You know how it is. You look back at a marketing idea that worked really well, and all of a sudden, success seems so obvious. “No wonder that worked,” you say. “It was a great idea.”
Often it seems like one idea, but it really has a few moving parts. Successful ad slogans and “unique selling propositions” (USPs) are like that. They answer a customer’s needs concisely, cutting through the marketing clutter with their deceptively simple solution.
Domino’s, for example, entered an overcrowded pizza market with “Fresh hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less.” Aside from the fact that they crashed into lots of things while doing that, hundreds of millions in early run-up sales helped pay the damages. (We’ll assume they were “In good hands with Allstate.”)
Yet a great USP means nothing if the customer experience isn’t congruent with the claim. In helping plumbers create USPs, many fail to zero in on “why” customers choose them over others, mistakenly thinking it’s their product, prices or proximity. Don’t sell yourself short; all that stuff is replaceable, one thing isn’t.
It’s easy to think that your business is limited to products: toilets, faucets, water heaters, etc. I mean, that’s what you install and that’s why they get the invoice, right?
None of those differentiate you from your competitors, and in a customer’s mind, they don’t even differentiate you from the big boxes.
Your product is your service and relationship. You “sell” customers your confidence and competence in exchange for making their “pain” disappear. That doesn’t come in a box and it’s not on Aisle 7 (I already checked). It comes from the way you listen, how you understand their problems, present the solution and package it with guarantees. Your follow-up cements the relationship and jogs referrals. No follow up. No relationship.
Superior customer service is a differentiating marketing benefit. Many of our USPs relate to the “pain reducers” of convenience, experience and solutions. Lots of contractors either hide their uniqueness or fail to remind customers of their value. Bad idea. We also critique a few thousand ads a year here, and it’s amazing how many contractors offer 24-hour service, repair guarantees, appointment guarantees, freeze-free guarantees and a ton of “braggable” differentiators, but say very little about them.
People want a low-risk, high-reward service experience (don’t we all?), but how are they to know you offer it if you don’t tell them?
Customer service starts with the first contact, usually during the incoming call. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the phone-trafficker is unimportant. You’d be horribly wrong. The timeliness, friendliness, courtesy and professionalism displayed there can be the difference between a “hang-up-never-call-back-and-tell-lots-of-friends” situation and the beginning of a long-term customer relationship.
As an example, we make about 6,000 calls to contractors each year, none of which are cold calls. They are “invited” or “requested” from the owner/president, and yet, we are often astonished at the lack of professionalism and sheer rudeness we encounter. Would we have stuck around, as a prospect, to welcome this company into our home? (Make a staged call to your own company sometime. Eye-opening.)
Winning The Customer OverLeads are too costly to get, more costly to lose, and - if they do leave - almost never come back. How much of that can you afford to lose?
Follow the scheduling with an e-mail or phoned appointment reminder. Another to say the tech is on the way. If the tech had to reschedule, be willing to call the customer at another number to keep them updated.
You may think that “marketing” is getting the service call, but that’s not the only part - because each service call can be used to differentiate and gain upselling advantages.
First, there is no magic that it’s green, it just stands out (part of the point), is memorable and is an easy name to remember. The Green Sheet is a summary of what the tech is there to do on the call. Your tech simply hands this to the customer upon arrival or after a little introduction saying, “This is a little summary about how our company is different, plus answers to some frequent questions. But if you have any questions about my work today, I’ll be happy to answer them when I’m done.” Include testimonials from satisfied customers on the back, and you’re raising credibility, trust, professionalism and image, all in about 90 seconds for 4 cents. Not bad.
- 1. Handwritten
thank-you notes begin the referral process with huge impact. Every tech should
always have a stock of thank-you cards and prestamped (not metered) envelopes
either in the truck or available at the office for him or her to fill out with
a brief, personal note of thanks. You couldn’t afford to buy the goodwill this
simple act will produce. It is even more impressive when coupled with …
2. The thank-you postcard is a simple note from the owner or service manager that goes out the day of the service. Like the thank-you card from the tech, this is so unusual that it’ll knock them off their feet. You thank them for the business and tell customers how valuable they are to you and your business. It warms the relationship even further.
3. The referral request letter will go out a week or, at most, 10 days later. This note still thanks them for their business, but at this point, your request for their help in referral requests should really hit home.