Virtual consultations – Pointless? Or a stroke of genius?

With the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 and the fact we are already seeing local lockdowns, businesses will again need to adapt to ensure their survival.

An idea that has been floated for decorators is the ‘virtual consultation’

For the sake of this blog we’ll talk about how this might work for residential painting and decorating work.

The ‘virtual consultation’ would be a video / zoom call with the homeowner to discuss their decorating requirements.

In my opinion, I think this could be an absolute game changer for the decorating industry.

Not as a replacement for the usual face to face appointment, but as something you do before you meet the customer in person.

I believe it could be implemented by many decorators during COVID and then become standard practice for the future.

Let’s quickly look at a different industry that has made ‘virtual consultations’ standard practice and has seen great results from it.

The recruitment industry.

If you’ve not applied for a job recently the process usually goes something like this:

  1. Apply for the job online
  2. Telephone interview with the recruiter
  3. Video call interview with the recruiter and/or the employer
  4. First face to face interview with the employer
  5. Second face to face interview with the employer
  6. Job offer

There can be more stages, but this is a decent outline of how it usually goes.

So, why do video call interviews work for the recruitment industry?

One reason is that it allows recruiters and employers to disqualify poor candidates much more efficiently.

Face to face interviews are difficult to organise and can take up a lot of time.

Video call interviews can be done quickly and conveniently for all parties involved.

It saves the candidate taking a day off to drive to and from the interview and it means the recruiter/employer can get through interviews much faster. This ultimately helps the candidate, as before video calling most people would get removed from the process on their CV alone. The video call gives some people a second chance.

Think about how you could add video calls into the sales process of a small or sole trader decorating business.

The process might look as follows:

  1. Customer makes an enquiry via phone / email / website / social media
  2. Whichever way they get in contact you aim to speak to them on the phone within an hour to outline basic requirements and to set up a virtual consultation
  3. You have a 15-30 minute virtual consultation where you can discuss more details about the customer requirements, how you might be able to help and potentially arrange a face to face meeting. You could develop a basic script for this conversation to ensure you can quickly gather enough information to qualify OR disqualify the potential customer.
  4. Face to face meeting + measuring up
  5. Phone call or video call to confirm dates for completing the work
  6. Complete the work

There are a few advantages to this process that I can see. The first being: Responsiveness.

Responsiveness can be the difference between winning and losing a sale.

People will more often than not choose the first offer they receive. I know that might be hard to believe, but it is often the case. It doesn’t mean people won’t get a second quote. It just means people usually go with whoever builds the relationship first.

Let’s imagine you are competing with another decorator for a contract.

The homeowner emails you and your competitor with an enquiry at the same time. You call them back within an hour, have a video consultation within 24 hours and get a face to face meeting booked in.

Your competitor doesn’t call the customer back for 26 hours and asks if they can meet next week to measure up.

Who do you think is the favourite to win this sale?

Of course, it is you.

Before the face to face meetings have even begun you look like a professional, modern and considerate company.

You have also built up a better relationship with the client and you already have twice as much information about their requirements.

You are in the driving seat on this deal.

The second advantage I can see, is that like a recruiter, you can disqualify customers far quicker and easier.

No longer do you have to waste time driving around in the evening doing quotes for tire kickers. You can now schedule them all in 15-30 minute blocks, working around your usual evening routine cooking dinner and putting the children to bed etc.

You then only make face to face visits to the most promising customers.

The third advantage and perhaps most obvious is…Stopping the spread of COVID-19. If you happened to have COVID without symptoms and then did 5 face to face customer visits in an evening that is a major problem. Even if you don’t have COVID, one of those 5 customers might.

If you did them all over video call and then only visited 2 clients face to face, it could still be a problem. But not as bad as it could be.

Also, just the fact you are offering virtual consultations as a service will give people confidence that you are a professional business who is clearly taking things seriously and has procedures in place to safeguard your customers. This alone could put you ahead of the competition.

The pushbacks:

Ok, let’s cover off the push backs most people come up with when virtual consultations are discussed

  1. ‘What difference does it make? You can’t do the work virtually’ – Hopefully by now you realise this is not a valid question, as I’m not suggesting you use video calls as a replacement to the face to face meeting, but as a supplement to enhance your business.
  2. ‘My customers won’t know how to video call’ – During lockdown everyone and their dog was using video calls and zoom chats. Even the older generation who are often considered less tech savvy were doing it. Joining a video call is simpler than ever. Of course, not everyone will want to do it, but even if someone doesn’t take you up on the offer I’m sure they’ll appreciate what you are doing and how you are trying to be a considerate and forward thinking business.
  3. ‘I’m not comfortable on camera’ – I get this is an issue for some people, but you can quickly train yourself out of this mindset.  Organise a few video calls with close friends or family and you’ll soon be far more confident. You could even try it with an existing customer first if it helps.

What do you think?

Is it something you could start offering?

Could you even use video calls more than once during the sales process? Let me know!

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