Despite the growth of the Internet and social media, many people still contact HVAC companies by phone. That means, no matter how awesome your website is or how many followers you have on Twitter, you need to get telephone customer service right in order to grow your business.
Below are six tips HVAC contractors can use to improve the level of customer service they deliver over the phone.
1. Make Sure Someone Answers: This may seem obvious, but you would be shocked by the number of contractors who simply fail to answer the phone. Before you can even think of landing new customers or impressing folks with your professionalism, you need to be there when they try to reach you.
Solo contractors and small companies often use the excuse that they’re on jobs and are too busy to answer every call, but potential customers aren’t going to try calling you back. They’re going to move on to the next company. The same goes for companies advertising 24-hour emergency services. If you claim to be available, then be available.
2. Avoid Voicemail: If tip No. 1 one got you thinking about ways to answer every call, it’s important to note that voicemail doesn’t count as a solution. It’s an improvement over simply having your phone ring continuously, but it’s a long way from being customer friendly. People want to speak to a live person. Answer every call yourself, hire a receptionist, use a service, pay your son or daughter to man the phones — whatever it takes to make sure potential customers hear a live voice.
3. Answer the Phone Professionally: Customers hate calling a business and receiving some generic, casual telephone greeting. You need to answer professionally in the name of your company, and the same greeting should be used every time.
Think about some of the companies you call on a regular basis. Those who have a professional greeting likely come across as being more reputable and organized. Emulate them, even if it means being more formal than you think is necessary.
4. Be Prepared to Handle Every Call: Everyone has a frustrating call center story. You call a big company looking for help; they transfer you from one person to another until you eventually hang up. Surprisingly, calling smaller companies can be just as frustrating. Instead of being transferred all over the place, you’re stuck with one person who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
To make callers happy, you need to understand their needs and be prepared to satisfy them while on the phone. Are most of your service customers calling to schedule an appointment? You better make sure your calendar is accessible wherever the phone is being answered.
Make a list of the different requests you commonly receive and make sure you have a standard solution for each.
5. Maintain Good Internal Communication: Helping every customer on the first call is ideal, but not always feasible. Maybe your receptionist doesn’t know the answer to a technical question and has to call a customer back. Or, maybe a tech in the field needs to speak with a customer directly in order to gain access to the property.
There will be times when internal communication is necessary to meet your caller’s needs. This means you need more than a strategy for handling calls once they come in; you also need a plan for keeping track of who has called, what issues are pending, and who is responsible for what. This can be as simple as a whiteboard in the office or as complex as a software application that tracks every customer request.
The ideal system will vary based on the scope of your operation, but the key is to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and that everyone on the team knows what requests are pending. Always follow through and get back to customers in a timely fashion.
6. Be the Contractor You Would Invite into Your Home: Hiring an HVAC company isn’t like hiring someone to mow your lawn. Both involve someone providing a service at your residence, but only one needs to come inside. That requires more trust. Keep that in mind as you interact with customers over the phone. Ultimately, they are going to ask themselves a question before deciding to move forward: Do I trust them?
To gain trust over the phone, you need to be patient, polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. Ask questions about their problems in order to showcase your expertise. Say please and thank you. Don’t make it obvious you’re in a hurry. Make them feel comfortable and they’ll schedule a service call with you in no time.
Take the Phone Seriously
Bottom line: the phone still matters. Now that you’ve read these telephone customer service tips, be sure to evaluate your current practices and look for ways to improve. Don’t be the HVAC company that loses business by not paying attention to the importance of telephone calls.
Gere Jordan writes for Continental Message Solution, a call center serving the HVAC industry. The company helps HVAC companies answer calls after hours, dispatches technicians, and offers a suite of 24/7 call center solutions. Learn more at bit.ly/ContinentalMessage
Publication date: 4/28/2014