Tips on establishing profit-producing customer relations.

We saved the best part for last. Everything we covered in the first four parts are critical for pleasing our valued customers and attracting even more. Regardless of “feast or famine” in our economy, service and maintenance will always be needed.

You have to compete with the other contractors in your market area to attract and please potential customers in these situations:
    1. A service call for urgent service.
    2. Warranty work and maintenance contracts.
    3. Retail customers who come to your shop.
    4. New construction and remodeling contracts.
    5. Potential customers you could reach with effective advertising and promotions.

Fortunately, when your Value Engineering University builds you an attractive best team, you will enjoy the capability and reputation to provide what all of those customers have been searching for.

Urgent service calls

Your first value-engineering question will provide workable solutions to eliminate what every good customer despises:
  • Talking to an answering machine or voicemail when he or she calls for help.

  • Waiting for the contractor’s employee to return the call.

  • Scheduling your service tech tomorrow or the next day.

  • Having your service tech show up late.

    Present this list to each member of your service team. You will be pleased with the “upward” feedback. Begin with your service techs who work directly with your customers. Ask them how many times they have heard complaints as well as sensing negative situations. Sometimes your customer may be upset with his or her own predicament rather than with your company or your tech’s service.

    As each service tech relates any displeasing incident, you need to ask what the company can do to turn that negative into a positive service call that will have your customer recommending you to family, friends and acquaintances.

    Customers want a knowledgeable human voice to listen to them and provide assistance for their problem. They do not want a recording where they have to leave a message and pray for a return call.

    Recruit retired service employees, housewives and interested employees as after-hour, second-string dispatchers to take incoming calls when lines are busy. These second-stringers must have access to customer files, your skills inventory and the present availability of your service techs. They also can check back with your dispatcher and return calls when necessary.

    Your dispatcher should create and maintain an up-to-date file on customers’ mechanical systems. Construction as-builts should be maintained. Each service tech should survey his installations, give the customer value-engineering options and enter that service in the customer’s file.

    To avoid scheduling problems, the dispatcher should review each tech’s database skills inventory and present location to assure prompt and capable service. Flex-time schedules should accommodate customers’ needs. You may be able to form a reciprocal working relationship with other local service contractors who perform work you do not do, or to solve a rush or shortage of available work. This is especially feasible with members of a local trade association.

    When your service tech is completing a call and realizes he will not be on time for the next appointment, he should immediately call the customer or your dispatcher to establish a new time of arrival.

  • Final cost fears

    Many service contractors are doing an estimate and giving a customer a bid before they begin the service. This is called flat-rate pricing and assures the customer he or she will not be unhappy with the final price. That flat rate also provides a great opportunity to present your value-engineering, price-saving options. You will need a salvage center to provide rebuilt equipment and parts, as well as a training facility for your service techs.

    Without a flat-rate guarantee on cost, many customers are fearfully watching your service tech, expecting he will make mistakes or not have the proper tools. Or he will not have the replacement parts he needs and perhaps make time-wasting trips to your shop or a supply house. You can see how your database inventories and customer service files will help your dispatcher eliminate your customers’ fears.

    Some service calls justify a tech helper to perform some of the work, such as going to your shop or supply house, allowing your service tech to continue fixing the problem. Many techs will use role-reversal opportunities to train their helper.

    First impressions count

    Involve your office staff, dispatcher and service manager to find that better way to profit-producing customer relations. One important area is first contact with a customer. Your service tech should arrive to a customer’s home or business in a clean, well-organized company truck, be dressed in a professional uniform - and smile. He should introduce himself, share the information he received about the problem and ask the customer for any specific details.

    He should not interfere with the customer’s parking or home activities. He must be careful not to damage anything and clean up when his work is completed. Putting socks on over his shoes will protect carpeting and finished floors.

    As the tech surveys the customer’s premises, he should point out necessary maintenance and adjust, oil, tighten, etc., where required, at no additional cost to the customer. This provides a convenient time to offer a preventative maintenance contract to assure the customer of minimal expense in the future.

    You need to keep score on each service tech’s record of selling these preventative maintenance contracts, along with repeat business and referrals from each customer he has served.

    Your customer relations Value Engineering University also extends to techs who provide warranty work and service prevention maintenance contracts:

  • Do they have a schedule and task reminder to perform what was agreed upon by the contract?

  • Do they call the customer to establish a definite time?

  • Do they ask, “What else can we do for you?” and thank the customer for his business?

  • Are they finding a better way for good customer relations with retail sales at your shop, store or office?

    Many contractors overlook customer relations on hard bid or negotiated contract projects, which is usually the major portion of their business. Ask jobsite personnel, the project management team and office staff these questions:
      1. How can we help our customers make more money?
      2. What documentation do we need to be certain we get our money on time?
      3. How do we avoid lawsuits and negotiate any differences, keeping in mind “the next job”?

    Using these recommendations will definitely create a best-team reputation for your company that everyone wants to have. Ask everyone in your company:

  • Why would you choose our company to do your job? Why would you not choose us?

  • Should we advertise? Ideas include: big name, logo and slogans on every truck driven by a courteous driver; call and leave promotion tags at homes and businesses; Yellow Pages ads; signs at sport stadiums; sponsorship of Little League or other local sport teams; local newspaper, radio or TV ads; involvement with Habitat for Humanity or other charity groups; offer special holiday discounts; reward customers for effective referrals; provide free service for a desperate homeowner; and leave your business cards at supply houses and do-it-yourself retail stores.

  • Have you heard anyone bragging about our service? What and who was involved? Have you heard anyone complaining about our service? What and who was involved?

    Remember what we said in Part 1 about attending Value Engineering University?
      1. You don’t need to enroll, just get involved.
      2. There will be no tuition, just fruition.
      3. You will earn no credits, just cash.

    So what are you waiting for?

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