Matt Michel: 10 soft skills to boost customer satisfaction and sales
A straightforward soft skills checklist that simply works.
Plumbers, like most technical people, value their technical skills above all else. Consumers, who have little ability to discern good plumbing from poor or average work, tend to judge plumbers based on their soft skills. Ignoring the soft skills is like ignoring half of a repair. Here is a 10-point soft skills checklist for your team.
1. Be well-groomed
Every other year, the Service Nation Alliance surveys the customers of hundreds of their member contractors. The most frequently mentioned turn-off among consumers regarding field service personnel is poor grooming. It is cited by four out of five consumers surveyed. Four out of five!
Being well-groomed isn’t difficult. It requires showering and shaving every morning. It requires tucking shirts in — shirts that are not worn and frayed. And, it requires neatly trimmed hair.
If you pay for truck washes, consider cutting a deal with a local barber and paying for bi-weekly trims for your team. A well-groomed plumber is just as important as a clean truck. The barber can either come to the shop one day a week or you can provide vouchers. Present it as an employee benefit.
2. Use breath spray
Bad breath hurts sales. Instead of focusing on the conversation, people focus on the bad breath. Then, they try to figure out how to get away as quickly as possible.
Give your plumbers breath mints or breath spray and encourage them to use it just before a service call. This is especially important for smokers.
3. Stand up straight
In service meetings, emphasize the importance of good posture with customers. Not only is it better for your back and joints when you stand up straight, it makes you more attractive. People who stand up straight appear happier and more intelligent than people who slouch. When you stand up straight, you not only look more confident, you feel more confident.
4. Look people in the eye
Stress the importance of making and keeping eye contact with customers. It builds rapport and makes people appear trustworthy. You’ve surely heard the old saying, “I won’t trust a man who doesn’t look me in the eye.” In truth, the first thing a con man learns is how to look someone straight in the eye and lie to their face. Nevertheless, failing to make eye contact signals shiftiness, shame and/or dishonesty.
In a service situation, the consumer is under stress. A smile provide reassurance. It says, “I’ve got this.” Consider giving your plumbers mirrors to be placed in the truck with the word, “Smile” on them.
Beyond reassurance, a smile is another way of building rapport. Smiling makes you appear more trustworthy. It causes other people to smile back. People prefer to be around people who are happy, pleasant and smiling.
6. Present a business card
Some consumers have bizarre notions about germs. They do not want to touch your plumbers or anyone else. Rather than awkwardly attempting to shake hands, give your team business cards to present. Teach them to extend their arms with fingers pointed down, holding the business card at the top edge so the consumer can read it. They should present it upon being greeted at the front door, removing awkwardness and replacing it with professionalism.
7. Listen actively
Listening is not passive. It is active. It shows respect. It demonstrates care. It shows the customer he or she is important.
It’s okay to look down to take notes, just glance back at the customer frequently. Periodically provide feedback that the message is understood. A head nod is one way. Verbal acknowledgement also works, such as “Um-hum” or “I see.”
Part of listening is asking questions for clarity. Asking questions and listening to the responses is not only polite, but it further builds rapport. It also leads to add-on sales.
8. Repeat the message back
Teach your plumbers to make sure they understand the customer’s message by repeating it back. They can say, “So what you’re saying is …”
9. Give reassurance
Beyond smiling, service plumbers should be reassuring. They should exude confidence. Even if unsure, they should act confident. Consumers do not want service providers who are uncertain. Their homes are broken and they are in a state of fear and anxiety, wanting to believe that the plumber will make things right, will make their homes whole again.
10. Show care with humor
Humor can be a great way to build rapport, but it can also turn people off. This is especially true if the humor is related to politics or is of a sexual nature. The safest humor is self-depreciating. However, care should be taken to ensure that self-depreciating humor does not counter the message of reassurance.
These are very simple things, but they also simply work. Put them in place and practice them. You will see an increase in not only your average ticket, but also in your overall sales.