Make sure your surveying business is optimised to handle a recession

No one knows if a recession is on the way or not. Different commentators have different opinions as to whether or not we are expecting to see another great recession or if things will all be fine. However, regardless of the actual outcome it is always good to be prepared for all eventualities.

Businesses that prepare for a weaker economy will be in a better position to weather the storm. This is when you skills and leadership are tested. Ensuring you are operating effectively and efficiently is the key to success. Below are our top tips for ensuring your business is prepared for a recession and in a good position to continue providing a great service to customers and support to your team.

A lot of the points below will discuss how automation can help your business in different ways. It is important not to confuse automation with being impersonal. If you automate every process and never speak to your customer then yes, it is. But if you automate the right processes, you can gain back lots of time to spend speaking with customers instead of handling repetitive admin.

Optimise costs with automation

During a recession, markets are quieter and costs affecting the bottom line can’t be ignored because revenue isn’t flowing in as freely. Processes that are cost-intensive or time-intensive now will become an issue as sales slow. It is important to prepare in advance to optimise your costs so that if a downturn comes, your cash reserves can support you much longer. To do this:

  • Streamline processes to remove admin time – by automating admin tasks such as creating terms documents or sending an invoice, you ensure your team are free to speak to new enquiries and convert as many leads as possible rather than missing opportunities because they are busy copying and pasting.
  • Automating means you can still operate easily and provide a great service if you can’t afford to keep all your staff on full time. If a recession really does impact sales you need to ensure your business can operate with reduced staff levels and without delays in responding to customers. Maintaining a great service is key during tough times.

Automating tasks is an investment, not a cost. The opportunity cost of not automating is much higher. Manual tasks can result in both lower sales and higher wage bills. By automating you ensure as much of your wage bill is focused on converting leads instead of on non-revenue generating tasks.

Creating a better customer experience with automation

As mentioned earlier, automation doesn’t mean being impersonal. In fact, it can mean the opposite. By freeing up your time from admin, you have more time to spend speaking with customers than you did before. Automation can help make booking with you simpler and make it easier for your team to handle all of their tasks. It is important you make enquiring and booking as straightforward and quick as possible so that you can convert as many enquiries into completed jobs as possible. To do this you need to remove barriers:

  • Make it easy to enquire – provide simple, slick forms for customers to fill in that encourage them to make that enquiry and provide you with their details. Less engaging forms will see lower completion rates – there needs to feel like a reward at the end of it. Separately, publishing your price online means customers can see prices without you getting their details.
    • You can’t follow up with a lead if they don’t have to provide you their information.
    • You don’t have an opportunity to explain your value. Price and quality determine a purchase. Offering your price freely on your website without the need to submit details means you lose the chance to explain your value. You make the transaction about price.
    • You don’t have to provide a quote immediately but you can encourage more enquiries with nicer forms.
  • Make it easy to get information – does your website provide clear descriptions about each of your services beyond the generic details that other websites display? Your service will differ from other surveyors. Do you explain how your service provides value, and what you do differently or do you simply list the standard service notes about each survey or valuation? Using automation, you can provide details to customers searching for a quote via email advising what your service includes (beyond the minimum requirements), how they can contact you for more information and how the booking process works. You can then follow up when you’re available and the lead has information to keep them warm.
  • Make it easy to book – do you provide an easy booking process that keeps customers informed of progress and what happens next? By automating processes such as upgrading from manual terms to e-signed terms, you can speed up the creation of documents by pre-filling data you already have. You can then provide automatic confirmation that signed terms have been received and what will happen next such as requesting payment or advising you are arranging access. Manually sending a generic update adds no extra value, is slower than an automated receipt and distracts your team from revenue-generating activities. Automation doesn’t suit all customers but systems such as Survey Booker enable you to automate the processes that suit you and manually handle the rest.
  • Empower your team – in a downturn your team may be stretched with what they need to do. Allow them to make decisions to speed up processes. Remember a job done (well) is better than a job done perfectly at the expense of servicing other customers. They will also be able to advise where they lose lots of their time on admin and provide ideas on how they can be more effective.
  • Focus on your customers – find out why customers that used your service chose you. What did they like and what did they think could have been easier? This is the key to refining your processes.

Boost employee retention with automation

Automation can be a real boost to employee morale when implemented correctly. Involving your team in this process and explaining the benefits means they understand it is there to help them, not replace them! Your team provide real value when they are working on interesting tasks and speaking with customers. Employees feel satisfied when adding value rather than doing monotonous, repetitive work. The types of repetitive tasks that can be automated are:

  • Basic lead follow-ups
  • Sending terms
  • Generating invoices
  • Sending basic job updates

These are repetitive tasks that provide general information. The customer receiving the information doesn’t care how it was produced. They feel no better because you copied and pasted information into an invoice manually versus a computer doing it automatically. They just care that they got it accurately and on time. Automating a task like this means you can focus on delivering a high-quality service without affecting your bottom line. Automation also means these jobs are handled the same way every time so nothing gets missed and every customer has a consistent experience.

Your team will feel higher job satisfaction as they aren’t sat copying and pasting information and will be more likely to stay with your company whilst also being more motivated by their day-to-day work. This also leads to better customer outcomes as team motivation directly links with customer satisfaction.

Create a contingency plan

This isn’t focused on automation but instead on what other services you can provide if your core market slumps. For example, if you normally only offer services for residential properties, can you train now whilst markets are good to provide similar services for commercial buildings? Or if you do condition surveys, can you train to do schedules of dilapidations or schedules of conditions which will still be needed in a recession?

It is easy not to put a backup plan in place when sales are good because you are busy and taking out time to train will reduce revenue-generating activities now. However, in a downturn, you will lose more revenue from a quiet diary whilst you wait to take training for other services. This means overall you will lose much more revenue than investing some time now. If you prepare ahead, you’ll be ready to provide additional services when your core work is quieter.

Deciding when to automate a task

Not every task should be automated. Personal service is still key to winning business and some tasks are more effectively done by a person. However, there are a lot of tasks that customers simply don’t care whether you did it by hand or it was automated – they want timely and accurate information. And your team don’t want to spend most of their day copying and pasting data. They can add much more value than that. Which tasks should you automate?

  • It’s a task you have to do frequently or on a schedule
  • It involves moving information between systems
  • It’s boring and doesn’t require higher-order thinking
  • It takes you away from what you really want to be doing
  • It’s a simple, repetitive task
  • It doesn’t generate revenue

 

Taking a look at some examples, providing an acknowledgement email of an enquiry can be automated until you have time to follow up and speak with a customer. This keeps them warm – you can’t email customers at 10pm. Filling out invoices with data or into terms documents to be sent out is boring and repetitive and takes your team away from speaking with new leads. Filling out that terms document or invoice doesn’t generate you any additional revenue.

 

What to do for tasks that can’t be automated? 

Not every task can be automated – it might be more complex, an unusual task or is high value. However, you can still optimise processes by creating operating procedures. This ensures any member of the team can easily check how to carry out a task so any team member can do it quickly and accurately without missing any steps. This removes the need to wait for other team members help or to rectify mistakes if something gets missed because a straightforward guide can be viewed at any time.

Conclusion

Recession-proofing your surveying business means operating deliberately. It means being willing to adapt, to review processes and to embrace change. It also requires you to stop and work on your business, not just work in it. Recession-proofing means being proactive and stopping to look at what works well, and what could be done even better. Whilst it can be easy to enjoy the status quo in good times, failing to plan means you’ll be scrambling to react when a downturn does arrive.

What if there isn’t a recession? Perfect! You’re now prepped if one comes in the future and you are operating more efficiently now. Your bottom line will look much better, you’ll have a more resilient business model and motivated staff. Regardless of the economic outlook, ignoring automation means ignoring opportunities to safeguard your business and gain a competitive edge. It also means offering a less personal service because your time is focused on tasks that take you away from being with customers.