Take The Money And Run
When it is hot, people need their air-conditioning systems serviced, repaired or replaced. When it is cold, they need the same attention to their heating systems. Money pours in for service and repair businesses during the busy seasons. The telephone doesn't stop ringing and technicians are putting in long days. The greatest temptation is to schedule as many service appointments as are physically possible; direct the technicians to finish one job and get on to the next. Customers are waiting!
With all that business, sometimes concern for one individual customer and the service they may be accustomed to drops by the wayside. Pressure to maximize the number of jobs may overshadow the quality of service offered for a specific job. The business focus could easily switch from a quality strategy to a quantity strategy. “Everybody move faster or we will miss a job,” becomes the norm.
Attempting to maximize the number of service and repair calls during busy seasons, sometimes forgetting a high level of customer service, is an approach I call “take the money and run.” I don't like it, and I will tell you why.
The CostOf course, we want to generate as much profit as possible. So some managers and owners seek to do that by maximizing the number of jobs technicians accomplish every day, all week, especially during busy times. They may be ignoring the principles that made them successful in the first place: exceptional customer service.
In the long run, your company could be worse off by over-booking business, suffering from the accompanying problems:
• Running late for appointments, angering customers.
• Technicians doing hasty work, requiring call backs.
• Missing work at the customer's home that could be performed on the same call, eliminating the cost of another service call.
• Giving the customer the impression - or even a technician telling them - that they need to rush to the next appointment.
• Encouraging technicians to speed to the next job, possibly leading to tickets and beat-up trucks, or even accidents.
I think you get the picture. All the effort and training and supervision you have invested in running a high quality shop with excellent customer service is at risk. For a few more jobs? It doesn't make sense.
Think about what could result over the next several months or years. Customers who have been slighted on service will not call back. They won't recommend their friends and neighbors (defeating the purpose of your advertising). They won't want your technicians to conduct the inspections they are entitled to under their service agreements. They may insist on a callback to fix something overlooked. Or they may be disappointed that they have to call for service again soon after the job was completed because the technician did not fully inspect their home or business systems.
Your company could lose more business in the future than it gains during the busy time.
Dealing With Busy TimesJust because it's busy doesn't mean you have to abandon the values and techniques you let successfully guide you during slow times. Your red carpet treatment of customers should not be replaced with a hasty, unprofessional job and “I'm busy” attitude. Instead, look at these times as an opportunity to demonstrate to customers that your company will be professional, regardless of demands.
There are several actions you can take to maximize the profit your company produces, if you can keep a long-term perspective. Let me illustrate some of them.
• Keep Loyal Customers. First, pay particular attention to repeat customers. Should you have to make a decision that requires you to delay scheduling a service call until you have available technicians, try to remember the loyalty that past customers have shown you and give them priority if it is feasible. They will be there when the emergencies from the busy time are forgotten. If treated poorly, they will not be loyal customers for long.
Customers will likely understand if you need a slightly longer time to get to their service and repair call in a heat wave or cold snap, but they will not tolerate a promise of a noon arrival and then first seeing your technician at 6 p.m. So hold to your promises, even though you may have to explain a longer time for a service technician to arrive at their home. If you have delivered excellent service in the past, they will trust you.
• Screen Callers And Jobs. When call volume is up, you may get some very demanding customers calling, insisting on immediate attention and not wanting to follow procedures for credit or other standard practices. Don't be tempted to schedule service appointments with callers who refuse to meet your standards. In other words, don't deviate from your standards. Let the low-margin companies pick up the marginal customers - the ones you know will be trouble.
Am I saying refuse business, turn down a customer? If the caller clearly indicates that they and their job are going to be a problem situation. Get out early. There is nothing worse than a situation that takes lots of time and resources to straighten out than a problem customer. Maintain your standards and follow your procedures for scheduling service calls, extending credit and completing the job. The system you have in place will be particularly valuable in busy times.
In addition to screening callers, you need to screen jobs. Just because you get numerous calls, it's not the time to take jobs where you have to make special arrangements to get additional equipment or that your technicians are not familiar with. Stick to your usual line of work and you will avoid problems.
• Face To Face. One of the biggest challenges during busy times may be the technician's attitude toward the customer. It's important that you reinforce the importance of sticking to their training and usual professional habits. That means clean uniform shirts, a friendly greeting and a smile. Even if they have a complete heating system replacement job waiting, the technician needs to make every effort to put the customer at ease and convince the customer that their job, however small, is important.
Included in that professional demeanor is the technician's use of the flat rate manual. They must be patient in sharing the prices for the jobs with each customer and continuing to sells add-ons, if appropriate.
With a high level of activity in the company, an opportunity presents itself for the technicians to sell service agreements. The more customers the technician sees, the greater the potential for future business from service agreements. However, similar to maintaining the standard procedures for sharing the flat rate manual with the customer to provide a price quotation, technicians need to be reminded to continue offering service agreements and the usual cordial service.
Offering friendly service doesn't include hanging around the customer's home or business for no reason. If the technician has completed the job they should efficiently look for other service work that, in good faith, needs to be completed, clean up and depart. Proceeding safely to the next service call, they need to repeat the professional demeanor again.
• Preparation And Planning. When fall comes - along with cooler weather - it's not a secret. Every year, same time. Knowing the busy season is coming allows you to plan and prepare for opportunities that are sure to come your way. For example, keep the warehouses stocked. You know what is in demand during the cold season. Make sure your trucks are in good operating condition and full of supplies. Also, prepare call takers, dispatchers and technicians for the coming challenges.
If you already trained your team to demonstrate professionalism in all their jobs, the preparation will be easier. The challenge will simply be to maintain the same practices that have made the company successful all year.
The PayoffBy not dropping the high quality service you offer, screening customers and jobs, and insisting on professionalism from all your people, you will reap some longer term benefits. Specifically: current customers will remain loyal; you will sell more service agreements; call backs will be minimized; goodwill from satisfied customers will spread; and more. Overall, it's easy to see that your future business will increase, certainly more than any jobs that had to be turned down.
Maintain your proven standards during the busy time. Don't take the money and run. You'll see greater returns long after the busy season has wound down.