4. Module: Business Softskills
In this module you will learn how to:
- Present yourself professionally to the customer
- Manage customer time expectations
- Streamline service by building diagnostic routines
- Discover the power of empathizing with your customers when complaints surface
- Respect a customer’s property
- Collect on the call and follow through
- Follow through on jobs
- Understand the power of a dollar
Professional Presentation: A clean organized presentation can set the customer’s mind at ease. 4 steps to keep in mind when making a first impression
Customer Time Expectations: Communication is key when nailing down the service call appointment time.
Building Diagnostic Returns: Running through a set of diagnostic steps can head off return calls.
Customer Complaints and Empathy: Sympathizing with the customer goes a long way in dealing with complaints.
Respecting Customer Property: Treating your customer’s house as your own is a must.
Why Collect On The Job: The benefit of charging the customer at the time of the service.
Follow Through or You Could Be Out: Making sure to follow up on service can help you land a customer for life.
The Power of a Dollar: Raising your hourly rate can pay huge dividends.
You wouldn’t show up for a job interview in a pair of dirty jeans and a ball cap, right? Of course not. You would want to dress to impress with a suit and tie. Your appearance should say “I’m a professional.” The same goes for the service industry. If you were a customer and an HVAC contractor pulls up in a beat up, broken down service van, tools all disorganized and the tech looking confused and unprepared, what’s your first impression? Exactly. This guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.
The customer knows next to nothing about you and your business. This is your opportunity to start off on the right foot. As a professional in the service industry you want to remove all roadblocks that stand between you and your customer. If the customer is at ease, then you can just do your job and leave with a solid business relationship. Here are some basic steps to follow concerning appearance.
- Ensure that techs are wearing clean shirts for each of their appointments. It’s a good idea to have professional uniforms or collar shirts as well. It projects more of a professional look.
- Make sure the tools are organized and the service vehicle is clean. A dashboard full of tools banging around is a bad sign.
- Greet the customer with a smile and a handshake.
- When making a repair or installing equipment take the time to finish the job by cleaning up the work area, even wiping down fingerprints.
The old saying goes “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Appearance is a small change that can make a huge difference. A positive attitude and clear honest communication is the next step.
Customer Time Expectations
I’m sure you’ve had the unpleasant experience of fielding one of those frustrating Cable TV service calls when they tell you they will be able to be at your house somewhere between noon and 4. Really? Because we all have time to sit around the house for 4 hours on a weekday. None of us work…
This doesn’t really fly anymore in most service industries. Today’s service techs are trying to maximize their workflow by calling their customer and alerting them of their arrival time. Many times customers will just wait until they get the call on their cell, then head home from work to meet the tech.
Service companies have figured out that the more they communicate with the customer, the better off they are when it comes to overall satisfaction. Plus if they get ahead or fall behind they can always just call the customer and tell them exactly when they will be there.
Building Diagnostic Returns
Like a pilot or a doctor, there’s a series of steps you should go through during every single repair or installation. It may take a little time upfront, but it will more than make up for it in the long run. Steps like measuring the voltage and checking the wiring can save you time and hassle later.
Let’s say that you are going to install a certain part. Here’s what you don’t want to happen. You install the part, fail to go through any diagnostic process and finish. The customer pays and you’re on your way. Two weeks later you get called back for another fix. Turns out, you could have discovered that second repair if you had went through a set of diagnostic steps the first time. Now you have an unhappy customer on your hands.
Diagnostics are your #1 way to limit callbacks.
Benjamin Franklin once said “In this life nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I would add one more to that list, Ben: customer complaints. You could be the best in the business and you’re still going to get dissatisfied customers. That’s how it goes. And really–it’s actually great news.
Great news? Absolutely. Complaints open the door to opportunity and growth. You see, when customers voice a complaint about your product or service it may lead to change, whether it’s a certain way a process is done, a policy or a standard. That’s a good thing. It forces us to stand in our customer’s shoes and see things from a different perspective.
A complaint also allows you to fix the problem “and make things right.” If you do this consistently you will have satisfied customers which leads to repeat business and a solid reputation.
Think of the whole process of complaints as a way of making improvements to your process.
So what should you do when a complaint comes in? Here are 6 tips for handling complaints in an efficient, professional way.
1. Stay Cool, Not Defensive
Listen to the complaint objectively. Don’t engage in an argument with the customer. Though we’ve all heard “the customer is always right” sometimes they are not. Regardless, it’s best to listen to the customer, empathize with them, and tell them how you will fix the problem.
I Understand, Now Let’s Fix This!
When a customer has a problem it’s a good idea to put yourselves in their shoes. We’ve all had problems with a product or service in the past, right? One key to great customer service and satisfied customers is empathy. Trying to understand where a customer is coming from and honestly listening to their concerns is paramount to solving an issue. The following four strategies work well when dealing with dissatisfied customers.
Strategy 1: Listen
This is listed first because it is the most important. Sometimes, the customer just wants to talk to a person and vent their frustrations. When they are done telling you their troubles it’s your turn to try to steer the conversation to a possible solution.
Strategy 2: Remain pleasant
Always avoid engaging in an argument with an irate custom, regardless of the problem. Keep your composure and apologize for the problem and let them know that you would be upset, too. Assure them that you are taking this seriously with a “Let’s see how we can fix this” approach.
Strategy 3: Empathy First, Information After
One common mistake Customer Service reps make is the way they log a complaint. When a person voices a complaint, too often a list of questions follows. You can get all the information you need later. First you have to show that you empathize with the customer and that “you feel their pain.” Then you can get their name, address and info after you gain some rapport with them.
Strategy 4: Find a Solution
Turning a complaint into a favorable solution is the goal. Remember, if the customer is satisfied with your response, you are likely to turn a repair gone wrong into a repeat customer.
3. Respecting Customer Property:
There’s an old saying in the Service Tech business: “Leave the house better than when you entered.“
What does that mean exactly?
Well, it’s the little things that will differentiate you from your competitors. Treating your customer’s house as your own when you perform work inside is a smart rule of thumb. Here’s a list of easy ways you can do it better than the next guy:
- Before entering the house techs should make sure to wrap their feet in disposable plastic boots so they don’t track dirt into the house.
- If they have pets or kids, acknowledge them. Say hello and be friendly. The customer is trusting a complete stranger to come into his home so the more trust you can gain the better.
- When you finish the job make sure you pick up any mess. Your customer has no idea what you did inside their furnace but they will see fingerprints all over the top if you don’t wipe them off.
- Typically, service techs will leave the old part behind after they finish the job. The problem is after 3 or 4 service calls there will be old parts laying all over the place. Pick them up and throw them out.
4. Why Collect On The Job
It’s 95 degrees out and a customer has called because their air conditioner is not working. The technician is on the worksite diagnosing and fixing the problem. At this point the customer would pay almost anything to get their air conditioning back on. So it only makes sense that you would charge them for the fix right then–there won’t be a better time.
So what happens if you decided to charge them at a later time? In the week since the fix, the customer is no longer miserable. In fact, they have now had time to question the price you are charging them. They may even Google the parts and labor cost. At this point–it is much more difficult to collect.
Another benefit of collecting on the job is for the office staff. When the payment is collected at the time of the purchase there’s less complaints and call backs later questioning the price.
5. Follow Through or You Could Be Out
When a pitcher winds up to deliver a 98 MPH fastball down the plate the follow through is crucial. Without it, the ball will likely fly off target, sailing over the catcher’s head. The same can happen when you start a service call and don’t execute the follow through.
Let’s suppose you go out on a service call and realize that after diagnosing the problem, you don’t have two of the parts that are required. So you tell the customer that you will have to order the parts and get back to him. As you know, like any job, the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts. In order to get those parts you have to trust your team.
Ultimately—this is on you. It’s your responsibility to get the parts and complete the job in the fastest, most efficient way. Now some techs will make the call to the office and wash their hands of the call. That can’t happen. Because if it does, you will have one angry, dissatisfied customer to deal with. You will probably lose his repeat business and any other business you may have gained from his recommendations.
Another opportunity for following through is after you complete a repair or install. You did a great job and your customer is happy to get one more thing off his plate. Now’s the time to try to upsell the satisfied customer to a service agreement. Then this one call turns into a customer for life. They are getting professional, consistent service and you are getting a steady stream of revenue. It takes a little effort to not just finish a job and be on your way but it can pay huge dividends.
Don’t drop the ball. Finish the job and follow through to ensure there will be more jobs in your future!
6. The Power of a Dollar
You can’t buy much for a buck these days, right? Even the dollar menus at McDonald’s are charging $1.29 for a burger. But let’s look at the dollar in terms of the amount you charge per hour on a job. How much difference can a dollar really make?
A typical service business bills four hours per day for each service person. The other four hours are spent on a number of other non-billable activities, such as driving from place to place. Suppose you raised your hourly rate by one dollar. That’s twenty hours per week and a thousand hours per year. An extra grand per service person.
What can that extra thousand dollars pay for? Let’s say your annual gas expense for your service vans is $4,500. An extra dollar would offset 22% of your gas expenses.
If you raise your hourly rate by one dollar, then a one-hour repair only costs your customer an extra dollar, let’s say from $320 to $321. No big deal and barely noticed. What if you raised the rate $5 per hour which brings the charge to $325? Still not a huge increase and now you can cover the entire year’s gas expense and even bank some money.
A dollar doesn’t seem to significant when you look at it from the customer’s viewpoint. But those dollars can really add up on the business side.