If you’ve owned or managed an in-home service business for any amount of time, you know there are always opportunities for growth in multiple areas within your company. Some of the odd circumstances this year have forced us to focus on opportunities to change and grow more than most years, but I can tell you that one of the best areas to spotlight right now is helping your techs improve their client connection techniques.
I owned a PHC company for more than 20 years before I sold it to my top manager and moved on to running The Blue Collar Success Group exclusively. Over the last 30 years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time coaching, training and performing ride-alongs for my clients, as well as my own company. Based on experience, observations and studies of human behavior, I’ve boiled down client connection to some crucial, often overlooked, points.
Explain the “why”
Many technicians don’t realize the importance of connecting with their clients. Even if you’ve done some training on this subject, many techs don’t want to be seen as “salespeople” and have the misconception that you are only telling them to connect with the client so the client will purchase more.
Yes, improved communication techniques, when delivered correctly, do lead to higher tickets, but that isn’t the only reason to “bond” with clients. Help your techs see that client connection makes their job easier in the long run, helps them provide the highest level of service and professionalism, assists with brand loyalty and reviews, and leads to overall client loyalty and referrals.
Most techs (even selling techs) still perceive their value during the service call to be based on how technically capable they are. While technical aptitude is crucial, when it comes to client perception it’s not the most important thing. Believe it or not, the client will base their buying decision more on the likability of the technician than on their level of technical knowledge.
Most of the technicians my coaches and I have ridden with have the desire to do a great job. They want to improve their client service and sales, but don’t know exactly what to do. They certainly do not want to come across as high-pressure salespeople, so often they won’t spend enough time going through what could be considered a “sales” process.
Technicians don’t need to be high-pressure salespeople; they just need to be themselves and use some basic techniques to connect with their clients (and understand why they’re doing it). It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to change a few of the ways they interact with clients throughout the call; the human interaction aspect simply needs more attention.
Here are some ways to help your techs better connect with clients:
1. Ask the right questions
I’ve written about this point before, and recorded numerous training videos on the subject, because questions are a fundamental necessity to building (and maintaining) positive relationships.
There is certainly a sequence to the questions that should be asked, as well as a time and place for every question, but my experience of riding with technicians shows undeniably that they don’t ask enough questions. Period.
Sure, they might ask a few simple questions about the problem at hand. However, the questions are usually just enough to give them the information they need to properly diagnose a repair or replacement. This is not enough. Even though many technicians would rather have a conversation with the water heater than the homeowner, the broken part is not going to make the decision about whether we perform the work or not!
Once we get clear about this fact, we realize we must properly “diagnose” the client as much (if not more than) the issue we were called there for. Through good questioning, we can discover opportunities to provide additional services to our clients and understand what they truly want and need. This is the key to winning at the kitchen table when delivering options.
Train your technicians to ask questions outside the scope of the problem, and watch how the client will open up and begin to embrace this “stranger” in their home. Understand that you are a stranger when you arrive onsite, and if you present options to a client as a stranger, you’re not going to have much success.
On the other hand, when you ask some questions and get the clients talking about themselves, you can gain useful information from them. This also puts them at ease because they now realize they have an actual person in their home instead of a technically trained robot with zero personality. This does wonders when it comes time to ask them to invest in your company’s services.
2. Be more open with clients and get to know them
The period of time between arrival at the home and the point of asking for a buying decision should be viewed like the dating process. When you were first dating someone, you didn’t simply ask if you could buy them a drink, and once the drink was delivered, drop to one knee and ask for their hand in marriage, right? Of course not! You had to court them over time and get to know them while allowing them to get to know you. It’s a similar process with our clients; we need to know more about them and they need to know more about us.
As soon as technicians start to open up and share something relatable about themselves with clients, a commonality is found. We need to discover some sort of commonality before asking for their investment in us, and it comes from questions and conversation.
This is not a complicated process. Connections can be created based on something as simple as discussing family pets. I’ve seen this connection happen with anything and everything from chess, guinea pigs, diabetes, sports teams, art, gardening and so on.
3. Build value (even in the little things)
We all know that building value in products and services is crucial, but I have done so many ride-alongs with techs where they do all sorts of “courtesy” things for a client, like tightening a toilet seat or adjusting a faucet, and don’t even tell the client they did it!
There is value in these things for the client, but to the tech it isn’t a big deal, so they don’t bring it up. These little things all contribute to connection, so train techs to mention the mini fixes they’ve done in addition to the larger ones.
4. Share knowledge without getting too technical
Sharing knowledge is great for building connection with clients; a bunch of technical industry-specific jargon, however, does just the opposite.
Help your techs work on their presentation process so they can better demonstrate issues and offer options without confusing the clients.
5. Show appreciation
Gratitude is like the icing on the cake of client connection. Expressing thanks and appreciation for having the opportunity to come to their home, and diagnose their problem or perform maintenance, works wonders when building a relationship with clients.
It’s common for people to show appreciation after a sale or doing the work, but voicing gratitude before getting to that point is an unexpected surprise for most clients.
These are important connection-building strategies, and we must help our technicians understand the importance of strategically communicating with our clients before we invite them to do business with us.
If you spend a little time training the skills that help to form a connection with the client, you will start to see an increase in overall sales, client service and positive reviews.