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I returned a message on my voicemail. I was greeted with: “Thank you for calling Fernwicky’s Service Company. This is Amber.”
“Hi, Amber. This is Ellen Rohr, returning Mr. Fernwicky’s call.”
“And you are with?”
“With you at the moment, Amber. Mr. Fernwicky left me a voicemail just moments ago asking me to call him. How about shooting me over to his extension or asking him if he wants to pick up?”
“That’s not going to happen. Take us off your call list. We are not interested in whatever you are selling.” Click.
Hmmm. Later that day, I got a return call and a sheepish apology from Mr. Fernwicky. I get that Amber was only trying to protect him from unnecessary distractions, but her “system” was getting in the way of sales and service.
By the way, when we connected, I asked Mr. F why he was calling me. He replied, “My call count is down. I’m looking for ways to get more new customers.”
Before you spend time, energy and money on more marketing, fix the holes in your customer service systems. If you and your team members stop doing these five things, you can grow sales and profits without spending an additional dollar.
1. Stop assuming you are getting the short straw. That’s what happened when I called Mr. Fernwicky and got “Amber the Iron Shield.” Stop screening so aggressively, stop talking about how cheap your customers are, stop dressing down telemarketers. Pull down the sign on your door that says, “No Checks!”
Instead, hang up the “Welcome” sign and greet each visitor with a smile and kind word. Intend to serve. Focus on the 98 percent who are willing to work with you in a respectful way. Maybe 2 percent of humanity is really out to get you. If you run into one of those people, step aside and let that person pass. If needed, you can screen marketing calls by creating separate phone numbers or using a phone tree.
2. Stop the no call/no show. The next time you go to a party, start a conversation with, “Tell me about your experiences working with service companies.” You will hear that service providers rarely show up on time; they are often a total no-show. A call from a contractor with an update on a multiday job? It just doesn’t happen.
We sometimes assume that if we can’t get there right this minute, we are better off not even calling back. I’ve been looking for a landscaper recently. I have a few projects around the property. There is no rush to get them done, though before the snow flies would be good. I searched online, and started at the top of the Google ads list — a pricey spot to be advertising — and reached out to three companies. Alas, in two weeks, I’ve had no calls back.
Instead, answer the call. Pick up the phone with a polite greeting. Listen, and be realistic about your busy schedule. Assure the customer that this is a fast-moving business, and sometimes your schedule opens up. Offer to reach out when it happens. At Zoom Drain, we use ServiceTitan, and it has a valuable call recording feature. If your hands are full and you miss the details, you can update the customer information when you get back to your computer.
3. Stop using your customers’ stuff. A friend recently shared this story with me: She had a contractor replacing a broken phone line at her home. He asked her if he could use her four-wheeler to “stabilize” his Ditch-Witch equipment. She said no because it sounded like a dangerous and risky idea. But his cross look made her wonder if there would be a retaliation key-swipe to her ATV.
Then he announced that he and his son would love to fish in her ponds. “While I like being friendly, I don’t know this guy, and I felt very uncomfortable,” my friend said. This happens more than you would think. Also, alert your team to stop using the customer’s phone, bathroom, garbage, tools and anything else you should be providing for them.
Instead, equip your crew with superior tools, equipment, cleaning supplies and protective gear. Yes, it’s a pricey commitment; however, your customers will appreciate the effort. Be sure to add this “extra care” to your marketing copy. Your premium prices allow you to offer premium service.
4. Stop rushing. When you are good at your trade, the temptation is to cut to the chase and start fixing things. You know what to do, so you want to get on with it! But rushing leads to callbacks and miscommunication.
Instead, ask good questions. “Has it always worked, looked, smelled like this?” “Have you ever been happy with the performance?” “What would you love to have when we are wrapped up today?” “On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is _____ to you?”
Then, listen to your customer. It’s easy to ask for the sale (and get a “Yes, please!”) when what you are offering is in the customer’s best interest based on a real conversation.
5. Stop leaving without a testimonial. I’ve had about 100 different jobs in my life, all in the service industry. I have put on a uniform and tagged along on more than 150 service calls. I like to watch to see how my team members are doing in the field.
Usually, I am delighted with how nicely the tech serves customers and solves problems, making it frustrating when he or she neglects to ask for a five-star review. Do you, as I do, consider the reviews when making a buying decision? Great reviews can skyrocket your sales and profits.
Instead, role-play the “ask” with your technicians. As part of your formal sales training, dive into what happens once the customer agrees to the suggested work.
Technician: “Great! I’ll get started; you are welcome to tag along with me. I’ll fill you in on what I am doing, so you can learn about your system. Or I can come find you if there is something you should see. Then, when I am all done, we will do a little ‘show and tell.’ I’ll make sure everything is as good, or better, than you hoped it would be.
“Next, I am going to ask you for a picture — you and me — and a testimonial. You share what you liked about working with me and I will write it down. With your permission, I will send a little postcard to your neighbors (and Facebook post, Tweet, whatever) so they know I am a good guy. And if you are not delighted to give me a testimonial, let me know. Because I can make it right. Sound OK?”
Your customer can say yes or no — some will say yes. Easy peasy. And it’s a great way to increase customer satisfaction and leverage your marketing.
Ready to stop doing what doesn’t work? Instead, focus on good manners, real conversations professional service and delighting your customers.
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