Increased competition within highways procurement is designed to drive industry innovation, performance and efficiency.
It’s why Highways England is committed to making the process more accessible with a set target for suppliers to contract at least 25% of their work to SMEs.
But while the ambition is admirable, the reality for many highway companies often feels a lot different. A common complaint from those in the supply chain is that cost is the overriding factor.
It’s a particular problem for SMEs who lack the ‘brand’ and reputation that a larger and more established operator may have. Without this added value their main way to stand out from the crowd is cost.
So how do you build that value? How do you develop a business whose attraction goes beyond the bottom line?
Here’s a look at some strategies to building customer loyalty within the highways sector:
- Build customer ‘journey’
- Get accurate feedback
- User smarter communications
- Improve billing accuracy
Build customer ‘journey’
A ‘journey’ in highways is what road users do to get from A to B. But there’s another kind of journey that should be considered - that of the people you are working for.
The ‘customer journey’ is the overall experience that a company or authority has when they are using your services. The most important factor is the basics - that jobs are done safely, on time and within budget.
But it goes beyond that. It includes every form of communication and interaction - from initial tender to invoicing and final feedback. Creating a positive ‘journey’ means thinking about every aspect.
Get accurate feedback
For strong client relations, you need to know when things are going wrong. Getting instant feedback is something that digital systems are helping highways companies of all sizes to achieve.
Digital workforce management systems such as MyMobileWorkers (MMW) include integrated CRM (customer relationship management) tools. When work is done or services delivered, a feedback rating is taken, either on-site or post-completion.
When ratings are below a set limit, an automated alert allows a manager to check the problem and to find ways of resolving issues. A fast and proactive approach can turn negative experiences into a major positive.
Use smarter communications
CRM tools also help build better relations with improved communications. A digital management approach allows automated messages and status updates to become a part of task workflow.
This can be an automated text that informs a client that a maintenance team has arrived on-site or an instant email to confirm a temporary roadworks procedure is completed. It’s these kinds of communications that help to build confidence and trust.
CRM can also be used to help track any kind of yearly or repetitive jobs or services. Reminders can be sent before the date of a scheduled maintenance task to offer services and help to establish a routine.
Improve billing accuracy
Providing accurate and detailed breakdowns of work delivered is an important part of relationship building. MyMobileWorkers uses the data it automatically collects on work activities to build accurate billing and invoice information.
This can include precise times, durations and locations of activities, along with equipment and materials used.
Removing the need for ‘guesstimates’ and providing accurate digital information helps to demonstrate value for money and remove any uncertainties which can cause suspicion and distrust to grow.
Summary: Communicating value
Building customer loyalty requires a holistic approach. A company’s reputation is the sum of everything that it does - from the efficiency and safety performance of jobs to the speed and accuracy of invoicing.
With smarter use of technology, highways companies of all sizes can start to level the playing field when it comes to building ‘brands’ and businesses that have more pulling power than low costs.