What began as dream for Joe and Linda LoShciavo, is now a reality beyond what they could have expected. One year ago, Joe and Linda LoSchiavo were the recipients of the Public Protectors Franchise Advantage (PPFA) Award given out by The Dwyer Group®. Today, the couple has turned their award into a thriving appliance repair business in Southern Connecticut as a Mr. Appliance® franchise.
“Linda and I were both retired. I don’t know what happened, really. My personality is that I don’t sit still too often,” said Joe.
After seeing Mr. Appliance on the CBS reality show “Undercover Boss” in 2012, Joe decided to look into opening a franchise with the company. Coincidently, The Dwyer Group launched the PPFA program that same year to recognize the contributions law enforcement and fire rescue members have made to society. Through their special PPFA Award, which waived the franchise fee, the LoSchiavos were able to create and build a business of their own after decades of service to their community.
“We’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve taken what we know and applied it to the business. We also decided we weren’t going o reinvent the wheel. With The Dwyer Group, they have a plan laid out for you, and if you follow the plan there’s no guesswork,” said Joe.
It takes about 2-4 months for franchisees to go through Mr. Appliance training and set-up a new business. In April 2013, Joe and Linda opened their doors to the public. Early on, Joe saw a need for professional appliance repair in his local market and a need for superior customer service to residential and commercial clients. The LoSchiavos have been in business about eight months now, and they are seeing results.
“ What we’re finding about Mr. Appliance when we go to customers’ homes is that people aren’t accustomed to the level of service we are giving them— the booties, the email the night before, the follow-up phone call, the fact that we show up when we say we will,” said Joe. “We follow everything the Mr. Appliance training has given us, and I’m amazed. Our customers are amazed. We’re finding out that people really like what we are doing.”
Linda and Joe manage the office for now, but by the end of next year they plan to turn the operation over to their son. Both find it rewarding to own a true family business. By the end of 2014, the LoSchiavos plan to have three trucks and three technicians on the road.
“It’s very rewarding to hear that the customer is so happy with us. So far, much of our business has been repeat customers and referrals,” Linda said.
Through Mr. Appliance and The Dwyer Group’s PPFA program, the LoSchiavos were able to embark on an exciting second career as franchise owners. After careers serving in challenging and life-threatening situations, many firefighters and law enforcement officers have opted to retire early or choose to leave the service for personal lifestyle reasons. However, like the LoSchiavos, many choose to continue using their leadership expertise through business ownership.
The PPFA program awards a 20 percent discount on the initial franchise fee for a base territory—100,000 population—for qualified candidates looking to open a franchise within The Dwyer Group’s family of brands: Aire Serv®, Glass Doctor®, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric®, Mr. Rooter®, Rainbow International®, and The Grounds Guys®.
By Heather Conley-Spangler, Franchise Phones
In the service industry there is no room for missed opportunity. A live answer is essential to the bottom line and to keeping a business fully engaged with current customers and future prospects. So how can a small business owner manage their calls, keep their customers happy and stay on budget? One solution could be a Call Queue.
Why a Call Queue?
A Call Queue is a feature rich option and industry best practice shared among leading franchises that helps businesses thrive in a highly competitive marketplace. A lost call is lost revenue, which is why no call should ever go unanswered. With a Call Queue, even during the busiest of times, callers can be placed on hold and hear a personalized greeting announcing special services or promotions. If all phone lines are in use, customers can hear a specific notice in regards to their hold time or placement. For example, “There are three callers ahead of you.”
Having a Call Queue can help you track your marketing dollars. At Franchise Phones we offer Call Queue system that identifies inbound calls by the phone number dialed. When looking into phone service companies, also be sure to look at reporting features. It may help to have a nightly report of calls emailed directly to you or one of your staff.
A reporting feature that allows you to track calls in and out of the Call Queue is important. For instance, Franchise Phones has a Real Time dashboard that indicates what calls were handled by which agent, call duration, and call source. Agents can manually log into or out of our system. This allows them to automatically ring a phone after a specific amount of time, which is particularly helpful during high call volume times.
For those organizations with multiple brands, there are multiple Message on Hold options. A unique message for every brand owned and operated can be established. If a caller can’t hold, they have an option at any time to redirect to a live answer or voicemail. Thus, the concern for a missed sales or service opportunity is eradicated.
A Call Queue can also give your business the flexibility to take a call from anywhere. Inclement weather or a power outage can always raise a concern. At Franchise Phones, we offer the option of Auto-Failover which allows all calls to be re-routed to one or more phone numbers.
Finding ways to set a business apart from a competitor can be time consuming and costly. A Call Queue not only creates a market place edge, but it projects a professional image that steps-up the level of customer service from ordinary to extraordinary.
FranchisePhones, powered by Clarity, is the leading provider of hosted VoIP PBX solutions in North America. FranchisePhones is an easy and safe choice for franchise owners with Clarity’s Business-Class Quality and Reliability, the largest coverage area in the U.S. and Canada, and Customer Support dedicated to franchise success. FranchisePhones is the 2011 and 2012 ProTradeNet® Vendor of the Year and part of the preferred vendor network The Dwyer Group® offers to its franchisees.
Lisa McCarthy, Co-Founder, Out Of The Box Technology
You make yet another phone call, only to hear a recording that the line has been disconnected. You send a letter certified mail, only to get it returned unopened. Now what? Unfortunately, trying to collect a long overdue balance is often unsuccessful. When that happens, your accounts receivable balance for that customer turns to bad debt.
When you have exhausted all efforts to collect from a customer, you will need to remove the receivable from your books. This is known as a bad debt write-off. Here are two ways to accomplish this in QuickBooks:
First, you can enter a journal entry, debiting a Bad Debt expense account and crediting Accounts Receivable (be sure to include the customer name). See below.
Or you can use the Discounts And Credits option in the customer Receive Payment window to write off the balance of a particular customer invoice(s). Use a Bad Debt expense account as your discount account. See below.
Note—if sales tax is involved, create a credit memo to the customer, using a “bad debt” item (directed to the account for bad debt expense), and mark the item as taxable. QuickBooks will reduce the sales tax liability account accordingly. You will need to edit the amount on the bad debt line to reflect the pretax amount of the write off. See below.
Finally, be sure to apply the journal entry or credit memo to the outstanding invoice(s). Better yet, avoid bad debt altogether! It may help to set-up appropriate credit policies and limits for your customers.
Out Of The Box Technology does everything QuickBooks! Out Of The Box Technology installs, sets up, designs and trains small to medium size businesses on QuickBooks so that business owners can get the most out of their software. They handle any QuickBooks issue – big or small. Out Of The Box Technology also offers bookkeeping and IT networking solutions and support. Out Of The Box Technology is also a participant in ProTradeNet®, the preferred vendor network The Dwyer Group® offers to its franchisees.
“If I change my name, I’ll lose all of my customers. I’ll have to start my business all over again from scratch.”
Choosing to franchise can be a tough decision for a small business owner who has a well established name in his or her community. The owner fears that once the business adopts a new name and a new look, this could alienate or confuse a client base that has taken years to build.
Naturally, the business owner wouldn’t want his efforts to be all for not should he take on a franchise, and neither is that in the interest of the franchisor. The franchisor should provide the training and expertise necessary in assisting the business owner in rebranding.
“When a new franchisee comes into the system, we emphasize that maintaining communication with the business’ existing client base is critically important. Also, when an existing business transitions to the franchise brand, we encourage the business owner to play up the positives to their clients, such as being part of a national network, advanced training and more efficient systems,” said Rainbow International® Sure Start Coordinator Craig Gjelsten.
4 Areas of Change
The time it takes to make the complete transformation will depend on the agreement between the franchisor and the franchisee, the size and structure of the existing business, and the training process. The Dwyer Group® recommends new franchisees allow about three months to transition to one of their brands. Below are five basic categories where business owners may expect to make the most changes in their existing business and how those changes could affect the customer.
1. Marketing Rebranding – Rebranding is the first step in the transition process and it occurs rather quickly. The franchisor is prepared with all the needed marketing materials such as van wraps, brochures, ads and templates for your location’s website. Technology allows the business’ existing phone number, email address and website to be redirected to new ones under the franchisee’s name.
2. Equipment/Technology – Depending on the existing business, it may need additional equipment and training. Often times, a new franchisee will expand its repertoire of services under the brand. Existing customers can take advantage of additional services from the people they’ve come to know and trust.
3. Financial Restructuring – Many franchisors have software and reporting methods that relate specifically the franchise business system. These tools provide more detailed financial information for the owner to build a successful business. Additionally, part of the financial restructuring could also entail a change in the business’ pricing scheme. If so, it’s important that the business owner take time to explain the enhanced quality of service and value associated with this change.
4. Organizational Restructuring – Under a franchise brand, the systems are put in place to help the owner be more efficient and effective. This leaves the business owner time to strategically build his business.
Communication Is Key
Successful new franchisees communicate with their customers and set the customer’s expectations.
“One thing we are big on is communication. We find that most of our new franchisees have a close relationship with their customers. They are excited about the transformation taking place in their business and that gets their customers excited. Ultimately, we want to assist them in providing the best service they possibly can,” said The Grounds Guys® Sure Start Coordinator Steven West.
Before making the decision to purchase a franchise, the business owner should research the franchisor’s support mechanisms in place that help new franchisees convert their business. Although the business owners will make changes to their businesses when adopting a brand name, they aren’t starting over. A business owner brings to the table knowledge of his local market, business contacts, technicians and staff, experience working in the trade and a customer base. All of the areas of a business that the owner has worked hard to cultivate fit into a franchise model and are a valuable asset to the new franchisee.
Be sure to read about the #1 franchising myth and franchising myth#2. We’ll be continuing the Myths of Franchising series over the next few weeks, subscribe to the Morning Huddle blog to catch the next update.
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By Jay Holland
Kelly Ramos and Victor Ramos started their business in May 2009 as a one-truck operation. As they grew, they knew they needed systems to make their business more efficient and to help reach their goals. Kelly knew systems were the key to operating any business having worked in her parents’ Mr. Rooter® business in Asheville, NC. In August 2011, the Ramos’ bought their franchise in Asheville, N.C. In 2012, with established marketing and presentation techniques, they were able to land key contracts in their market. Less than two years later, The Grounds Guys® of Asheville has grown considerably in 2013. We spent a few minutes with Kelly to understand her business and how they have been able to be able to succeed.
What was the biggest change after you purchased your franchise?
It was the confidence we had with the brand behind us. We believe we can go after any property and have the confidence that we are not just any other lawn company.
Tell me about your team members?
We started with three team members and are now up to six. It is really crucial that we now have the ability to keep three of our core team members on full-time throughout the winter.
How do you attract such quality team members?
It’s all about the Culture of CARE and our hiring process. The CARE questionnaire works every time. You can tell immediately who will be a good fit for our company and with the other team members. The key is to get a great core group of team members, and they will recruit for the company. Employees’ referrals are essential in finding other like-minded individuals. I really believe in providing a great place to work. The little things like coffee and donuts go a long way in boosting team morale. We really focus on a culture of learning in our company. If a team member is willing to learn, we will teach them everything we know. That’s how they move up within our organization. It sometimes is as simple as switching from a string trimmer to a mower or how to become licensed applicator. We believe in building the people we work with.
How have you been able to increase your sales volume and land quality contracts?
It all starts with the marketing activities and getting an opportunity to provide a proposal. Once you get the opportunity, the key is finding exactly what they are looking for. Make sure you make notes. As you prepare your quotes, make sure the adjustments meet their specifications, and meet exactly what they are wanting. The way GroundsNet allows us to detail each specification and line item really separates
The Grounds Guys from the competition in our market. The customer knows what each service costs and really helps them understand what they are paying for.
What makes your company so good at getting them to sign on the dotted line?
Well, you still have to market, estimate and provide proposals, but once they have it in their hand, it is FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP! Sometimes we follow up with potential contracts for six months or more. It might be an email, a phone call or just stopping by. It is all in the follow up. Our customers are really busy, so you have to remind them that you still are out there and still want to work with them.
Why do you make it a point to meet with your franchise consultant once a month?
The main reason is because it holds me accountable in getting my financial reports it a timely manner. You also learn things that you thought you knew. The biggest one for me is understanding the cash flow in my business. My franchise consultant and I sat down and put together a budget for the year for my business. I was concerned with operating cash throughout the growing season. In this business, pricing correctly and managing Cost of Goods (COGS) is crucial. I was able to understand that pricing and management of my teams was not far off where it should be, but that my COGS (labor, fuel, etc.) was not in line with cash because of my 12-month contract structure with my customers. This showed me I needed to save cash this winter (2012-13) when our COGS are at their lowest. The ability to save cash will allow me to cover our fixed cost and debt during this upcoming season when we produce 90 percent of our work and our COGS are again at their highest.
What are your long-term goals with the business?
Our goal purchasing a franchise was to sell our business or have a general manager to take over the day-to-day operations of the business within seven years. We are still a long way away, but I am confident we can get there.
If you had one suggestion for a new or existing franchisee, what would it be?
Remember why you started! Take time to regroup, and push toward your goals.
Whether you are looking to start a business from the ground up or looking for ways to enhance your current lawn and landscape business, The Grounds Guys franchise offers training, consultation and a professional marketing team that could assist you. To find out more visit www.GroundsGuysFranchise.com or call 1 (866) 696-1504.
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Aire Serv will be attending the Comfortech® 2013 Showcase hosted on September 18th - 20th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa. As part of this year’s events on the showcase floor, Aire Serv will be giving away a flat screen television to one qualifying attendee. So be sure to stop by their booth #563, and visit Franchise Directors, Bruce Knudson, Justin Poston, and Bruce Fadal. Not only can you be entered for a chance to win a free television, but you can also discuss new business opportunities and growth strategies with three of Aire Serv’s top developers.
With 165 locations in North America, Aire Serv provides access to a diverse and an in-depth array of business knowledge and expertise including: industry best practices, leadership, financial and marketing training, and continued off-site support through regional meetings and a dedicated franchise consultant. Not only does Aire Serv provide an exceptional business experience for its franchisees and customers, but Aire Serv integrates a Code of Values® from the executive level to the front-line service employees, focusing on respect, integrity, customer focus, and having fun in the process.
“Aire Serv is about so much more than just business,” says Bruce Knudson, the Team Leader for Aire Serv Franchise Development. “Yes, we can offer you tested systems to help your business grow, but more importantly, our developers and coaches have a vested interest in helping our franchisee achieve their personal and professional goal no matter what they may be.”
Find the Aire Serv team at Comfortech® 2013:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
September 18th - 20th
For more information about franchise opportunities in the HVAC industry or more advice about how you can grow your business, fill out the form on the right of this page, and a franchise developer will contact you for a free consultation. For more information about The Dwyer Group® and the seven service oriented franchise options it offers visit the website at www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com.
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According to AMA Research, a market research company, the future prospects of the domestic heating and cooling market are looking promising with planned government measures such as the Green Deal and the roll-out of smart meters across the United Kingdom. With new environmental legislation and market opportunities in the replacement sector, now could be the perfect time to consider starting a heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration enterprise.
In fact, one of the United Kingdom’s fastest growing domestic and commercial service providers is Aire Serv®, a franchise company world-renowned for its unparalleled customer service. For many, the Aire Serv franchise has allowed both experienced contractors and Service Professionals with no technical heating and air-conditioning experience to take part in what the industry has to offer. The franchise model allows the business owner to move into the market with minimal start-up time, and the familiar brand name helps establish a customer base.
One of Aire Serv’s top franchisees in the United Kingdom is Stan Barlow. Stan operates an existing commercial contracting business, as well as a Mr. Electric® franchise in Cornwall. Rolling an Aire Serv into the mix allowed the company to diversify into new markets and increase revenue. Steve Barlow is the General Manager of the franchise.
“Down in Cornwall you tend to find the winters very, very busy and then it quiets down in the summer. On the air conditioning side, everyone is down on holiday during the summer and we can stay busy. So we thought if we could streamline the disciplines it would keep our company busy all through the year,” Steve said.
The existing company would often receive inquiries to provide heating and air conditioning services, but before purchasing an Aire Serv, the company would have given that work away.
“Facilities management companies get a lot of the work, because they can come in and do the plumbing, the electric, the gas, the air conditioning. We thought if we could just offer another service as well as offering our electrical services, we could find additional customers on the back of that. It seemed to be a nice fit,” said Steve.
Although the Barlow’s had experience in the contracting business and could have likely started their own organisation from the ground-up, the franchised business opportunity allowed the company to start quickly with a professional image.
“My father comes from a marketing and sales background in London. He felt he would get the same kind of backing from Aire Serv, with the smart uniforms, advertising and the paperwork. We saw the Aire Serv franchise as a way to pick up more domestic clients,” Steve said.
As a company that is committed to its franchisees personal and professional success, Mr. Electric has assisted many in reinvigorating their careers. The company is keen to hear from anyone who wants to learn more about the franchise business opportunity. Special incentives are also given to qualified candidates who have served in the armed services or as a public defender. For more information call 1 (800) 583-2662 or visit www.AireServFranchise.com.
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By Dianna Worthington
Piping up when you should be piping down is hard to do when you have the answer! The plain truth is, most customers need to be led to the answer rather than have it handed to them the moment you walk in the door. Step 8 of the 14 steps in the Mr. Rooter® plumbing system is “Take Control.” This step is critical in getting the customer talking. Taking control does not mean monopolizing the conversation. It simply means take control of where the conversation is going by asking the right questions.
Knowing the answer doesn’t mean you should give it right away, and having all the answers doesn’t mean you should give them all away.
Yes, you have the answers to fix their plumbing problem, but asking the right questions and allowing the customer to come to the right conclusion, as you expertly guide them, will help you close the deal. Bottom line: Don’t forget to stop talking!
The key to using this strategy is knowing when to be quiet and just listen. Ask the question, make the recommendation and then stop talking. Be quiet, and give the customer a chance to answer. They may need time to think. Maintain comfortable eye contact, adopt a relaxed posture and wait. One of the keys to being liked and gaining trust is to listen more than you talk. Listening is often one of the hardest things to do when you are trying to close a deal — especially if the silence stretches for more than a few seconds. Learn to embrace the silence, and use it as an opportunity to think about what you should do or say next. If you need to make a statement, always follow it with a question in order to keep the conversation moving in the right direction. (Examples: “Do you agree?” “Does that make sense?” or “Would you like me to get started right away?”)
Asking the customer the right questions to lead them to the answer will help them make a decision.
If you want to get back to the basics in our industry, you must remember we offer a service and offering a service involves a transaction. If you can’t understand the basic, simple process of selling the job, your closing average is going to suffer. For Mr. Rooter, back to the basics means expertly using our 14 Steps and the “tech-knowledge” our front line has in order to interact with the customer successfully. Remember, taking control is not just about having the right questions and the right answers. It’s also about knowing when to stop talking. A technician may have the knowledge and experience, but must acquire the wisdom and skills to understand the art of controlling the conversation and allowing the customer the opportunity to help close the deal.
To learn more about Mr. Rooter business systems and how a franchise may be able to take your business to the next level through established business practices, visit www.MrRooterFranchise.com or call 1 (866) 696-1504.
Customer trust is a major contributor to the success of any service-based company. Business Consultants, a team that offers advice to small business owners, recently reported that 68% of customers switch service providers because they feel that the employees are indifferent to their needs as a customer. With the potential loss of so many customers, it is critical for business owners to proactively reinforce the importance of each customer to their staff. In particular, for businesses that rely solely on one employee to represent their company, like a technician, teaching staff how to treat customers is even more crucial. Establishing and enforcing a code of action for technicians is a great way to ensure consistency and encourage customer loyalty in a business.
“The two biggest complaints customers give,” says Chad Rhoden, director of technical services at Rainbow International®, “are that technicians are not where they say and that they don’t do what they say.”
In order to ensure that customers are treated properly by the staff, the associates at Rainbow International used previous customer complaints to createa 17-step process that is consistently enforced and emphasized throughout employee training. This 17-step process ensures that everything from an employee’s arrival at the customer’s home to a follow-up after the job is completed creates an extraordinary customer experience. These 17-steps allow technicians at Rainbow International to exceed expectations and provide customers with an exceptional experience. Similarly, having a universal set of standards for employee behavior keeps technicians consistent in their appearance, communication, and work ethic which, in turn, creates a consistent and reliable system within the company.
With a little time, careful thought, and some trial and error, any business owner can create their own step-by-step process for customer interaction. However, any process developed should begin with the following four anchors to customer interaction.
- The Approach: Technicians should inspire trust in their customers from the very beginning of the interaction so that customers feel comfortable letting them into their homes. Appearance and professionalism are crucial to the success of the first impression.
- The Interview: Technicians should create a great relationship with the customer by easing any of their concerns about who they are, what they do, and what company they represent. After a great initial rapport is established and the customer is comfortable, technicians should proceed with the task.
- The Wrap-Up: Time should be scheduled at the end of each job that allows customers time to ask questions and address any additional concerns.
- The Follow-Up: Give the customers a call once the job is completed to make sure all their needs were met and they are happy with the service provided. This serves two purposes. First, for happy customers, it reinforces their positive experience. Second, for unhappy customers, it allows the owner to both identify the problems and also to repair the relationship to the customer to ensure that their business is not lost without explanation.
For business owners, consistency separates the best from the rest. Having a written code of conduct can be essential to gaining a significant advantage in a competitive market. For more information about Rainbow International and their 17-Steps visit http://www.rainbowintl.com/. For information regarding the different franchise opportunities offered by The Dwyer Group® visit us at www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com.
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