E-commerce has certainly elevated the sales landscape, especially for small businesses. In this day and age, when it is so easy to spend a few minutes researching a product on the internet, and a couple of clicks can get that product to your doorstep in days, is there even a need for specialty businesses to exist?

Yes, there is.

Without a doubt, a connection to a real person with true industry expertise is still very much valued in today’s online world.

Customer service comes in many forms, and the effort you put forth on the front-end goes a long way when it comes to customer satisfaction and repeat business.

Create solutions

It is so easy for someone to hop on YouTube and watch a video of how to fix a machine. Step by-step instructions with a list of all the pieces and parts needed exist on the internet. But is this do-it-yourself maintenance strategy truly the best way to approach a problem? While the countless videos and articles that exist online are helpful, can they provide the best information for your specific operation? Chances are they’re not. This is where true industry expertise can’t be beaten.

When customers come to you, they’re looking for your industry-specific knowledge. Do more than just make a recommendation for a part or product — create a solution. Solutions look at a customer’s problem more holistically and show that you see their whole operation as a priority — not just the one small part or machine that needs repairs.

Understanding and anticipating what’s coming next in your industry and utilizing that knowledge is also a big part of creating solutions for your customers.

For example, electrification is one of the biggest changes coming for the fluid-power industry right now. We’re seeing more technology than ever before working with basic fluid power systems. Knowing about this new, connected way of operating is important, but also having a sound understanding of how it works helps to transition the value of the technology to customers.

Offer above-and-beyond services

There’s a lot of appeal to online shopping because it is nearly effortless for the customer. You should offer that same convenience, too. Can your crew deliver and install the products you’ve sold your customer? Can you offer same-day services? When customers are experiencing a problem such as unplanned machine downtime, the flexibility and availability your organization can offer will be very impactful.

Listen to your customer requests, too. If you’re noticing an increase in specific needs from customers, that could be an opportunity to implement a new above and beyond service.

Another example is where distributors might see an uptick in requests from manufacturing facilities to repair or refurbish machines. They could choose to continue sending service technicians to these facilities or they could think outside the box. Would offering in-house rebuilds and repairs benefit the customer and the company? Are there other ways to innovate solutions to provide for customers?

Connect

Meaningful relationships will always help a business grow. Personal connections and touchpoints are always the best, but in an age where people are almost always online, you must meet them there, too. Social media is an excellent connection tool and a quick way to reach the people who want to learn more about your company and your service offerings.

Your social content should position you as an expert and offer a way for people to reach out to your company directly – to make that human connection.

Customer service has never mattered more. Ecommerce and how-to YouTube videos are not going away, but by making sound recommendations and providing ongoing service support to your customers, your company will surely prove its value.

Working with your customers to make sure they have an advantage over their competition will always beat the information on the internet.

Paul Kundinger is president of Kundinger Inc.