Here are 4 simple, powerful guidelines to spark disruptive ideas for your tech-service hybrid: increase speed, reduce price, increase access, and dumb it down.
It’s easy to forget Disruptive Innovation isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a practice rooted in science. Harvard Business professor Dr. Clayton Christensen spent 15 years uncovering the patterns that led to his “Theory of Disruption.” The theory is expansive, but the simple building blocks below are easily employed by anyone hoping to use technology to differentiate a service company.
Speed up tedious activities
Customers are busy. As a result, they avoid engaging in time-suck activities unless it’s urgent. If you can take some pain out of the process, they’ll be happy to work with you. It may seem scary to ask some of these questions. We helped one of our clients, SpaceWorks ask, “Do tenants really need to visit commercial real estate before they buy it?”
SpaceWorks now has a proprietary platform to help clients “test-fit” dozens of spaces and narrow down to two or three before they ever set foot in the door. Clients work online and directly with a dedicated commercial real estate broker over the phone to develop floor plans, learn about neighborhoods, see photos and videos, and crunch numbers before doing an on-site visit. The process takes about half the time it did before the platform, and is especially helpful for clients located out of state or overseas.
Reduce your work to reduce the price
“Don’t hire a $1000/hr lawyer to wash your car.” Some customers don’t want to pay high-priced service providers to do low-value activities. Others can’t afford to.
Two ways to mitigate the cost of low-value activities are creating a do-it-yourself component, or creating technology to automate part of the process.
Here are some low-value activities you may want to put on auto-pilot to reduce your overhead and pass the savings on to your customers: creating reports, scheduling resources, asking discovery questions, creating proposals from scratch, gathering customer data.
In a service business, time is all you’ve got. Being relentless in protecting your billable hours will also help boost your profits. Profit is the key word and I’ll reiterate that you shouldn’t cut price without cutting the amount of work you do.
Provide 24/7 access to low-value activities
It’s hard to be on call 24/7. Additionally, each service professional can only service one client at a time. Low-value activities need to get done with a quick turnaround, but you don’t want to be getting calls at 4am on a Saturday. Certain aspects of your business can be easily accomplished with technology, even when you’re not on call, such as reporting, status updates, access to forms and files, projections on timeline, the list goes on.
Your clients will be much happier if they don’t have to bug you for these activities, and so will you. The bonus is you can spend more time on the services that make you the most money.
One of our clients is a language translation service provider, and they are building out a dashboard to provide real-time analytics on all of their projects. As you can imagine they are dealing with customers in every time zone and location globally. Most players in the industry provide monthly, or at best weekly reporting about budgets, percentage of work completed, and resource allocation; any of Acclaro’s clients can log in and find out for themselves at any time of day, in any time zone.
“Dumb it down” for less sophisticated customers
Your expertise keeps you in business, but certain aspects of any job are easily taught. A DIY component gets customers engaged in the process, and opens you up to a new market that may not have the cash to work with a white-glove service provider. It also allows you to work with more customers simultaneously.
It’s tough to identify tasks your customers may want to do themselves. Here’s a test: what are coordinator-level employees doing for you now? Your customers may be able to do some of these tasks with the help of technology, and your coordinators can be in charge of quality-control.
You should be using your time for high-value activities rather than low-value ones. If you eliminate low-value activities, you save money. If you save money, you can pass some of that savings onto your customers and they will be grateful.