Just exactly what does it cost to get a new customer? Answer: No one knows exactly, but most will say it’s a lot. I’ve heard from $300 to $600. But who really knows?
I once did work for a man who owned five automobile dealerships. I asked him one day: “Why do you always buy the back page of the newspaper and cover it with pictures of cars? And does that work better than your TV and radio ads?”
His answer surprised me.
“Son, I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, and those stupid plastic flags strung across every one of my car lots,” he replied. “I’ll tell you a fact. I don’t have a clue what works and what doesn’t. But one thing I know for sure: If I stop advertising, people stop buying my cars.”
What do we know about the cost of a new customer? We know this: They are hard to get and easy to lose. So, why do we want to lose them at the exact moment that they are trying so hard to do business with us?
First, let’s keep every customer that our paid advertising is targeting.
My son bought my business, but his target customer is pretty much the same as mine was: 55-year-old or above women with health issues in the immediate or extended family, lives in a neighborhood on a street that we have identified, in a house with two or more HVAC systems, and who can afford the services that we sell. Also, the neighborhoods have proven to like our company and our services. They also refer us to friends and relatives.
What’s your best plumbing customer? The most important thing to know about the phone ringing is exactly who is on the other end. Are they your target customer? If so, all of your marketing money made that phone ring, and you desperately want that customer.
The reason you desperately want it stems from the fact that your business grows with new customers, and over time, loses customers. So, the best possible growth is to grow in those neighborhoods. Keep growing until you have the most possible customers in the best areas you have identified. Your business, life, employees and family can only benefit.
So, what do we charge for after-hours work? That question doesn’t even begin to make sense. We must put it in order:
No. 1: The phone rings.
No. 2: The call taker must identify if this is a target customer. It’s easy to do by simply getting the address.
No. 3: If they’re not your target customer, say, “I’m sorry, we are not able to come out tonight or anytime real soon. May we give you the number of a service company nearer to you?” Then, simply refer them to the company you do not want working in your preferred neighborhoods.
(The exception to that rule is only if you know that this person who does not live in your target neighborhood still qualifies to be your customer.)
No. 4: If the caller is a target customer or qualifies to be one, then you have a script designed to move the call to tomorrow.
• “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry your toilet isn’t working. Is it in your master bathroom or elsewhere ? We would love to come out tonight, but if we can’t make it tonight, will someone be home tomorrow?”
This allows the prospect to tell you how important the problem is. Nine times out of 10, you will hear something like, “Oh, yes, someone will be home tomorrow, and the other toilets are working, so it’s not urgent.” (This is why you don’t want target customers with smaller houses.)
No. 5: Ask if they will need a 15 or 30-minute advance phone call before the technician comes out.
No. 6: Book the call.
If it goes like that, you are in no danger of chasing away a customer that all of your advertising worked to get.
If it is a) your target customer and b) a true emergency, then the price won’t be a problem, and should be discussed when taking the call.
For example, let’s say a target customers says, “We really need someone tonight. I hate to bother you, but it’s really serious.” Then you simply say, “We do have a technician on call, and he/she should be able to arrive in about 30 minutes. How does that sound?”
Answer: “Oh, thank you, thank you! You are amazing!"
Your response: “OK. Now just to clarify, our after-hours call out and dispatch fee is $225, plus the cost of any needed repairs. Will that be a problem?”
If this is truly your target customer, then money is not going to be a problem. Honesty upfront solves many issues later on.
Approving the dispatch
As a note to this, I am a firm believer that no call is dispatched directly to a technician after hours. It must go through a manager or owner. I believe that you must have your employees’ backs, and that means being aware anytime your trucks are rolling.
Since you will be the one to approve this dispatch, you should also call the customer about 20 minutes after the technician arrives, just to give your moral support to the technician and to have a welcoming, warm conversation with the customer.
This will go a long way toward their acceptance of all charges, and they will gladly pay for the work. Not to mention, it will also go a long way to giving them the motivation to brag about you to their friends and relatives in person and on social media. A little sugar goes a long way.
So, maybe you already have some policies in effect like this. Or, maybe it could be food for thought. But let’s get every customer we pay good ad money for.
You know that whole “lifetime value of a customer” thing? Well, I say it doesn’t even compare to the “lifetime value of a target customer who won’t stop bragging about you.
Rodney Koop, is the founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate, a pricing system for plumbing contractors that features five options for every service call. Visit www.TheNewFlatRate.com or email us at email@example.com.