I hope everyone had a fantastic few months. Now that things are settling down, I’m back to continue sharing the strategic initiatives that can help all of us improve ourselves, our businesses, and our industry. We’ve covered the importance of planning and the long-term benefits of employee development, but today, I’m here to talk through the need for consistency.
THE VALUE IN CONSISTENCY
Think about your favorite brands and chains — no matter what location you go to, they have a strong sense of consistency among their employees and products that keep you coming back. From the famous fast-food arches along every highway to the blue and yellow big-box store found in just about every town, no matter which store you walk into, you know what to expect. In some cases, they might not even be the best (I’m sure you’ve grilled yourself a much better burger at some point), but they’re consistent at giving you what you expect, which is how they’ve built multibillion-dollar companies.
This is why service providers need to improve their consistency. The processes are what help us get there. In fact, having processes for people to follow makes their jobs easier and more enjoyable. By training employees on how to handle or perform specific tasks, you are providing two big benefits. First, you are creating a better experience for your customers, so the likelihood of them using you again and referring your business goes up. The other benefit is you have a happier work environment. Employees who know what is expected and are trained to do tasks are more efficient, and all of this affects the culture of the company and improves profitability.
Take some time to look within your organization at the different consumer touch points. It could be a phone conversation, a sales estimate, the approach your team takes at the home, etc. There are numerous points within the business where the customer is connecting with you, and this is where you need to start creating consistency.
Think about how you want a task to be handled and begin to build it and train your employees. These tasks can typically be handled the same way over and over again.
A consistent approach to customer service ensures that no matter when or why a customer calls in, they receive the same great experience from the brand they have grown to love.
We want to give all customers the same great experience of working with GAC Services, whether it’s their first maintenance visit or they’ve bought multiple systems from us over the years. However, this can also be very difficult when you are in a business that has such seasonality swings like we have in heating and cooling.
Here are some steps to help develop consistency that you can maintain year-round.
- Hire people who have the aptitude and ability to communicate well to your customers every day;
- Train the representatives how to utilize your software, phones, and internal processes;
- Write up procedures and expectations, so everyone can review and agree on them; and
- Listen to calls and provide positive feedback to the team members who are executing well and constructive criticism to those who aren’t.
TRAINING AND PROCEDURES
To deliver a consistent level of customer service, you need consistent procedures your team can follow. That has a big impact on the business and allows you to execute the same way, no matter the temperature or season.
Remember, your organization is made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds. They don’t typically understand the HVAC industry or service business. It is imperative that you spend time training them to understand the business and perform their job. I’ve seen many great technicians who like to fix the problem but don’t engage the customer. Maybe part of it is the personality, but maybe a bigger part is nobody ever told the technician that engaging the customer is part of the job.
Take a minute and think about when your last training class took place ...
Most companies only train after a big mistake occurrs. The problem is, that is not how you will get anyone to remember what to do when the same issue comes around in 30 days. I look at training and educating employees similar to how I look at going to the gym. If I go once a month, nothing changes, but if I go more regularly, I see a change. Your team needs you to invest in them regularly.
In our business, we have a trainer and a coach. And as a Nexstar member, we can pull from some of the best training videos and service minds in the industry. Our trainer has over 40 years of field experience and builds his curriculum to teach technicians not only how to fix units, but also how to work with customers and create a great experience. He is riding with our crew, holding classes, and constantly reinforcing our standards. Meanwhile, our call center coach listens to calls and helps our phone reps with inbound and outbound calls daily. We believe that our ability to put processes in place, follow them, and train on them is the key to consistency (and key to long-term success).
Look for my next article, where we’ll dive more in-depth into how a customer-centric viewpoint should be a key initiative for your business if you want to succeed. Stay tuned!
Publication date: 8/27/2018