My favorite customer is not the new customer, as strange as that may sound, but I can’t have my favorite customer without first getting a new customer. So, let’s say I have a new customer, they called for service, and our technician did a jam-up job and really impressed them. They were also impressed with our company, and even signed up for a service agreement or maintenance plan.
That’s the goal, right? Attract them, book them, impress them, sign them, and keep them. But wait, there’s more. Let me run down the list of my customers and see if you can guess which one is my favorite:
- New customer who called, hired, and paid us.
- Service agreement customer.
- First-time-returning new customer. The last time was the first time we worked for this customer.
- Established, long-time clients. They know your kids’ names.
- First-time callers with desperate needs. It’s hot and grandpa’s sick. Can we pay next week?
- Customer calling for a quote or bid on service work or new equipment.
I already told you that my favorite customer is not the new customer, so No. 1 is out. Let’s start with No. 6: the customer calling for a quote or a bid on new equipment or repair work. This could become a good customer, but what is your closing rate with people calling for quotes? I don’t get very excited about this call.
The caller with desperate needs who may need time to pay. This can be tough. You want to serve people, and you have probably been charitable many times in your career. You ask yourself, “Do I want to just give them some free service today?” or “Do I want to be charitable to my competitors?”
There is something to be said about giving work to your competitors. At times, we actually give away more work than we take. Crazy, huh? When it comes to prioritizing work, No. 5 is dead last. You have to remember that the CEO’s job is to protect and maximize profit. You don’t do that by working for those who can’t pay, no matter how desperate they are. Your competitors need work; feed them.
The established, long-term client. We love them. They love us. We will take care of them without question. But remember, they love us. So, if we are busy taking on the highest priority customers, we can simply ask them for a little time, and they are happy to oblige. Are they important? Of course! But there is a bigger fish to fry right now.
The first-time-returning customer is my top-priority customer today. The best use of my time is to serve this customer as wonderfully as, or better than, we did the first time. The reason is quite obvious when you think about it. This customer was impressed, and maybe even amazed the first time they called you. Your company treated them with respect, compassion, and empathy, responded quickly, provided several high-quality options, did excellent work, and made a wonderful impression.
There is one way for them to find out the truth: giving you one more chance. This is your last chance to do a second great job. The first impression doesn’t buy you a third. It will buy you a second, but nothing rips apart relationships like heartbreak, and the most heartbreaking thing your company can do is disappoint a previously impressed customer. It’s like getting a second date with the most wonderful girl in school and finding out later she told everyone you had bad breath. Nothing hurts like putting your feelings out there and having them trashed.
Was that melodramatic? Yes, I want it to be. I want for you to see that this customer will be a lifelong supporter, will tell everyone how wonderful you are, and will become a No. 4, established, long-term customer if you just pass this test today. This is a goodnight kiss that can take you all the way to going steady. Watch for this customer; listen for the ring of their call. Tell everyone on the team to listen for their voice. And wow them.
The service agreement customer. This customer is important, but I’m going to give you my favorite rule for service agreements: Never sell a service agreement to anyone who can’t be as loyal to you as you are to them. In my market, this means someone has to have two or more HVAC units to qualify for a service agreement, because our agreements promise that we will give preferred treatment. If I have to give preferred treatment to a service agreement customer, I don’t want it to get in the way of wowing that first-time-returning customer.
Here’s how this plays out.
“Mr. Customer, I’m so sorry your heating is not working. Is it upstairs or downstairs?”
Customer says, “Upstairs.”
“Mr. Customer, we are going to try our best to get there today, but if we can’t, will someone be home tomorrow?”
Now, before you get all excited about me not keeping my promise, wait until you see what this customer says.
“Oh, we know you’re busy. We’ll be home Friday. If you can come out then, we’ll get by.”
What did they do? They showed loyalty to you, so you can take on those new customers now and get to the service agreement customer on Friday. But you did not know that until you asked.
If they had answered, “We really need it today because we are having company tonight,” then what would I say?
“Don’t worry, Mr. Customer. I’ll be sure to get someone out there even if I have to come myself.”
So, what are the three ways to turn a new customer into a returning customer?
- Impress them the first time, from the incoming call to the finish.
- Impress them the second time, and do it intentionally.
- Get them on your happy customer list. Call them a couple of times a year, send them candy after every service call, and send them a Christmas or birthday card.
So, know your favorite customer and cater to them. Have a great day!
If you want to see how I prioritize each of these on a daily basis, you can check out my video called Creative Call Taking.
Publication date: 2/18/2019