Even five years ago, the technology industry reported that 72% of construction workers use smartphones, and 50% use tablets for their work. And as of three years ago, there were 13,000 construction apps in the market. If construction managers and teams are embracing technology with such enthusiasm, then so must construction suppliers.
Yet, research quoted in an article on the ‘digital construction movement’ by Infrastructure Intelligence suggested that as of 2018, two-thirds of firms in the construction sector were spending 1% or less of their budget on IT. And this in an age where other sectors are making giant leaps using technology.
On-site, front of mind
When the construction industry does invest in technology, the decision to mobilise their account managers is made with good reason. The benefits of fully integrated cloud-based apps are loud and clear.
- Be Johnny-on-the-spot and do business in real-time. With your account manager on-site, customers can request quotes, place, change or track orders — all through an app that pulls data directly from your line-of-business applications.
- Speed up the sales process with digitised workflows. Free up your reliance on account managers passing on paperwork or chasing up quotes or deliveries. With an automated sales process, requests and instructions are directly routed to the correct person and alerts and reminders issued as deadlines approach.
- Improve communications and grow sales opportunities. Complement your account manager’s industry knowledge with the ability to offer solutions on site. When your AM can see everything from a customer’s building plans to the quantity surveying of materials needed, to the supply, billing, and delivery of materials. Armed with this information, they can talk to the customer more effectively, cross- and up-sell, introduce new products, and offer alternative products to backfill orders.
- Increase the time spent on the job, not at the desk. With the right app, your account manager can not only minimise the amount of time spent in the office by eliminating the need to review, collect or complete paperwork, but free them up to do what they do best; sell your products, services, and solutions.
- Simplify call schedules. With an app that pulls information directly from your CRM and financials, your account managers can prepare their daily call schedule while on the road. Without returning to the office, your AM can identify and prioritise high-value customers who are due a visit, or check-in on those whose accounts are in arrears or on ‘stop credit.’ And if it has integrated geo-location services, the app can even map out recommended routes to minimise travel time and improve fuel efficiency.
- Know – and retain - your customers. Gone are the embarrassing days of an account manager calling on a nearby site to introduce themselves, only to find they are talking to an existing customer. Instead, an integrated app equips your AM with not only the customer’s contact details, but a history of the business relationship, current and past projects, and any notes or alerts. Being on-site and equipped with in-depth customer knowledge, it’s easier for an AM to retain and drive customer loyalty.
Making sales mobility (and more) a reality
It’s easy to imagine that only the larger construction suppliers can afford a sales app and dismiss it as a pipe dream. But transformation is not just the domain of the big players in the industry. It’s short-sighted, especially when building is a booming business, to not leverage technology more effectively to drive value and opportunity from every customer interaction. (And by extending your technology to include a customer platform for online ordering, you will further increase your ROI).
Overall, the digital transformation of the sales process reduces call centre costs, increases employee productivity, improves the customer experience and level of satisfaction, streamlines the building plan-to-product path, and can essentially eliminate paper-based processes.
Industry research from 2019 indicates that while construction businesses have an overall positive attitude towards apps, perceptions differed by management level. Top management personnel recognised the value of apps at a strategic level to improve long-term client relationship management and satisfaction. In comparison, middle-management was more interested in app usage at operational and tactical levels for task- or project-level productivity improvement.
Hurdles and considerations
While there are many ‘off the rack’ apps, the true value of a solution is its ability to support your processes, achieve high levels of user adoption, and access the information needed to add genuine, quantifiable business value for your customers.
Hurdles to adoption include:
- The ability to rapidly access financial, sales, stock, and relationship data in real-time (which requires either an investment in integration to line-of-business applications or development within existing technology platforms)
- Ability to customise or custom develop an app to support often complex processes
- Cost of training and user acceptance
- The high price of mobile tablets suitable for use in a construction environment
- Development and licensing costs
- Security concerns
A warning to the wise
Investing in a sales app is likely to be the tip of the iceberg for a construction business.
However, the benefits of revolutionising the sales and, therefore, the customer experience can be so profound that embracing the path to digital transformation is inevitable.