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The Little Things Count in a Service Business

February 5, 2007
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Now that many of you are committed to getting more involved in the service and service-replacement business, I believe it is time to review some of the seemingly minor but important changes you need to put in place to ensure that you do, in fact, provide excellent customer service. All of the spoken commitment won’t mean anything if you are not able to show your customers how committed you are to serving them. For many contractors these things may seem overly obvious, but from my experience in seeing contractors operate, and talking to them about how they operate, this list is worth repeating.

The most important thing is to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Furnaces and air conditioners don’t know that it is nighttime or a weekend. You have to be available when that unit breaks down. That means having a live person answer the phone with access to your service technician on call. Yes, and that does mean having a service technician on call 24/7. It is a cost of doing business that will pay off in the long run.

THE TECH IS THE KEY

The service technician represents your company and to the customer he is the main focus of your company. Therefore, his appearance, the appearance of his truck, and his demeanor in relating to the customer are high priorities. Yes, it is important for him to know how to fix the equipment, but his handling of the customer is even more important. A technician who repairs the unit but has a bad attitude with the customer will do you far more harm than a tech who doesn’t quite fix the problem right but sells the customer on himself and your company.

We had a perfect example of that. We had a service tech that was with us for 50 years (that’s right 50 years!). He was OK on repairing the equipment (maybe a 6 on a scale of 1–10) but on handling the customer he was a 12. As a result, he was the service tech the customers would wait for the longest, sometimes 2–3 months.

How did he do it? He kept a notebook with notes about his customers’ families so he could ask about “Susie in college” or “How the new grandbaby was doing.” He carried dog biscuits every day for those customers whose most prized possession is their dog. Ed Giessmann was one of a kind as a service tech. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after retiring with 50 ½ years of service with our company.

Other important messages you need to impart to your service techs include; they need to remember to be careful when parking their truck; some homeowners are very particular about this. When approaching the homeowner, they should stay a reasonable distance away - no one likes their space to be encroached upon. They need to be friendly and communicative without being overly talkative; some customers like a very detailed description of what is being done and/or what has been done, while many are satisfied with a summary - they should try to determine the desires of each customer. They must clean up any mess that they make - failure to do so is a No. 1 complaint of most customers.

These traits likely differ from traits you look for in a new construction installer, so make sure you have the types of individuals ready to handle service.

WILL THAT BE CASH OR CHARGE?

Another important aspect of service, which is different from new construction, is that your customer actually expects to pay you. Your service dispatcher should ask politely “How will you be paying for our work? We take checks and credit cards.” And then the service technician should have the customer sign the ticket and make payment. Consumers today expect to pay for products or service at the time the service is rendered.

So you can see that you have some work ahead of you to prepare yourself and your company for the service market. But the resulting net profits and cash flow will make all of the effort worthwhile.

Publication date: 02/05/2007
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