By Garret Gray
All around us, technology is fundamentally changing our daily lives. Even if you feel a resistance to technology, you must admit this is true. With gig-economy platforms like Airbnb and Uber, the once safe revenue streams of the hospitality and transportation industries have been disrupted by changing consumer preferences. While these have been led by various innovative thinkers, they’ve all been enabled by the universal adoption of mobile technology.
Led by these shifting consumer (policyholder) expectations, insurance companies have begun to pivot as well. The ability to give real-time photo updates, geo-verified data, and electronic records has become an expectation placed on any contractor serving the insurance or property management industries. While this comes as no surprise to anyone in 2019, there are still many out there kicking and screaming over the responsibilities that go along with these additional expectations.
Business owners across all sectors of our economy are waking up to the reality that digital and mobile advancements are wholly transforming the ways businesses and consumers consume. As was discussed in a recent Forbes* article, a 2018 survey of more than 600 professionals worldwide found that “in terms of the most important commerce-specific development coming in the next 12 months, about two-thirds of respondents viewed improving the customer journey and user experience as the most important initiative in 2019.”
While I’m not sure that two out of every three restorers are reworking their customer journeys in light of digital shifts this year, you should be!
Resistance in restoration
Resistance to technology shows itself in a few different forms for a restoration contractor, ranging from severe to more benign, but even the smallest opposition can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line in the modern world.
1 | Viewing “computer stuff” as just another box to check
For anyone who has established a business and experienced success, new requirements and change are often met with skepticism. As you’re faced with ever-increasing demands for documentation, provided in (or near) real time, it is easy to view this as simply “another hoop we need to jump through.” This view of evolving technology as a nuisance that needs to be tolerated is the first and probably most dangerous form of resistance.
Throughout my 17 years in the restoration industry, I’ve seen many examples of business owners who, often out of fear, decide that all the “computer stuff” must be handled by a single person or group. The system becomes a job unto itself instead of a tool to make everyone better and more efficient. This type of reaction is unfortunate for two reasons: First, requiring any process to funnel through a single point of failure will only lead to bottlenecks and mistakes; second, these business owners are missing out on an opportunity to push a culture of accountability and inclusion.
A great way to get more out of your team is to allow everyone to participate. By keeping staff out of the documentation process for fear that they might mess something up, owners end up self-imposing roadblocks to technological transformation. Success only comes when owners and general managers begin expecting all team members to play their parts when it comes to digitizing your restoration company.
2 | Not making or prioritizing technology plans
Another form of resistance to technology among restoration owners is the tendency to leave technology plans ambiguous or allow individuals, teams, or locations to “do their own thing.” By taking a pass on the strategic decision of collecting data from the field, the team gets confused and the data asset is left incomplete at best or misleading at worst.
Just as a business owner needs to make decisions about how they will bring their brand to market and what sort of training or certifications their team members may need to do certain jobs, owners must make clear the company’s technology standards. Nobody allows their technicians to start a loss without a drying plan, leaving them to decide the best course to take. Why would we be okay with allowing them to decide how best to document it?
By having systems in place and following up on compliance with those standards, you will find out who is truly “on the team” and who is damaging the value of your data asset.
3 | Expecting your team to use tech but not using it yourself
Ask yourself a question: If you get a call from a property manager out of the blue and they are looking for an update on a job, what do you do?
Do you go to an electronic job file, read the recent notes, view the photos from that day’s site inspection, check the moisture logs for the past couple of days, and let the customer know what you see? Or do you pick up the phone and call someone else to ask what is happening?
In our company, we differentiate these two responses as digital or analog. An analog manager doesn’t bother to go to the digital record themselves. Maybe it’s a matter of not trusting that the digital file is actually up to date, but I would argue that if you don’t start operating from the real-time data, your team will never take real-time documentation seriously. You’ll find them thinking, “Why bother? Management is just going to call and ask me anyway.”
As the owner, you need to lead your company through these transformations. If technology is going to be a true enabler of efficiency, you have to be a part of that as well.
What can you do about it?
Make a plan, pick a technology platform, include the team, and make your expectations known. Then go tell your technology story to your referral partners. Make sure that people know you can deliver consistent, quality results, and keep them informed—because you’re 100% digital.
At the end of the day, shifts in technology like the ones that we’re seeing in our industry always create opportunity… for someone. Let your clients know that you are a partner to them that can enable advanced, customized workflows for them while still being consistent in your service delivery. Don’t wait around for someone else to disrupt your comfortable revenue stream—be a technology leader and capture more market share in this opportune, technological inflection point.
*Evans, Michelle. “5 Stats You Need to Know About the Digital Consumer in 2019.” Forbes.com. Dec. 18, 2018.
Garret Gray is the president and CEO of Next Gear Solutions, which works to reimagine restoration job and business management with products like DASH. For more information, visit www.nextgearsolutions.com.