Progressive HVAC business owners and marketing specialists for progressive HVAC firms have been focusing on branding as a critical component in any comprehensive marketing platform for years now and rightfully so. Branding contributes greatly to establishing top-of-mind awareness in any market. The goal of marketing your brand, of course, is for potential customers in your market to think of you first when they have a problem or want to upgrade their systems without even having to see an ad.
While any fly-by-night company with a marketing budget can purchase call-to-action advertising on any medium they like, it’s a company’s ongoing effort to branding itself that remains long after call-to-action promotions come and go.
Branding is a must for any successful marketing strategy that has the long-term growth of the company in mind. Accordingly, most HVAC business owners who take marketing seriously are very aware of their brands and, in most cases, developed them on their own or helped to develop them. They know what their slogans and/or jingles are and know to put them on any form of advertising they can. They know the exact shades of the particular colors that comprise their logos, truck wraps, website graphics, print ads, etc. They often have vanity toll-free phone numbers and know exactly what they want their technicians and installers to look like when they appear at customers’ homes or businesses. This list goes on and on.
One thing I find to be routinely missing in the focus on branding is a concentration on making sure customer service representatives (CSRs) represent the brand on the phone consistently, every single time.
It’s easy for HVAC business owners to get wrapped up in what they think their brands are and how they think they come across to potential customers based on all of the items listed above and more. It’s even easier to forget that the experience potential customers have with CSRs on the phone is very often the first (and, unfortunately, many times the only) real interaction with a company’s brand.
REPRESENT AND SUPPORT THE BRAND
Do all your CSRs represent and support the brand? This is easier said than done, and, in almost every case, requires significant training. I am not talking about being pleasant on the phone, answering the phone with a smile, using perfect manners, etc. Those are the minimum qualifications of a great CSR at any company, HVAC or otherwise. I’m talking about industry- and company-specific training. Is there something your company is well known for that is part of your ongoing branding efforts? If so, have you found a way to mention it in every phone interaction? In situations where potential customers have not seen your branding, this gives you another opportunity to drive it home. In situations where potential customers are calling as a result of your branding efforts, this is a free opportunity to reinforce them. Do you have a slogan that goes along with your name on TV, radio, and other media? If so, use it on the phone. So often I come across companies that have a great, consistent marketing message, but it is not driven home by the very people who are on the front lines when customer relationships are in their infancy. This is your one shot in many cases to connect with the customer. Make sure your CSRs are on point and create an experience for your potential customers that leaves them wanting more. Many companies go to great lengths to make sure their sales people, technicians, and installers are well groomed and in the right uniform. Some even train their outside people where to park the truck at a customer’s home, where to stand on a front porch after knocking on the door, how and when to put on shoe covers, etc. None of these tactics are effective until after the phone call has resulted in an appointment. So often the appointment is not made in the first place because the initial phone call to the HVAC business was not handled correctly. How do you know if this happens in your business?
THE POWER OF CALL-TRACKING SOFTWARE
Over the years, call-tracking numbers have become very cheap. You can purchase as many additional phone numbers as you’d like for only a few dollars each per month. You can then place a unique phone number on every advertising campaign you do, which will help you track the return on your investment as well as listen to the job your CSRs are doing handling the phone calls the advertisement generates. When you place an ad, you are hoping that:
1) A successful advertising campaign gets the phone to ring;
2) A successful phone call results in an appointment; and
3) A successful appointment results in dollars being added to your top and bottom lines.
Notice that only No. 1 is outside your control. You are directly responsible for the other two. So, before you judge the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, be sure you are doing everything you can to make sure No. 2 and No. 3 are happening. Most companies spend a lot of time on No. 3 but not nearly enough time on No. 2. Call-tracking software with recording capabilities can change that for you. You will have insight into how many appointments are being lost as a result of poor call handling on the part of your CSRs, and you can multiply that number by your average ticket to see what you are missing out on. Obvious, specific training opportunities for your CSRs will present themselves 100 percent of the time. Now, that’s a great return on investment.
In summary, when setting your training budget, don’t forget your CSRs. They are your front lines in many, many cases and are directly responsible for whether or not a call gets booked. This is one of the cheapest, most effective ways that you can grow your business.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at any time. My advice to readers of The NEWS is always free.
Publication date: 9/11/2017