Our team has listened to over 2,000 in-bound phone calls to our contracting clients across the United States — the good, the bad, and the ugly. That first phone call between you and potential customers is one of their earliest experiences and impressions of your brand. It’s critical that you make this count.
Below, we’ve highlighted common customer complaints and formed a process (with scripts) to help you better capitalize on these opportunities. The clients who have implemented these recommendations have improved their customer experience and lead to sale ratios, and you can too.
Step 1: Answer the Phone
We know what you’re thinking: “That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got?” But sometimes, the obvious thing goes overlooked.
We’ve listened to calls where customers came to our clients because a competitor didn’t answer their phone. We’ve listened to calls go to voicemail during business hours, never to see that lead show up in a CRM. We’ve also listened to countless frustrated owners that their revenue isn’t growing. The first thing we always look at is missed calls.
A lot of the time, it’s because the owners themselves aren’t answering calls, and there’s no time to monitor missed call volume. Pretty regularly, we find that our clients miss 5-10 calls per month. Over 12 months, that’s 60-100 calls. If you close just 10% of those at an average job of $2,500, that’s an additional $15,000 to $25,000 in revenue, just by answering the phone.
Step 2: Properly Greet Your Customer
This is your first human-to-human interaction with a prospective customer. Set the tone with a clear greeting that conveys two things:
- The name of the business and the name of his or her first contact
- Organization, friendly manner, and clear communication
Take a look at the two examples below of real examples (names anonymized) of how calls are answered:
Example 1: “This is Marshall.”
Example 2: “This is Ed’s Heating and Cooling in Raleigh, Marshall speaking. How may I help you?”
If you were a customer, which would you prefer?
Customers like to know that they’ve called the right business in the right location. Asking how you can help makes it easier for them to dive into what they need.
You can come up with any variation and include your business tagline if you like, but it’s important to be consistent in how you and your staff answer the phone. There’s a reason why chain restaurants strive to provide a consistent service no matter which location you are at: It makes customers feel comfortable. Consistency in your phone greetings can help you accomplish the same goal.
Step 3: Assess the Customer’s Need
After you greet a customer and ask how you can help, one of three things typically happen:
- They realized they called the wrong business.
- They are asking for a service you don’t provide.
- They are asking a service you do provide.
Scenario 1: Sometimes, a person will go through a Google or Bing search, click an ad, but get confused about the business they called. Search results will display multiple businesses, so this is bound to happen.
Normally, our clients would typically say, “No, this isn’t Empire Heating. Sorry!”
We then suggested they say something like this: “This isn’t Empire Heating, but we do work on furnaces and a/cs and are family-owned since 1985. Is this something we can help you with?”
The customer is already on the phone. He or she may not want to spend the time and energy digging up the right phone number. Most of the time, the customer will state their problem and give your company a chance at the business.
Our clients average two calls weekly that were intended for a competitor. By adjusting their script, they went from closing 0% of this business to closing 50% of this business. That’s over 50 new jobs per year.
Scenario 2: It is okay, and even encouraged, to recommend other providers who service a different area. I’d go as far as to say that you should look up and have that information on hand. Call those providers and say that you’ll refer customers in out-of-service areas if they can reciprocate.
You help your customer. You help another business. The other business helps you. You all win.
Scenario 3: Before going any further with a customer, ask what city he or she lives in. If you only service the immediate Raleigh area, it’s your job to find out up front if the customer’s in that service area: “What city are you located in?”
This will save you both a lot of time. There’s nothing more frustrating than speaking for 5-10 minutes only for both parties to find out the service area is an issue.
Step 4: Gather Accurate Customer Information
If you use ServiceTitan or another provider, chances are that an existing customer’s information will pop up and you won’t have to gather any new information. If you aren’t sure, simply ask the customer after he or she shares their location: “Have we done work in your home before?”
Maybe they changed phone numbers. Maybe they moved. This is a polite way to ask if they are an existing customer.
If they are new and haven’t done work with you before, pay attention: “OK, before we get started I’m going to grab some information from you. Can we start with your first and last name with spelling, please?” Continue this with phone number, address, and email address.
When asking for an email address, it’s important to state your intentions: “Do you have a good email address we can send invoices to?” Email address is extremely important for marketing purposes. It allows you to re-engage the customer for reviews, maintenance agreements, and special offers.
As you go through this process, remember that it’s OK to repeat back the gathered information to make sure you got it right. There’s nothing worse than sending an invoice to the wrong email address, showing up to the wrong address, or taking down an incorrect phone number.
Step 5: Clearly Communicate Next Steps and Set the Right Expectations
After you’ve answered the phone, properly greeted the customer, assessed their needs, and accurately gathered customer information, it’s likely that you’ve booked a consultation for an estimate or a job. However, your job is not done. Once you’ve confirmed a date and a timeframe, there are a few things you want to do:
- Reiterate the date and time
- Explain when you will notify the customer of your arrival time
- Explain what the tech will do when he/she arrives at the home
Here’s a simple talk-track to accomplish this: “So I’ve got you down for Wednesday, Dec. 2, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Our tech will send you a text message when he or she is approximately 30 minutes from arrival time. We will send you a text 30 minutes before your appointment window ends if we are going to be late for the appointment.
“We don’t send reminders up until the day of, so it might be worth writing down Wednesday, Dec. 2, between 9 and 11 a.m. There is a $149 fee due after the service with potential parts fees, but we will not charge you anything additional without your approval. Does that sound good?
“Great, is there anything else I can help you with today?”
There are many ways to do this, but the customer walks away educated about your communication protocols, what to expect, your fees, and heard the time and day twice.
Proper phone etiquette will improve operational efficiency and increase your bottom line
A full sample phone script is available below for you to use. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a dollar to improve your bottom line. You just have to train your staff to implement these practices.
The Full Sample Phone Script
“This is Ed’s Heating and Cooling in Raleigh, Marshall speaking, how may I help you?
“What city are you located in?
“Have we done work in your home before?
“OK, before we get started I’m going to grab some information from you. Can we start with your first and last name with spelling, please?
“Do you have a good email address we can send invoices to?
“So I’ve got you down for Wednesday, Dec. 2, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Our tech will send you a text message when he or she is approximately 30 minutes from arrival time. We will send you a text 30 minutes before your appointment window ends if we are going to be late for the appointment.
“We don’t send reminders up until the day of, so it might be worth writing down Wednesday, Dec. 2, between 9 and 11 a.m.
“There is a $149 fee due after the service with potential parts fees, but we will not charge you anything additional without your approval.
“Does that sound good?
“Great, is there anything else I can help you with today?”