Ever wonder why the most irritated people always call you? Actually, it could have less to do with you than it does with the kind of contracting business you operate. (Plus, there’s actually good news in the call, which we’ll cover in a moment.)
Let’s be clear: Contractors receive frantic calls because the caller is typically very hot or very cold. Usually, an untimely breakdown has happened in the caller’s HVAC world, and his or her panic button has been pushed.
From this point, the service you provide can either soothe or increase these feelings of panic and irritation. A better understanding of common complaints can help you both.
FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
But, first, more bad news.
Human nature reveals that a customer whose standard expectation was achieved gives zero word-of-mouth discussion. (Keep this in mind when you’re trying to merely satisfy the customer or only provide service comparable to the average.)
Those who exceed expectations are generally mentioned four to seven times in 30
days. (It falls off dramatically after that, which is why you should stay in touch beyond the 30-day mark.) This can create a separate stream of positive referrals.
Make it easy for you to stay in touch by capturing email addresses and encouraging customers to like your business on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. But, remember, no one likes to be constantly spammed, and keep the content professional and timely. Very few people are interested in seeing their HVAC contractor’s swimsuit pictures on their newsfeeds.
Send them follow-ups or reminders through email, and post useful home-care tips, how-to lists, or health reminders on your social sites. Keep your sales pitches to a minimum; these messages should strictly inform and entertain.
Just imagine the damage that not keeping in touch could silently be causing you every month. Forget imagination: If you fail to follow through with any of the items on this list, it is costing you.
FALLING OUT OF FAVOR
You’d be wise to know the top reasons customers do not like or recommend contractors to others. Any reduction or elimination of the following can add thousands of dollars, and hundreds of customers, to your company, usually for little or no money.
• Not Scheduling the Appointment Fast Enough — Put yourself in the customers’ shoes. Maybe their living room has recently turned into an igloo and they call only to hear you might get there a week from Tuesday. If you can’t provide quick relief, your customers will find it elsewhere. Sorry, that’s the nature of the business. I realize you may have scheduling issues during a busy season. But, you must educate customers and offer assurance on what you can do to alleviate their problems. (A customer service representative training course can work wonders.) Give a specific time and keep it.
Powerful Technique: Some contractor clients we work with have gotten great results using “emergency solutions” that lock in the customer. From the earlier example, you’d leave behind a company-logoed space heater, resolving the immediate issue. This buys you time to assess and permanently resolve the issue.
• Not Showing Up on Time or at All — Chances are, you’ve got a customer who left work to sit in his uncomfortable home and wait for you. The longer he waits past the appointment window, the more irritated he gets. And, since techs aren’t often trained in social graces, you’ve got a recipe for a negative relationship from the start. (Note: I didn’t say job, I said relationship, and this is a powerful distinction.) If you don’t show up at all, this (now former) customer will likely be in strangulation mode if he calls again. No matter, his friends and neighbors will get all the updates they can stand. Three options: Keep the appointment, keep them informed, or lose the customer.
Powerful Technique: The confirmation call. It takes about two minutes to confirm the appointment and/or reschedule, if a tech is running behind. No one expects you to be 100 percent punctual, but this is a dramatic improvement beyond the currently low expectations. If the appointment window will be delayed more than one hour, give the customer the option to reschedule.
• Not Finishing on Time — Your customer perceives that slowness or dawdling is costing him. While this isn’t an issue when you’re offering a flat rate, it still reeks of inefficiency. I recommend abbreviated rapport-building. Get to your work and then get it done. Then, go over the invoice and offer options and upsells to maximize everyone’stime. Customers want the problem solved and, at that moment, are most receptive to avoiding the problem in the future.
Powerful Technique: Maintenance agreement programs are very attractive if they’re packaged as time and money savers. This is the No. 1 upsell (takes two to six sentences to close) and can guarantee future sales, referrals, faster sales cycles, and better relationships.
• Not Cleaning Up — If you fix the problem, but track mud into the home, you’ve created another problem. Ideally, when you leave, your customer won’t even be able to tell you were there, well, except for the fact that their problem has been solved. Cleaning the equipment and the surrounding work area is an essential part of good service. Besides, telling your customer the importance of keeping the equipment clean is an open door to discussing the importance of regular service and maintenance agreements. (Another opportunity that many waste.)
Powerful Technique: Consider shoe covers; branded materials; placing the old parts in a plastic bag to show the customer; cleaning the exterior of the unit; and affixing tags, stickers, and an emergency call magnet on the fridge and equipment. Together, all of this creates a nice neatness package.
All of the above are just as fixable as any HVAC problem. Make your entire staff memorize the following: “Don’t just fix the problem, fix the customer.” This is where most contractors create a poor perception that you can trounce.
And, finally, there’s one complaint that didn’t make the list, though touches the entire list: Be a professional.
Sure, you’ve heard that 11,000 times, and let me make it 11,001. Contractors have a very unprofessional image. Everything from your marketing materials to your customer service representative’s greeting and demeanor to your tech’s on-site manners and even follow-up marketing (or complete lack of it) can differentiate you from that perception.
Remember, your customers are calling you because they’ve got a problem. Your job is to solve that problem, not add to it. Fix the system and the customer in order to become the contractor who gains customers from those who didn’t read this article.
Publication date: 1/25/2016