Take It In Steps
I returned home after working with a small company comprised primarily of one tech and the owner, who works in the field part-time. I realized mastering how to answer the phone and dispatching can be even more challenging for them than at a big shop, which has to answer a lot more calls and dispatch a lot more people throughout the day.
When you’re the owner of a small company, you can spend a good chunk of your time working in the field. You don’t usually have a locked-down, repeatable way of taking calls and quickly converting them into booked calls.
If you are a larger company and don’t have this systematized, documented and trained on a weekly basis, it won’t matter what size company you have because customers will be unhappy and profits will be elusive.
Everything that goes right and goes wrong can be traced back to how well we perform these simple but vital first steps with the customer.
How can this be?
The way you answer the call either sets the sales momentum or derails it. It can affect the techs’ ability to meet sales and performance goals.
Think I’m overstating the case?
When you travel to a new city and you determine whether it is a friendly place, what are you basing it on? Who do you interact with? The cab driver on your ride from the airport? The hotel check-in person? The restaurant staff? That is how you make your decision, isn’t it?
When you would come to New York City years ago, you weren’t meeting me, a native New Yorker - the kind of person who would leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling about New York and its people.
Your customers don’t get to meet most of the people who work at your company. Their first encounter is the customer service representative. From that interaction they make pretty much all their assessments about you and your company.
When answering the phone, do it in a way that callers feel:
1. The person they’re talking to is friendly and cares about them.
2. They reached the right company that will care about them.
3. They will be taken care of in a professional manner.
Smaller companiesThe rest of this column is specifically written for really small shops where the owner may have to answer the phone. That’s tricky when you are working in the field. But the principles of doing a good job of mastering how to answer the call and booking it the right way applies to any size shop.
You need to be ready for the phone to ring. The first step is to have a good hands-free earpiece. You can literally leave your hands free to work when you’re undisturbed and free to write down the message from the caller.
But write on what? The answer is a simple one-page form attached to a clipboard you carry with you. That form includes:
- Home and/or office phone number.
- Cell phone number.
- Email address.
- Nature of the call.
- Day and time slot promised.
- A note to put it on the scheduling calendar.
What scheduling calendar? Well, if you’re out in the field, a simple calendar you’ve bought or printed will work. If you’re in the office, a wall or desk calendar is a good option. However, a day planner might work better because you can take it into the field or use when in the office.
Ultimately, small shops are going to want to enter information in Microsoft Outlook (or another online calendar you use for business) first because:
- You can capture the database information and even build
some service history.
- You will have captured all the contact information in one
- You will have a calendar and can set up recurring dates and
- If you’re running three trucks or less, this can work without spending too much money.
If you get busy enough, have a CSR call-taking script and are using Outlook, you should strongly consider hiring and training a part-time CSR to answer the phone, freeing yourself up to do special project work.
As the company gets to be three techs or more, it’s time to be looking for a stand-alone dispatching program and either increasing the part-time CSR to full-time or finding another part-time CSR to job-share.
Typically at five trucks or more, you’re entering a time and place to consider an integrated software program with dispatching that will allow more of what I call single data-entry items.
There is one last thing to remember. No matter how big or small your company is, you need to learn how to prioritize calls in dispatching. You have to know how to make the decision each day as to which customers will:
1. Love you because they got served quickly.
2. Like you because you stayed in communication with them and showed up the same day.
3. Not like you so much because you had to reschedule. You must do something extra for these customers to minimize their pain.
Any size company will ultimately build happier customers and better sales if they learn how to answer the phones the correct way.