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Since the English language is often ambiguous, vague words don’t allow you to know that those to whom you are speaking understand that which you said as you meant it.
It’s the reason putting your brain in gear before opening your mouth is important to the success of your business. You must train your employees to do the same. Just as wrong numbers always produce wrong results, wrong words also affect your bottom line.
Some consumers will dissect your every word, while others will only hear that which they want to hear. In turn, misperception arises. Therefore, being articulate and specific in your choice of words is important in coming to a meeting of the minds (a contract/binding agreement) with the consumer. After you set up your business and properly set your pricing protocols, coming to a meeting of the minds is the first step to bring money into your business.
It starts with the phone call to your business. Call takers must be pleasant and courteous. They must listen to the callers’ statements and questions so they can address their requests and statements, as well as answer their questions quickly, correctly, intelligently and honestly. Once an appointment is made, it is incumbent on your techs to do the same.
Let’s look at some common phrases used by contractors and their employees and the impact of words on the bottom line.
“To be honest with you …”
Whenever someone says to me, “To be honest with you” or “To tell you the truth,” I cringe. Although people stating the phrase are only trying to emphasize the veracity of their statements, the phrase implies everything said prior to that point in the conversation is untrue.
Let’s say a consumer calls, tells your call taker his request and asks for a price.
If your call taker quotes a price over the phone, she would not be acting intelligently. She cannot see all the circumstances involved over the phone to properly address the consumer’s request as well as answer the price question correctly and honestly. If your call taker quotes a phone price, she, more likely than not, will be giving incorrect information. Your business scruples would be in question while your business’ integrity is impugned.
Let’s say your call taker then sends your tech to the consumer’s home or business.
Your tech diagnoses the problem and honestly, intelligently and correctly offers a remedy to the consumer’s problem at a specific price higher than the price quoted over the phone. The consumer informs your tech his price is higher than the quoted phone price.
To explain the reason for the price differential, your tech then opens his response with, “To be honest with you ... ”
The message sent to the consumer is don’t trust what these people say. The consumer won’t trust your remedy or price because at the time you gave them, you weren’t being truthful.
This notion is further enhanced in the consumer’s mind since he has received two different prices for the same request from the same business. When you lose the consumer’s trust, you lose the job. And that’s not good for your business.
To gain consumer trust, you, your call takers and techs must be positive and avoid the use of those types of phrases. Addressing consumer questions and remarks requires honesty, intelligence, correctness and speed.
In the interest of being truthful, call takers shouldn’t answer the “How much?” price question over the phone.
Instead, call takers must become adept at explaining that requests for service must be seen in order to honestly, intelligently and correctly answer the consumer’s question with prices your business can stand behind.
Tech salaries and vehicular expenses, as well as administrative expenses, give your business a cost for which someone must pay. There are only two choices – you or the customer. It would be wise to charge customers a service call fee they agree to before dispatching a tech in order to at least recover the cost.
“How about a ballpark price?”
When window-shopping consumers don’t get the answer to the price question over the phone, they might ask your call taker for a ballpark price.
Your call takers can remind consumers that ballparks are very large. Some can accommodate up to 80,000 people. If each person represents one dollar, the ballpark price range would be between $1 and $80,000. It doesn't address that which the consumer really wants to know – the price you will charge him.
That's why your pricing policy should be to look at each job and give consumers the exact price for the job before they approve and authorize work to commence.
Your call takers, techs and you must keep in mind that nobody is going to please all the people all the time. That's the way it is. It’s also the reason you should charge a service call fee for those who do not avail themselves of your services.
There are two types of buyers – value buyers and price buyers. If you deliver excellence to consumers, value buyers will become your loyal clientele. If you inform price buyers with correct, concise, intelligent, logical and honest explanations regarding your pricing policies, you can turn some price buyers into value buyers.
Train your clientele to be value buyers. Knowing the difference between value buyers and price buyers, and choosing the correct words and phrases to explain matters to the consumer can allow you to increase your profits while decreasing your stress and frustrations levels.
“You need … ”
First, never tell consumers they need something.
What do I mean? A tech may go into someone’s home to address his faucet drip and he might say, “You need a new faucet.” However, the drip can be curtailed by replacing the internal parts of the existing faucet. By using the word “need,” you would be misrepresenting the situation. And misrepresentation is not honest and could be considered fraudulent.
Instead, give the consumer options. You can replace the faucet for a certain amount of money and offer a warranty for the task. Or you could attempt to replace the faucet internal parts with the caveat that the faucet may not be reparable.
Explain the fact you offer no warranty on changing internal faucet parts as well as once you take the existing faucet apart, you may not be able to get it back to the state it was in before you took it apart. In which case, the consumer would have the cost of the attempt and the cost of a replacement faucet.
Let consumers decide. Just give them all the information. It would be wise to document the options and the consumer’s decisions on your invoice/contract.
The same goes for heating and air-conditioning service calls. Circulators, blower motors and parts can be replaced.
“I can rebuild this.”
Another bad choice of often-used words is telling the consumer you would rebuild his toilet, faucet, circulator, etc., when it needs replacement of internal parts.
Part replacements do not constitute rebuilding of a fixture or piece of equipment. Rebuilding implies you would have to start from scratch with the equipment necessary to form the fixture, faucet, circulator, etc.
Replacement of domestic water heaters is as certain as death and taxes. Another certainty regarding domestic hot water is that if the water is hot, there would be no need for a heater. Let’s call it a water heater. When you do, you appear literate.
“Let me tell you about that guy.”
Denigrating your competition does not enhance your position in the eyes of the consumer. It does, however, lessen the consumer’s opinion of you.
You have no control over the consumer bringing up their vitriolic remarks about your competition. Instead of jumping on that band wagon, explain you will do the best you can in addressing their requests.
These are only some of improperly used words and phrases we use in our businesses each day. Choosing the proper words and phraseology is paramount in all circumstances. That’s why it’s said putting your brain in gear before opening your mouth is important, especially in gaining consumer confidence in your business and your properly profitable selling prices.
Train yourself and your employees to deliver excellence to consumers; be pleasant and courteous; and choose the correct words and phrases when communicating. If you have an opinion or question on this matter or any business-related issue, or need my assistance to gain your contractor profit advantage, give me a call.