist between bookings. You also need to be able to block out bulk time to cover holidays, training etc by resource.

So defining resources is very different than defining products.

Second there must be some ability to view a resource availability and book a time slot online. You will need to be able to setup how far in advance you can book or cancel. Resource bookings might be automatically confirmed or you might want to be able to manually confirm the booking with the customer.

Finally you want to be able to collect payment or partial payment online. But the whole payment process needs to be flexible to cope with your requirements and style of business. You can accept a partial payment if your business requires a deposit to be paid which many service companies do require.

No Shopping Cart Required

When selling resources you do not need a shopping cart as in a normal online store but you still need to collect payment, provide confirmation and send the necessary email confirmations and maybe a tax invoice. So although you are selling online the process is different to the traditional retail online store. Mainly this is to provide the best user experience and simplify the process flow.

You still need to have an SSL certificate and a payment method that is PCI compliant if taking credit cards online. So use a payment system like PayPal or eWAY for example.

Manually Creating a Booking

Also think about being able to use the system for your own internal purposes. If you can manually create a booking from the administration system then you may be able to improve you own internal processes as well.

Good Customer Service - A Competitive Advantage

Once you begin to offer the ability for your potential customers to book online it will extend your business reach. It also means that you can have customer book in their own time frame and not just when you are available to handle the call. It will offer a clear differentiators between you and your competitors.

You do not have to forget that personal contact and each online booking could be confirmed personally by you or your staff so that you keep in touch with you customers.

Think outside the square and look for ways to improve customer service and reach.

eCorner provides our CloudBiz a package that is perfect for services companies who want to provide online bookings. It can be applied to any business such as restaurants, consultants, hair stylist, automotive repairs any business that has resources that are reusable.