11 Ways Your Website Can Save Your Office Time
Before we start, let’s be clear that we’re talking about a relationship website for a small or micro-business. A relationship website helps you turn word-of-mouth referrals into happy, paying customers, and of course, generate more word-of-mouth referrals.
Organize Your Website For the Customer
This is probably the hardest one for most people to do, so we’ll put more about this at the end, but before you skip over this one we want to make one point. Everything you do on your website and how you do it should be done with your customer’s goals and wishes in mind. Just keep that in mind throughout this article.
Remember, your small business website is not for you – it’s for your customer. Now, let’s talk about how to make your website better for you and your customer.
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#1. Revolutionize Your Website FAQs – Do It Right!
Spending a little time with one of the keys to an effective micro-business website will save your office so much time! But you must think about them differently. You need to think about answering these questions from the customer’s perspective and follow these key steps.
Step One: Identify the Right Questions
The questions you should be answering here are usually “bottom of funnel” or Sales questions. These are the ones every customer asks you before they sign on with you. Or (and this is one people often miss) they are important pieces of information you wisely feed to the customer during the sales process, so they don’t even have to ask you. That’s what your FAQs should be.
Not sure where to start? Click here to download our free FAQ Worksheet to help you start (and complete) your own high-quality FAQs. It includes 17 recommended FAQs questions, dedicated workspace for both short-form and long-form answers, reminders, and tips to help you create and customize your own FAQs!
Step Two: Write Short-form Answers
Next, write up short-form answers of one to four sentences each. This is what we typically think of as the FAQ. Don’t hem and haw, get to the point.
How long does it take to get a new website?
It really depends on what you need done on your website. Give our office a call at 540-376-7008 and we’ll be happy to work up a timeline based on your specific needs.
This answer only frustrates the customer. And it doesn’t save you any time. Well, except for the time it saves you from all those referrals not calling you… Here’s someone looking for an answer to an important question, and all you’re doing is giving them the runaround. It would be better to not even list the question at all.
How long does it take to get a new website?
It typically takes about six weeks. 1-page websites take three weeks and sites larger than 15 pages take about eight weeks. Click here for a more detailed answer.
The answer is precise and clear. It’s not meant to cover 100% of scenarios, but it gives most of the interested consumers the answer they were looking for. Plus, it leads them to our next point – the Long-form answer.
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Step Three: Write Long-form Answers
Your short-form answers will be much better when you have long-form answers to support them. Having a long-form answer prepared enables you to really commit to keeping the short-form answer clean and crisp.
Your long-form answer gets to do the hard work. A long-form FAQ answer can do all sorts of extra things such as
- Provide a much more detailed answer
- Cover the scenarios the short-form answer couldn’t address
- Leverage answering the question to showcase value you offer your customer
- Include specific examples from past customers
- Include photos and graphical representations to visualize or enhance the answer
- Include links to other short or long-form questions
- Include links documents and tools to download to help them get a more specific answer
- Link them the other websites for additional info
Step Four: Considerate Placement
Where you put these FAQs on your website deserves a little thought. The right answer will vary of course, but consider the following ideas.
- Create a general short-form FAQ page and add it to your menu.
- Repeat select short-form FAQs at the bottom of relevant pages.
- Add long-form answers as either blog posts, custom pages or both.
Step Five: Leverage Your FAQs
The first four steps are worth doing, there’s not much question of that. But here’s where you get to really get incredible value out of your effort. Start leveraging your revolutionized FAQs through the following methods.
- Use short-form answers on the phone.
- Create email templates that utilize the short-form answers.
- Follow up to both phone calls and emails with links to the long-form answer.
- Use your long-form answers in your monthly e-newsletter.
#2 Free and Low-Cost Appointment Scheduling
How many times a day pick up the phone to schedule an estimate or a meeting? What’s worse is the insane number of back and forth emails it takes to schedule a meeting or a site visit! Save yourself and your customer time and headache by adding free and low-cost appointment scheduling to your website.
There are a variety of affordable or free online scheduling tools that can help you accomplish this. As you consider your options, bear in mind the following:
- Does it sync with my calendar? You want to make sure that customers can see your “up-to-the-minute” availability and that anything being manually scheduled in the field or on the phone doesn’t conflict with an online appointment.
- Does it need to check the schedules of multiple employees? You may or may not need this functionality. If you do there are a few varieties to what you might want it to do. For a sales appointment, you might want it to check several calendars to find any salesperson available. For a kickoff meeting you might want it to confirm all calendars are clear so everyone can make the meeting.
- Can it send automatic reminders? Because good reminders mean less no-shows, this is a feature we love. Being able to customize the reminders to your business and the type of meeting your scheduling is a huge plus.
- Can the customer reschedule? Sometimes plans change. Save yourself and your customer even more time by making rescheduling a breeze.
There are lots of companies out there that offer services like this. If you use an online-based lead generation, customer management or billing system, it might already include this. Otherwise, below are a few reputable services you can look at to get you started, and check out this article as well.
Making Use of Your Scheduling Software
With your account created, here are a few things to help you save plenty of time using online scheduling.
First, add links to your website in strategic places. Usually this looks like the contact page, the footer, and almost anywhere you have a call to action.
Second, start sending links in emails, rather than sending dates and times. Or better yet, combine the two. For example your email might look like this:
Lastly, pair those links with something like “or click here to call now” or “or call for more options.” Hey, some people just prefer to call, and that’s okay. They’ll appreciate you giving them options and letting them choose.
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#3 Save Time Collecting Payment
How much office admin time is lost handling payments or chasing down customers? Getting paid is important, but time is money friend!
Your website can help save you time by making it easy for your customers to pay you. There are a few different ways to do this.
PayPal button – One free way to do this is with a Paypal button. It only takes a few minutes to set up a free PayPal Business account. From there, follow these steps to create a button where the customer enters the amount. Then, use PayPals “embed” code to add the button onto your site. We recommend adding it to the very bottom, or to the menu if you know how to do that. Lastly, be sure to add it to your emails too!
Billing Software – If you use online accounting or billing software such as Quickbooks, Zoho Books, or 17 Hats, you should be able to get a link from their settings or options. This would probably be a generic link that takes the customer to a login page on your billing software. Add this link to your menu as “Pay Online” or something similar.
While we’re on the subject, if you’re wasting a lot of time worrying about customer payments, we’ve identified five ways to stop chasing payments and detailed them in another article here, so be sure to check that out.
#4 Extensive, but Organized Photo Galleries
Having an extensive and updated photo gallery can be a huge time-saver if it’s done properly. This website feature is particularly beneficial when your product or service yields a visual result such as home improvements or a repair service.
Here are the keys to doing this right.
First, don’t overwhelm the service pages on your website with oversized photo galleries. To many photos makes your website load slowly and that’s not good for the customer (or your Google rank.) Instead, choose five to twenty-five photos to feature and then direct the customer to the “extended photo gallery” to see more.
Secondly, organize your extended photo gallery. This can be done by top-tier categories, ad-hoc tagging, or both. You’ll need to think about how your customer is going to want to browse this information. If you offer decks, porches, and fences, it makes sense to break those into three top-tier categories. If you repair nicks & scratches, replace broken pieces, and refinish worn furniture, you may want to tag each image or project based and give the customer the ability to filter them.
Lastly, keep the thing updated. Make yourself a monthly appointment, make it part of your weekly checklist, or add it to you wrap-up procedure for each project like we do here. Whatever it takes, don’t let it fall behind. Our customers that have photo galleries LOVE our Advanced Support plan because we send them monthly reminders and the price is all-inclusive – whether they do it every month or blitz us with them three times a year.
There are two ways this saves you time. Obviously the customer can browse to their heart’s content, but why does that save you time? Many times that browsing customer is trying to figure out “can they do what I need” and an extensive, organized, and up-to-date photo gallery will give them the honest answer without you even picking up the phone!
The second way it saves you time is when you use it personally with a customer. Whether you’re on the phone or in a face-to-face meeting, a well organized photo gallery with lots of photos is a powerful tool. You can show them examples of your capabilities, use the images to discuss design ideas, and show off your best work – big or small!
#5 Downloadable PDF Forms
Save yourself time regularly by making standard paperwork easy for the customer to access, download, fill out, and possibly even submit back to you if so choose. We’ve seen small businesses using this for…
- New patient forms
- Event registration
- Sponsorship requests
- Sponsorship signups
- Employment applications
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#6 Online Employment Application (simple!)
And speaking of employment applications, you can go a little further with this one and save your office even more time with minimal setup.
You can do an all-online employment application using an extensive online form, but for most micro-businesses we recommend something like what’s pictured below.
Here’s how it saves you time:
- Fewer cold email saying “are you hiring?” because everything is right there on your website.
- Fewer walk-ins interrupting your day to drop off an application.
- A handful of pre-screening questions on the form saves you from reviewing paperwork from unqualified job applicants.
- The PDF looks like just like the paper applications. We prefer this method over the all-online application because all applications still look the same, so finding the information you’re looking for later is a little bit easier (saving you time.)
- The web-form can auto-reply to the applicant for you. More time saved!
- Instantly keep the application “on file”. Because the applications get put right in your Inbox, you can always search your email later and pull past applicants right up!
#7 Announcement Bar
You know those pesky snow storms that throw a wrench into normal operations? How about wanting to inform customers about a new service or change in service? An announcement bar is the answer!
An announcement bar is an area near the top of your homepage that serves as another way to communicate with customers and reduce the number of phone calls you need to answer. The obvious reason to use it is for emergency situations but it can also be used to advertise a sale or make customers aware of a special event. It especially works well if you train your customers to look there for unexpected closures or changes. You can see an example of one below.
- Due to the impending snow storm, our office will be opening at noon tomorrow.
- Our phone line is currently down. We are aware of the problem and are working on getting it resolved.
- Due to a water main break on Main St., please take South St to enter the office parking lot.
General Information Examples:
- Summer is coming. Now is the time to schedule your annual HVAC system checkup!
- Our office is expanding! Please welcome Dr. Smith to our practice. He is currently accepting new patients.
- It’s official! We will be moving operations to a larger facility this fall.
What would a website with these features would look like for you?
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#8 A Detailed Contact or Request A Quote Form
Every time a potential customer calls, you ask for their name, number, and of course what they need assistance with, but what else do you always ask? Their address? A date something is needed? A model number or brand name? Why not add the information you need to know to your contact form? This might not reduce the number of phone calls you receive, but it will reduce the amount of time you spend on the call.
As an example, suppose a potential customer is having an issue with a leaky faucet and sends you an email through your website asking for someone to come and take a look. If your contact form asks for an address, you can determine what days/times a plumber will be in that area before you respond to the request. This will make your customer contact more efficient by telling you more up front about what they need from you. It can also make for a happy customer if your tech is already near that area and can stop by sooner, rather than later.
There are lots of other ways this can help various other businesses. Just knowing someone’s zip code can save you from wasting time talking to someone who lives too far away. Having a list of preferred callback times can simplify your followup. Letting the customer upload 3 photos can help you provide a more accurate quote or time estimation up front. Little changes can make for a better customer experience, a happier customer, and save you time!
#9 Links to Other Online Resources
This one can go hand-in-hand with having an extensive FAQ. They key here is that instead of repeating content (which Google hates) or recreating content (which is tedious) you can add links to a website that has detailed information, a tool, calculator or even a video that can assist the customer.
For example, this is great for warranty information of a particular product you sell or install. On your own website, you can list some of the highlights of the product warranty. Leave all those nitty-gritty details out. You can create a button that links directly to the complete warranty information on the manufacturer’s website. (It also reduces your risk if the program changes in the future.)
If you are a realtor, you might want to link to a calculator that estimates closing costs or how much of a house you can afford. Why spend the money or time recreating this, when dozens already exist!
How about a YouTube video that shows a homeowner how to diagnose a minor plumbing issue? You may be thinking that you are giving away business, but look at it from another angle. If this is a common occurrence that the homeowner can easily fix, then your guys will have more time to spend on other jobs, instead of wasting time for a 2 min, low or no cost fix. It goes back to the old adage, work smarter, not harder! As a bonus, you’ll gain a happy “customer” and build goodwill with anyone who sees you taking this approach.
Links like these not only can prevent phone calls, they can also show a potential customer that you really do have their best interest at heart.
#10 Instant Quote Form
We talked about having forms for the customer to download, and detailed contact forms so we know what we are getting into with a potential customer, but what we haven’t discussed is an instant quote form. Instant quote forms are essentially an online questionnaire that can provide detailed estimates or calculations without you having to get involved.
Think about a service where the size or type of a house you have and the quality of the item you want may cause pricing to change such as gutter installation, house painting or even cleaning services.
How about we take a window installation company as an example. If a potential customer could enter the number of windows in their home, select a window style they liked, the quality level they were interested, and some other finishing touches they might want to add, the potential customer could get a good estimate on their own time. Plus they can go back and easily adjust some of their selections to see how the pricing changes.
You might think that you’re giving up customer interaction, but are you really? The customer is on your website, seeing what you offer, and getting a ballpark quote! Done well, websites with tools like this will actually increase your sales, while saving you time. A complex form prevents “sticker shock” when a salesperson gives them that same number after an hour-long consultation. Now that’s a time saver!
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#11 Organize Your Website For Your Customer (Revisited)
Remember back at the beginning of this article when we said we’d come back to this topic? Well here we are.
Organizing your website for your customer can save you so much time. Much of it in ways you almost wouldn’t even realize is happening if you weren’t paying attention.
And doing it right isn’t hard, but it does take careful thinking. And it does take a commitment to the process. And it takes time to execute.
The reward for doing it, however is huge. It means better relationships with your customers. It means more quality time with them, and less quantity time with them. Initially it means fewer, but better qualified contact with them.
If you decide to go down this path, here are some principles to consider.
- When doing anything to your website, always put on your “customer goggles” and ask yourself – “how will my customer see this?”
- Organize your offerings by customer pain point, not by service category.
- Identify the different types of customers/leads coming to your website.
- Not everything can be “on the top”. You’ve got to make tough decisions.
- Put your customer goggles back on!
- When writing to describe a service, structure your content in this order: What Pain/Problem the customer is experiencing, What their life will be like after you solve that problem, why your solution is the best, how your solution works, call to action.
- Direct the customer from early stage curiosity to mid-stage information gathering to pre-sales questions. This usually means a “call-to-action”.
- Not every call-to-action has to be BIG AND LOUD!
- Not every call-to-action should be “call us now”. Just guide them to the next step. Early -> mid -> late -> sale.
- Put your customer goggles back on!
A Recommendation For Getting Started
Trying to get all this done can be daunting. Fortunately you don’t have to do it all at once. You shouldn’t even try. In fact, it’s impossible to do more than one thing (well) at a time.
Our suggestion? Go back and find the easiest improvement to implement. Get that done, so the benefit of time being saved can start to work in your favor. Then move to the next one. After a bit, you can revisit the first one to tweak things a little bit if needed.
Two ways we can help you:
1) Get a free Website Review Video. You can watch it any time. We’ll review your websiete and show you suggestions on-screen for how you can improve it!
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