There’s an ancient proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
I know many of you have taken steps to put additional systems and processes in place to keep customers and employees safe in the midst of this pandemic. The good news is that if you did have systems in place BC (Before Coronavirus) and you were training on them all the time, you know all you needed to do is tweak the manuals (which already had protocols in place for PPE, etc.) and then train people on those new procedures. Kudos to you.
Haven’t done much of anything or still scrambling?
What you need to know is it is not too late! The need for additional systems and processes around this virus (or heaven forbid, future virus pandemics) is not going away anytime soon. It’s going to be some time before everyone is vaccinated, and even then, there will be some people that may not be able to receive those vaccinations — and those people will need your services, too.
Here are some helpful protocols you could put into place fairly quickly to make customers and staff alike safer. (Warning: Make sure whatever you do aligns with whatever local, state or federal guidelines that are in place where you operate!)
For customer service representatives
Provide CSRs with a script that reassures the customer that it is safe for the technician to come to their home, and asking “Is anybody at your home currently sick or experiencing symptoms?” Judgement calls may be required. Empower the CSR to choose not to book the call or to divert it to the future. You don’t want your technicians getting sick. It’s not worth it. But with training of techs and CSRs you can be more prepared, so you have more options.
Make sure the script includes what to expect on the call and how the technician will ensure they, the customer, are protected as they do the work (wear a mask, gloves, shoe covers, use of disinfectant and more).
Spend some time listening to those calls to make sure the CSRs are telling customers in the best way possible what you need them to know and tweak the script as needed.
They need to be following the notes gathered by the CSRs and making sure the techs are prepared to deliver on what was promised.
Make sure they’re working with the service manager throughout the day to maximize the availability of techs because they may be on jobs that might take longer to complete in the COVID era — and that’s to be expected. Plus, the number of available techs can be impacted by COVID as they themselves get sick or get exposed.
They need to be using a written “Priority Section” that spells out which customers have to love us; which customers have to like us and which customers aren’t going to be happy so what can we do right now to address that. And which types of calls are more urgent than others.
Create and enforce safety protocols that meet or exceed CDC guidelines. The first thing on that list should be that all technicians must wear face masks, gloves and shoe covers from the time they reach the customer’s door to the point at which they get back into the truck to go to their next call.
I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from friends (and personally experienced) where a contractor has shown up at their home without a mask or pulled a soiled one out of their pocket and begrudgingly put it on when pressed about it.
This blatant disregard for other people’s safety will lose you even the most loyal customer. You’re also needlessly opening yourself and your staff up to infection. My strong recommendation is don’t do it!
No handshaking! That was what I’ve taught for 18 years before the pandemic for a bunch of reasons. Now it is even more important to follow this good advice.
Figure out a way where the customer can pay you in a contactless way. This could be an app or your company’s software on your tablet, or a phone call to the office with a credit card number while you wait. Nobody wants to touch a piece of paper, and they shouldn’t have to.
Write all of these things down. Once these things are documented, go over them again and again with your techs so they become part of the way you do business at your company. Repetition is the key to getting and keeping these behaviors in your culture.
The other thing I recommend — and this is going to sound really counterintuitive — is to ramp up your marketing activities. Why? Because people may not realize you are still open for business unless you tell them! It also gives you an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition by communicating the protocols you’ve put into place to make sure your service is safe.
For example, you could send an email to all of your customers letting them know that you’re open and available for service. You also might consider making some TV buys and ramping up your presence on social media. Whatever the case, this is the perfect time for outreach. If you have a recording that customers listen to while on hold, it should outline all that you are doing to keep them safe.
Finally, and this is going to sound a bit harsh, and hopefully you won’t find yourself in this position, but the reality is some contracting companies will not make it through these challenging times. So, if you are well-positioned to expand your company by acquisition, this may be a good time to initiate some conversations. Even though it’s sad to have to sell, on the other side, it may be a big relief for that struggling owner who otherwise is facing financial disaster.
If you’re not quite ready to take that step and you are able, it’s a good practice to start socking away a portion of every deposit in a rainy day fund. As my dad Irving used to say, “It’s really easy to take money out of the business, it’s way harder to put it back in.”
You want to create a habit of saving. As my good friend Ellen Rohr says, “Money buys options.”
The contracting world has changed forever and so to prosper you’ll need to change with it. The above is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the systems and processes you need but when they’re all there, the sky is the limit.