First, the maintenance agreement program is a long-term benefit to your company - don't expect to see immediate effects on your bottom line. The main purpose of maintenance agreements is to build a network of your customers, which over the years will pay back in tremendous dividends.
Secondly, if you need more proof of the benefits of selling these types of agreements, think about the last time you bought anything electronic from one of the large electronic retailers (i.e., Best Buy, Circuit City). It's likely that the salesperson spent more time trying to sell you some type of an extended service/maintenance program than they did selling you the device itself. They obviously know where the long-term advantage lies.
MARKETING THE MAINTENANCE AGREEMENTI have been asked by so many of you about the best ways to market a maintenance agreement that I felt it would be worth discussing. Taking a tip from the large electronic retailers, the first person the customer has a discussion with will usually manage to mention the agreements they have available. For our industry, that translates into having the person in your office who answers the service phone explain the benefits of your maintenance agreement program.
We offer a monetary incentive to the office personnel, as well as to our service technicians, to reward them for each maintenance agreement they sell. By far, the best marketers of maintenance agreements are the service technicians themselves. This is true for a number of reasons.
First is the fact that most customers put a high amount of reliability in what a service technician tells them, much more than what they are told by a salesperson. Therefore, just the mere fact of a technician recommending the maintenance agreement makes it have credibility in the eyes of the homeowner.
When the technician points out the economic benefits of signing up for a maintenance agreement, and that the customer will receive two calls for not a great amount more than the cost of a regular standard service call, plus priority service, it makes it a relatively easy sale.
START THE PROCESS EARLYWith new installations our marketing really starts early. Our sales engineer will mention that we recommend and provide maintenance agreements and suggest the customer consider one. Then three months after installation we send a letter to the homeowner explaining everything we have to offer including the many indoor air quality devices we have available today.
In this letter we explain the maintenance agreement program, but don't spend much time selling it as we feel the customer has in his/her mind that they just bought the system and shouldn't have to think about it for at least the one-year free warranty period.
Then after 11 months, we send a notice advising them that their warranty is about to expire, and in that letter, we really extol the virtues of the maintenance agreement program for them.
I know some contractors around the country include a "paid" maintenance agreement including two calls with each replacement sale. The idea is that it is easier to obtain a renewal for succeeding years.
I believe it is clear the key to successfully marketing maintenance agreements is to get everyone in your organization involved in recommending and selling them. By so doing, not only are your employees helping the company, but they are helping provide for their own long-term job security as well. (For copies of our maintenance agreement materials, just e-mail us at the address below my picture).
Butch Welsch, Guest Columnist, Owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling, St. Louis, Welsch1@primary.net
Publication date: 02/27/2006