A terrific post last week from ACCA’s Kevin Holland in case you missed it —  “Websites Are Not Just for Marketing.” Sounds obvious, but it’s actually a spot-on, timely insight. Why? Jump on Twitter any day of the week and check out what legions of HVAC firms, contracting businesses, field service shops, tradesmen and the like are frequently chattering about — on most days it’s a fairly constant stream of tips and lists about how to tap into social media and content to drive business … or an endless stream of automated tweets promoting one of those firms’ latest blog posts — typically about a bunch of lists and tips about how to tap into social media and content to drive business.

Getting a migraine yet? You catch my point.  Look, there’s no denying that any 21st-century business needs to invest some time, thinking, and money into understanding how social media and content can generate leads, conversions, new customers, and deliver against other important strategic goals.  Joe Pulizzi, author of Get Customers, Get Content, explains all the needed disciplines for that, and it’s critical stuff.

But as Holland explains, too, it’s not the killer app that will run your business — and the current obsession with digital content and social strategies can often mask problems and issues with the more important digital offering — your Website, and the utility and experience it delivers to the customers who pay your bills.

Congratulations if you’re tweeting 20 times a day, you have a killer blog driving tons of discussion, and fans can’t get enough of your Facebook page. But does your site serve the needs of your paying customers as well as you’re serving your social-media sphere?  As Holland says, “Websites are not just fancy brochures. They provide a portal for tools you can use to offer better functionality to your customers, and build closer relationships with them. They can make it easier for people to do business with you. Most importantly, customers are starting to expect certain online services that I haven’t seen offered on too many contractor websites.”  What should customers expect from the Websites of service or contracting businesses today? Here’s the checklist:

  • I should be able to view my history of past service and purchases.
  • I should be able to schedule a service call. I should be able to select an available date and time, and get immediate confirmation — not have to fill out a generic form.
  • I should be able to post a question, if there’s something I want to know more about — and have permanent access to previous questions I’ve asked, along with your responses to them.
  • I should be able to purchase, renew or upgrade my service agreement — and have online access to the details of my current agreement, what’s included and when it expires.
  • I should get plenty of notice when it’s time to schedule a seasonal service call — and I should be able to choose how to get that notice, by email, text, Twitter, or phone call.
  • When a service call is scheduled, I should be able to access the details of the service call — maybe even including the picture and bio of the technician who’s going to be handling the call.
  • When I go to your website, I should have the option of initiating a live online chat with a customer service representative, at least during regular business hours.
  • Oh, and I should be able to do all of these things … from my smartphone.

Functionality like that should be the foundation of great service, not merely an extension of it. Sound wildly ambitious to you? Way overboard? Way too expensive to do all that? Could be you’re in the wrong business.