The e-commerce behemoth has changed the business landscape, and copying a page or two from its playbook could give your company a boost
Twenty years ago this month, on May 15, 1997, Amazon went public. While only a fortunate few got in on that initial public offering, Amazon’s subsequent growth brought change to the masses far more significant than free two-day shipping and yet another video streaming option.
As a portable restroom operator, you may think those changes are limited to the modern-day miracle of having parts for your equipment delivered right to your door with the simple click of a mouse. But Amazon has changed not only how America shops, but how business in general is conducted. It has revolutionized the customer experience. Ignore Amazon’s innovations and you risk being left behind. Even service businesses like portable restroom rental companies can benefit from being a little more like Amazon. Here’s how:
1. Don’t be afraid to change. Amazon started out as an online bookseller. If its founder Jeff Bezos had been resistant to change, he wouldn’t have a net worth of more than $70 billion today. Selling books was never his long-range plan. Books were a foot in the door and a way to gain consumers’ trust. If you’ve got the trust of your portable restroom customers, maybe it’s time to add a new service line like restroom trailers, fencing, trash containers or shower trailers.
2. Seek feedback. Before Amazon, people didn’t review every single purchase they made from a roll of toilet paper to a big-screen television. Today, buying decisions are frequently based on the number of stars a product has been awarded by previous purchasers. Bezos has said, “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word-of-mouth is very powerful.” So don’t be afraid to ask your clients to go online and fill out a survey about their experience with your company or provide a testimonial for your website or marketing materials. Use any negative feedback to improve your service.
3. Think like a customer. Amazon doesn’t care what Wal-Mart is doing so much as what their own Amazon customers are doing. Try to think like your customers and give them what they want to build loyalty. Amazon has done this by going beyond basic retail sales and offering streaming services, digital downloads and its own hardware, like the Kindle e-reader, because of a perceived need of its own customers. You can do the same. Don’t make decisions based on what the competition is doing. Rather, offer new products or additional services you perceive your unique customers want.
4. Speed it up. Changing attitudes in retail mean shortened lead-time for every business. Thanks to consumers adapting to one-click ordering, 24/7 customer service online chats and next-day shipping, you don’t have days to return a phone call, you have minutes before a potential customer calls the next portable restroom provider on their list. In some ways speed can work in your favor, however. Rather than going back to the office, writing up an invoice and mailing it to the customer and then waiting for the check in the mail, payment can be instant and on site with devices like portable credit card readers. And this is how today’s customer is accustomed to doing business, so you don’t risk offending anyone by not offering an instant payment option.
5. Strive for maximum efficiency. Speed can be achieved through efficiency. Amazon is always studying logistics in order to make delivery faster and more cost-efficient. You’re in the delivery game too, even if your “packages” are all the same size and delivery area somewhat geographically limited. Frequently re-examine your service routes to make them as efficient as possible. Fewer miles wasted means higher profitability, whether you’re an Amazon employee or a PRO.
6. Beef up branding. Unless someone is very new to this planet, they will recognize the Amazon logo and at least have some sense of Amazon’s stated brand promise to offer, “Earth’s biggest selection,” and be “the Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Strong branding goes a long way toward building up a company. Make sure your brand goes beyond simply a logo to encompass a mission and goals.
Thanks to Amazon, window shopping has all but been replaced by shopping via a browser window and the phrase “allow six to eight weeks for delivery” has become antiquated. Amazon has been at the forefront of the changes in how we do business and those who lead the way always have something to teach the rest of us. While you may not strive to be the Earth’s biggest portable restroom rental company, becoming more customer-centric is likely to be a profitable endeavor in the long run.