As traditional desktop computers continue to be phased down or out of your operation, a prevalence of handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets, continue to dominate your technology investments. In 2014 and moving forward, improvements on these devices include making them smarter and the user experience more personal. Further, as consumers are also turning to these devices more nowadays, water treatment dealers need to be sure their advertising messages are standing out from the online crowd. In addition to optimizing your website, your mobile technology marketing dollars can be spent wisely when you know the trends.

In a recent technology focused article published by Business Review USA, titled, “Ten top predictions of mobile device trends in 2014,” Rishu Mandolia, who is the lead mobile instructor at the Digital Professional Institute, outlined several trends for businesses to watch out for. Among the notable trends Mandolia notes, which water treatment dealers should be mindful of, is: Companies will start to leverage collected data from consumers to formulate intelligent apps and companies will improve individualized marketing, including mobile ads based on the reader’s interests.

How can water treatment dealers ensure that their mobile device investments are practical for their businesses? Also, how can they be sure of a proper return on the investment? We spoke with several technology experts who offer ways water treatment dealers can benefit from customer and business mobile technology trends.  

 

In-home presentations

There is no better time to impress your customers than when face-to-face. During your in-home, or in-office, sales pitch mobile devices, apps and Internet presentations can have a positive impact…when done correctly. Remember, water treatment is your life, not theirs. Therefore, grabbing a customer’s attention and presenting your information in an engaging manner is a must.

“If you don’t have a good video clip or a professionally done presentation, leave the computer in the bag — it will just do more harm than good,” asserts Derek French, owner of Wateropolis. According to French, the dealer needs to accomplish three goals using mobile technology during the in-home presentation: Entertain, inform and educate. “If you have an in-home presentation using technology to inform or educate the customer, it needs to help the customer make an informed decision. Therefore, it needs to contain factual information.”

For water treatment professionals maintaining relationships with local water utilities, sharing factual information focused on cost savings and waste can be the focus to educate customers, comments Peter Yolles, CEO and founder of WaterSmart.

“A utility representative can be out in the field with an iPad meeting with customers and demonstrate how much water they’re using and the best ways they can save water,” explains Yolles. “Mobile technology also allows customers, if they have AMI or smart meters installed, to review their water data on an hour by hour basis and be informed of potential leaks that are occurring at their house. When customers use (or waste) less water, it means that utilities buy less water and don’t have to move it or treat it.”

With the emphasis on educating the customer, water treatment dealers should not use mobile devices during in-home presentations only to be flashy or chic. However, since many customers and prospects today are using mobile devices in their personal lives, certain customers might view your proper use of mobile devices for business purposes as an example of your business’ quality.

“Apps can be designed to simplify the sales process,” says Richard Verson, RainSoft’s marketing director. “Each presentation can be customized as it is no longer a linear presentation, like a bound book. In our experience, we have found that consumers really enjoy interacting with the iPad. The technology speaks volumes about the sales rep and the company he represents.”

And, according to Andrew Kuneth, vice president of Prism Visual Software, both customer and dealer can appreciate the professionalism and practicality of using mobile devices during in-home presentations. “Not only does it look more professional, in terms of entering critical information into a tablet or printing a contract or the quote on a mobile printer in front of the customer, it is also going to save data entry back in the office.”  

 

Building better office solutions

In addition to educating the customer during sales presentations, many water treatment dealers invest in mobile technology and software to solve everyday business challenges. There are several ways mobile technology, apps and software can advance your business and Kuneth outlines the three primary solutions:

  • Better accountability: Apps available to track techs in the field and provide real-time updates.
  • Ease of communication: Text messages, emails and other messaging apps make communication easy and efficient today.
  • Document sharing: A standard place to collect important information, such as marketing materials, contracts, etc.

“[Additionally,] credit card apps,” adds Kuneth, “have changed the concept of payments.”

According to Peter Waelti, president of Rainsoft of Denver in Thornton, Colo., “from a sales perspective, there is accountability from the sales representative to the dealer."

"With service, a technician can save time by properly filling out orders directly into a company’s computer system so all information is up-to-date," he adds.

Furthermore, continues Waelti, on the marketing side, taking a survey or setting appointments in real-time can be done with the push of a button. Gaining customer feedback today is accomplished almost instantaneously.  

 

Seeing what they see

Although several advancements have been discussed so far, one technology breakthrough made possible by many mobile devices is being able to see what the field rep is seeing in a quick and cheap way. Mobile devices are being used to communicate with technicians face-to-face who are stumped on a problem.

“By turning on those apps, the main office is able to see what is the tech is seeing, rather than having to not complete that ticket and sending another rep out,” notes Kuneth.  

This is a big cost savings and customer service benefit for the dealer. Savings, such as this, are why dealers must invest in mobile technology to stay competitive. In order to achieve a desirable return on your mobile device investments, the technology must reduce the chance of errors or improve your service quality in some tangible way.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of wanting the latest technology, but most software programs will work fine for many years,” explains Scott Harmon, director of technical and customer support for Aquion Inc. “You must decide if newer technology makes sense and will these changes reduce costs or create happier customers? If the answer is no, then resist the urge to upgrade. Of course, considering how often technology changes, once you do upgrade there will be a new app or program available before your check clears.”

Another way to protect your mobile device investment is to literally protect your mobile device. “People will spend $500 or more on a [mobile device], but they won’t spend $99 on a water-proof, shock-proof case,” ponders French, who adds that in this scenario the ROI is already headed in the wrong direction. “From there, the only way to measure ROI is to gauge if the technology has saved you time, increased sales revenue, and helped track service, parts and inventory control.”

French adds that technology, including mobile devices, should not be at the cost of training cutbacks. “A technology or a quality presentation show through a mobile device does not take the place of proper sales training,” French continues. “Although it may differentiate you from your competitors, it will not replace the relationship aspect of the sales rep with the customer.”

 

The basics

For dealers on a budget or those looking only to make minimal investments in software, apps and mobile devices, there are several must-haves noted by our experts.

“A good communications network is a must,” inserts Harmon.

French’s must-haves include laptop computers, smartphones and global positioning systems (GPS), which are typically integrated in many mobile devices. Another “must” from French is for dealers to revisit their data plans and service providers. This best practice can ensure savings and ROI.

“Smartphone data plans are the most costly component of mobile technology,” French says. “So, it is really important to scrutinize your service provider routinely and look for local deals and sales with other providers. This should be done every six months or annually.”

Kuneth’s must-haves in software and mobile devices are an accounting system and an operational system. However, adds Kuneth, a dealer’s “must-haves” will vary based on that business’ needs and size. “The best way [to invest] and achieve a desirable ROI is to really know what you are trying to solve,” he says.  

According to Kuneth, it is considered best practices to research your business’ most challenging issues before making an investment in any technology. This includes keeping a list and writing down the reasons why you need technology. “And, once you have those challenges together, provide that list to the technology company and see how they can help solve your issues,” he says.

Regardless of your level of engagement with mobile devices and Internet-based selling and marketing, these technologies are here to stay and water treatment dealers must embrace these devices as the new normal of doing business. Today, it is beyond just staying current. The use of business software and mobile devices is all about staying relevant.