Guide Your HVAC Customers on Their Journey by Defining the Experience
It’s all about the customer.
You’ve heard it a hundred times — at every seminar, and every guru has told you the same thing. You may have heard terms like “Customer experience” and “Customer journey.”
Ring a bell?
Here is my follow-up question. It’s almost 2019 … so what does that mean today?
If you have been in this business long enough, you remember when just telling customers that you used drop cloths and shoe covers was enough to make you stand out. Maybe you went crazy and even performed background checks and drug-screened your team. That was what customers said they cared about.
How is that working out for you today?
Customers have moved on … they have been taught to move on by all their other consumer experiences.
Don’t believe me? Which of these features have you used in your everyday life?
- Deciding where to eat based on Google search and star reviews;
- Finding a product online;
- Paying with one click;
- Tracking a package online, or maybe your pizza;
- Getting text messages from your hair place, doctor, or dentist; and
- Using a chat function online because you don’t really want to talk to anybody.
Even worse, which of these seem familiar?
- Avoiding incoming calls to your landline;
- Going through your mail and not even looking at the “junk” mail or postcards before you pitch them;
- Avoiding answering calls from a number you don’t know on your cell; and
- Ignoring the request to fill out surveys from a cashier because it’s a hassle.
If we were to look at how your business is functioning today, is it wildly different than it was 10 years ago? Still calling people to see if they are home before dispatching the tech? Still sending postcards to remind them to schedule that PM? Maybe a “few” follow-up calls to remind them?
A couple questions: How many of us still have a landline? And how many of us answer an unknown number on our cell phone?
Don’t get me wrong, I still do some of this stuff, too, but we should all be aware that there are many companies and even industries that are making a living from our inability to change or adapt.
Industry veterans like Charlie “Tech Daddy” Greer have been telling us for years to “Evolve or die.”
So how are we doing with the “evolution?”
Not to be the bearer of more bad news, but I believe it will get worse before it gets better. There are many companies looking to take advantage of us. Now, if you have been in the industry for more than a decade, you may have heard stuff like this before.
“Yeah, yeah, Eddie … we know the story: The big-box stores are coming to take us all away … the utilities will swallow us up … the consolidators will steal the market.” These are all fair points. My counterpoint is, they did. They all have a share of our business in small and large ways.
At this point, you may be thinking, who is this guy to be telling us this stuff?
Please know that it comes from a place of love. Having worked in many positions in the industry, I can appreciate all the hard work, dedication, and passion we put into our businesses these days. If anything, it seems like we are working harder and harder, and we all seem to be getting squeezed a little bit more.
It is no secret that our industry is in a unique place. For those lucky to have rebuilt or been unscathed by the last economic downturn, we may be set to head into another economic recession, depending on who you listen to for forecasting. However, this time it is in conjunction with a decade-long streak of a shortage of “qualified” help. If you add all of this up with the onset of new technologies and lead generation tools, it makes it easier for a new and small shop not just to compete, but actually, from the consumer perspective, look every bit as good as you, and sometimes better.
So, now that I have dispensed all the doom and gloom, what is to be done?
Well, the good news is we are not alone. We are seeing partners who are joining our industry and looking to equip us with the tools needed to deliver a modern, frictionless consumer experience. These tools are like all the other tools in our truck; we have to use them to get the benefit, and if we do, they will improve our businesses.
If we look at the whole arena of the home services “customer experience,” we see many opportunities that contractors have to take advantage of when they understand and leverage the concept of the “customer journey.”
Customer experience is a really broad term that should be defined.
First, we should state that customer experience should be intentional. You should have a defined and documented intent for your organization of what you want your customer experience to be.
Now, bear with me because this sounds obvious, but check around with two or three of your team members and ask them to define, in one or two sentences, what they think you want your customer experience to be. I’ll give you a hint: The small ambiguities in the different answers matter. Anything less than 100 percent clarity from you can leave room for interpretations. This difference in and of itself is not bad. However, if you want to scale or if you have any turnover in your staff, you may run into problems. Trust me: I learned this lesson the hard way.
I think it was Aristotle who said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Guess what … so does your team. If there is not a written, trained, and tested goal for what you want your perfect customer experience to be, then you may want to replace that vacuum with your intent.
This does not have to be complicated. I am a big proponent of the simpler, the better. Plain language along the lines of “We want to keep it easy for our customers at all costs,” “We want to remove anything that feels like friction to our customers,” or “We want to be the most convenient company in the area to do business with.” Think about the power of those stated intents.
Everyone in your organization can now take real, actionable steps. This clarity unleashes your team to have agency in their role and for them to feel really engaged in the overall company goal. Isn’t this knowledge — and the related activities — the definition of synergy? Your team is performing many tasks throughout their day. All of them impact your customers’ experiences.
It can start by affecting the way customers find you: Is your website set up to be easy to read? Can people look at it for 10 seconds and get a sense of who you are, what you do, and what they should do next? To learn more, Google “website grunt test.” Donald Miller has a lot of free content that can lead you through the process.
Again, if you feel like this is too high a standard to aspire to, merely fall back to how you use websites. When you are planning a night out, how long do you spend on a restaurant website? Minutes? If it’s a poor, cluttered website, chances are you are using the back button, and you’re on to the next restaurant. Unfair? Maybe. To be clear, it could be the best restaurant in the world, but if you never get there to order the food, you will never know.
It is similar for all of us in the home services business. If we don’t book the call, it really doesn’t matter how technically proficient your or your team are. The customer has to decide to use your company before they can have the fantastic experience and become a raving fan.
Now, this is just one example, and it really is just the start of your customer journey.
Every single one of your customers has a unique experience that they bring to you. Understanding the customer journey is critical for you if you want to move the customer seamlessly from a prospect to a loyal customer.
The good news is that it’s 2018, and the tools and partners exist to help you with all of this. More than ever, you can run your business by playing to your strengths and allowing partners and associations to help you in the areas where you need it.
If all of this still seems like too much work or not something that you want to focus on, I understand. I truly do. It would do us well to remember the cautionary phrase: “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you there.”
Publication date: 12/17/2018