If you apply proven techniques in your business, they will work.

There are many opportunities for learning new customer service techniques. Numerous eager business owners, service managers and technicians participate in the training. And often it is intense training.

Sometimes the techniques require rethinking the business - maybe even revolutionary techniques and processes, compared to what we are used to doing. A lot of time and resources are invested. Possibly on-site training and consulting were necessary. The bottom-line question, the hurdle that must be overcome, is: Does it payoff?

Concerns about entering a new dimension of work in customer service do arise. People don't change their fundamental beliefs, business practices or paradigms that guide their work easily. Usually, it takes a significant event and, occasionally, some convincing to produce the comfort level for a person to change the way he does business.

Good news. It does work! And it'll work for you, no matter where you do business. You can't fail if you implement modern management and customer service techniques. Do it right and it'll change your business, and probably your life, for the better.

However, we can't expect every business owner to believe someone who has been involved in upgrading businesses for many years. What do business owners and managers who have been trained, consulted with and changed the way they do business have to say? Let's hear from a few of them and see what they think.

New Line Of Business

Tony Silverio, doing business in Connecticut as Now Plumbing, has been in business for more than 18 years. He specialized in new, high-end installation work, not much service or repair work. For two years he thought about getting some help with the business, looking for new ways to grow the business and increase profits.

“I wanted to take my time so I didn't make a bad choice,” he explains. “I felt I was losing a lot of business by not doing service work. The service business is actually a good business and I didn't want to just start up doing service work; I wanted to do it to the extreme level. I knew there was help available for about four years.” Finally, Tony decided to jump into the service business - and do it the right way.

He admits, “We did no advertising for 14 years. You had to look in the white pages to find us.” Not any more. Now his business is in all the phone books. Customers call every day.

“Now, instead of notes on pads of paper, I am using software to keep organized.” Upgrading technology was an important part of his turnaround. “We have GPS on the trucks; software to track the jobs and help dispatch the trucks. There's no down time. Before, we didn't even have dispatch!

“Flawless - that's the only way I can describe the script that we were provided for our call takers' use. It works - on every caller. It gets the caller off of price and on to getting information.” With a professional script, Tony's customer service people are more efficient, generate more business and spend less time with each customer so they can get on to the next.

When asked about the future of his company, Tony responds, “There's no end to where we can go. My only limit is finding enough good technicians.” That's a problem many service and repair businesses face today, but he is driving his business to new heights.

How does he feel about his business after getting some on-site guidance, implementing new procedures and strategies for growth? “I will probably get more business from the service work than I had from all my business before. It's amazing how much service work is out there, how much people need service work. They want it now! And they are willing to pay for it.”

What about business growth? Tony assesses the future: “Twenty-five percent. I can tell you that much for sure.” The energy, that's what you notice in speaking with Tony. The on-site experience gave him an even greater boost in that energy.

In The Midwest

Things are happening for Nixco Plumbing in Cincinnati, too. Guy Hickman, service manager, attended a seminar along with the owner of Nixco, then they talked about the future direction of the business. Business was steady. It was an old, established business, particularly in new construction. But they were interested in growth on the service side. Rather than attend more training sessions, they decided it would work better to have an on-site consultation and review. That's where they saw the most growth potential.

Their concern was keeping ahead of the competition. The way to do that, Guy says, was to make sure “customers got better care.” Competitors had upgraded service and Guy wanted to make sure Nixco stayed ahead of the pack. In addition, top-quality service would allow them to expand the business at the rate they wanted. The company already had a good name and lots of repeat customers. However, in a year or two Nixco will be able to go from three technicians to eight or 10.

Using professional customer service techniques and revising some of the technicians' procedures are what makes Nixco's plan work. One key element of those procedures is looking at the number of calls a technician makes in a day. Guy formerly believed in the conventional wisdom that the more calls a technician makes per day, the more work he can do and the more profitable he can be for the company. But after working on-site, Guy now is an advocate of - you got it - fewer calls per day. How can that produce revenue and profits?

“In the old days we liked six to seven calls per day for technicians. Now we know that fewer calls can work better.” Technicians have a chance to generate more business from each customer if they are not under pressure to rush to the next job. They can thoroughly check out each customer's service needs. Higher average invoices are always the result. With higher average invoices, it's easy to see that profits increase because there is less wear and tear on the trucks, less fuel consumed, etc.

When it was time to expand, Nixco knew what to do. More importantly, they did it.

West Coast

Success system techniques can even work on the West Coast. Joe Vidosh at Call Us Now Plumbing in the San Francisco area shares some of the changes implemented in his business after deciding to think “out of the box.”

“We now enjoy fully stocked vans, uniformed and factory-trained technicians, and full-time dispatchers with dispatch software. Productivity increased. Now we can track everything. Bottom-line profits look a lot better.”

When asked about his motivation to take the first step toward taking his business to the next level of growth and success, Joe says, “I felt trapped. There was no diversification. I felt like I was working for contractors doing new work; chasing money to get paid - scrambling to get paid, not getting paid for all my invoices on the time and materials work. And it was no way to do business.”

How do his technicians respond to a new way of doing business? “The guys with me had no problems switching over to commission. And I hired some new guys, too. Of course, the older guys hesitated and asked a few questions, but they went along. Now they make more money,” Joe explains. Once technicians see how their opportunities expand, they like the new system better. They earn more and they have a chance to control their future more, too. They are part of a successful team.

Joe shared the new technicians' attitudes: “The new guys that I hire now get excited; we do cross-training so they can expand what they can earn. And they become a real asset for the company.”

After a few years, what was the effect on the bottom-line profits from Joe's business? “I would have to say about double from what they were,” Joe estimates.

“Now I am always looking at my goals. I am inspired about going to work. I don't feel trapped anymore.”