For any company, being recognized, liked, and trusted is the perfect formula to ensuring a steady customer base, but once you’re able to attract customers, the key to retaining consistent and loyal customers all comes down to providing a killer customer service experience. However,”killer customer service” can go both ways. You can provide an exceptional customer experience, or…you get a very angry customer.
Which kind of killer customer service do you want to offer your customers, bad customer service or an exceptional experience?
Now, national level brands have a great advantage when it comes to customer recruitment, especially when it comes to being recognized by customers. With larger advertising budgets and the added bonus of national level recognition, national brands are easy find on the internet and consistent with their messaging, pricing, and services. That’s extremely hard to duplicate as a small business owner.
But where small businesses can compete with these national brands is at the level of TRUST that you inspire in your customers. How can you use the customer service experience that you provide to build TRUST in the eyes of your customers?
But first, let’s go back to the angry housewife theory. In the service industry, there are some very simple ways to very quickly lose your customers, such as:
- Inconveniencing the customer by arriving late or not showing up.
- Not returning phone calls or service requests in a timely fashion.
- Overwhelming customers by using too much technical jargon.
- Using Inconsistent or unsubstantiated services or pricing.
- Forgetting to follow up with your customers.
- Disrespecting their property by making a mess, tracking in mud from the outside, etc.
- Disregarding their opinions or acting aloof or uninterested.
In a nutshell, bad customer service is one of the quickest ways to lose your clientele no matter how exceptional the work is that you do.
When technicians or CSRs act in any of these ways while in a home or on the phone, customers lose faith very quickly in the abilities of the business, and you begin to create angry customers that are frustrated with the service that’s been provided. However, customers go to extreme lengths to hide their frustration, and they will even tell you that they are “very satisfied” with your services while simultaneously thinking about all the other competitors that they could call the next time something breaks in their home.
Ultimately, you want to provide an exceptional customer service experience that gives customers confidence in your abilities to handle any problem that they may have with expertise and professionalism.
Are your customers your cheerleaders?
Customer service is the new form of marketing, and with the availability of the Internet and social media, it’s easier than ever before for customers to spread good or bad reviews about your company. If you have a collection of exceptionally excited customers, marketing basically takes care of itself. The problem with getting to that point is that more often than not, customers don’t actually tell you what they are thinking. They say one thing, and then on the other side of the phone they’re rolling their eyes at you.
In fact, more than 80% of departing customers describe themselves as “satisfied” or “very satisfied” before making the decision to never re-use your services. This is all due to the three questions that every customer will never ask aloud. At Mr. Appliance®, we refer to these three questions as a way making the “Psychological Sale”. Before a customer ever pays a bill or even invites a technician into their home, they ask themselves these three questions.
Question #1:“Based on my first impression, can I TRUST this person.”
They are judging a technician’s Character and their Charisma. In the first 30 seconds of meeting your technicians, your customers will decide what they do and do not like about that person. The customer will spend the rest of the time that the technician is in their home to justify and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their first impression was correct. You may have heard the saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Most of the time, that is absolutely correct, and every first impression that you, your business, and your employees make is critical to how your customers judge the value and capabilities of your services.
Question #2: Is this person going to make a mess in my home?
Ultimately with this question, the customer is asking themselves, “Do I feel that they will respect me, my family, and my home?” Showing disrespect for a customer’s home, time, or family is one of the fastest ways to lose a customer even if you have done an excellent job with their services and given them a great price. Showing respect comes down to simple things such as: arriving on time or letting the customer know as soon as possible if there will be a delay, excellent grooming and presentation, using polite phrases, listening inventively while they are explaining their problem, etc.
At Mr. Appliance we have an entire 6 step system which ensures that all of our technicians answer these three unasked questions correctly. This six step system also ensures that we know that each and every customer is being treated with the utmost respect because
Question #3: Do I feel that this person will FIX my problem?
Remember, when something breaks in the home, your customer is going to be frustrated with their situation because they are suffering from an emergency, and they will be extremely sensitive to the circumstance. If they don’t believe that the technician has technical skill needed to fix their problem from the moment they meet you their anxiety is only going to escalate. So calm their fears about your expertise by showcasing your professionalism, but remember, technical expertise is not based upon the technical jargon that is used, but rather by making a visible effort understand the customer’s problem and communicate that there is a simple solution with a service that you provide.
When a technician walks up to the door or into a home, they should be confident, collected and convey the sense that they are an expert interested in solving the problem as quickly as possible, but don’t overwhelm your customers with the technical details and terms unless they specifically ask for them.
If you’re interested in knowing more about how your service company can avoid bad customer service and compete in the “killer customer service” market fill out the form on the right side of the page, and we’ll get you in contact with one of our trained Franchise Developers who can walk you through our systems, diversification opportunities, and customer service processes.
Over the next few years, what will cause the majority of customers to abandon their hometown service providers? Even using technology as little as 1-2 years out of date may cause you to lose customers in the future at an unexpected rate.
In a recent Fox Business article, a poll taken by Microsoft of almost 1,500 customers revealed KEY reasons why many businesses may be losing customers at an accelerated rate.
The Bad News
If your customers believe that you are using outdated technology in your business:
- 91% said they would STOP using the business.
- 90% revealed they would go to a competitor using more up-to-date technology.
- 70% of customers would be quite or extremely concerned to work with a company that has an outdated website, and 80% said they would leave before supplying contact information.
The Good News
- 62% of customers would become repeat customers if they believe the business is on the technological edge.
So what do customers consider “outdated technology?” Here are some of the main ways a customer could be viewing your company as “outdated.”
If your business is…
- Not using mobile sites or apps on the job.
- Not at the top of the list when they search for your services on Google.
- Using a computer or running an operating system that is 5 years or older.
- Relying on websites running without high quality graphics and designs.
- Not easily found on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
If your business in in this situation, it’s not too late to make the necessary changes, but keeping up with the trends in technology is extremely difficult without a task force of specialists. That’s why diversifying with a franchise is such an attractive option. If you would like to consult with a franchise expert about managing the changes in technology, best business practices, and more fill out the form on the right side of the page and we will be in touch shortly.
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In the meantime, consider the opportunity that a franchise can bring. Whether you own a pre-existing business, are looking to diversify, or are searching for your next big investment, The Dwyer Group® offers franchise opportunities in seven industries that are designed to promote your personal and professional goals. Our franchise opportunities include: HVAC, Glass, Lawn Care and Landscaping, Appliance Repair, Electrical Maintenance, Plumbing, and Restoration.
By Paul Packevicius, Mr. Electric® Franchise Consultant
How do I get to Carnegie Hall? Train. Train. Train.
Whether it’s studying before the exam or going through the punishing pre-season camp, the key to producing an exceptional customer experience is consistently training employees through role-playing the customer service interaction.
Training requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but in the end, the results are worth it.
I believe sports can be the best analogy to use while discussing the topic, “The Importance of Training Your Employees.” In every sport you will find coaches saying, “games are won in practice.”
If we could equate this analogy to Mr. Electric operations, we can say it is the service professional and CSR training that will win you those profitable jobs and create cheerleader customers. The main reason to engage your team in training activities is that repetition turns into habit. If you consistently train employees to provide exceptional customer service, then exceptional customer service becomes a natural part of your employees fundamentals. Three reasons why you should spend time training your employees:
1. Training will help your employees turn excellent customer service into a habit.
2. Training will help your employees learn new techniques, whether it is sales training or telephone answering.
3. Training will help your employees build your team rapport, learn from each other and create peer accountability that can lead into a healthy competition among your team-members; thus, propelling results to new heights.
Mr. Electric has three ways of implementing training activities:
1. Train employees during scheduled meetings to get your week off to a great start. We recommend franchisees take 15-20 minutes of their meeting and do some role-playing on telephone answering or go over the Mr. Electric customer service system. Starting off the week reviewing how your business interacts with customers and practicing those systems can be beneficial. Mr. Electric also provides training video for its franchisees.
2. Events are a great way to engage your employees and enhance learning. Mr. Electric regional training events are great opportunities for service professionals and/or CSRs in the network. In addition to employees getting better at what they do, owners can use training events to incentivize their team in reaching individual or team goals.
3. Schedule one-on-one training calls or webinars with an expert to train your employees. Mr. Electric provides a designated Franchise Consultant to each franchisee to assist them in one-on-one training.
The success of your business depends on a well-trained team. Remember: “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” Train employees for success, and the results will follow. Read more
Customer Retention: Do you know what it takes?
Do you know what it takes to keep your customers coming back time and time again? Customer Retention is about so much more than getting the job done, it’s about giving your customer’s the best possible experience from the very beginning to the very end.
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The Dwyer Group® offers franchise opportunities in seven industries that are designed for the first time business owner as well as experienced and preexisting businesses. Our franchise opportunities include: HVAC, Glass, Lawn Care and Landscaping, Appliance Repair, Electrical Maintenance, Plumbing, and Restoration. For more information about franchise opportunities in your area, fill out the form on the right side of the page.
By Mandi Hansen, Social Media Specialist at The Dwyer Group®
Most franchise companies have been reluctant to join the social media craze, but some are beginning to discover ways to turn “likes” and “retweets” into a possible sale.
For example, Whole Foods has impressively dominated social media, gathering more than 3.2 million followers on Twitter and 1.1 million fans on Facebook.
Their strategy: Whole Foods encouraged all their stores to start their own accounts and tweet about events at their store and news related to that local area. They also made it a goal to interact with their local customers. To Whole Foods, the conversation with customers is essential to the brand, whether it happens in person, at a store or on a social network.
Companies like Whole Foods are proof that social media does impact sales, and attitudes toward social media within the franchise industry are changing fast.
Follow these tips and take the first steps in becoming more social online.
1. Start with a plan. Posts and tweets should be fun and spontaneous, but they should also be part of your overall social media plan. Think about your target demographics and the topics they might be interested in. Facebook is a given for consumer interaction, but also consider Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, YouTube and, for your personal business profile, LinkedIn. Test the platforms out, and then focus your time on the platforms that give you the most return on investment.
2. Decide who has control. The best way to operate social media is by designating a specific employee to be the “voice” of the page. They must be able to designate time each day to make sure the page is being utilized. There is nothing more irritating for customers than a page that was created and never used. If there is no time to designate to social media or if you don’t feel comfortable operating your business’s social media platform, leave all the work to corporate! Check out AdBuilder monthly for social media posts that you can simply copy and paste daily.
3. Keep it real. Keep your profiles fresh and interactive. Continuous generic content is boring, and will not be beneficial to your social media campaign. An easy way to attract followers is by creating a schedule of contests or discounts.
Make it a point to respond to everyone. If followers pose a question, give a compliment or lodge a complaint, they expect a quick response.
Call to action: if you have questions about how to personalize your business’s social media efforts give The Dwyer Group a call at 1 (866) 696-1504 to learn how our franchise systems, national branding and marketing expertise may be able to assist you. We specialize in franchising for the following types of service businesses: HVAC, electrical, plumbing, landscaping, cleaning and restoration, glass replacement and appliance repair. There’s no obligation and consultation calls are free!
By Bobbi Sullivan, Mr. Rooter® Franchise Consultant
The management of a plumbing and drain business would be a monumental task without implementing S.M.A.R.T. (Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely.) goal setting.
“Goals are defined by success. Not establishing and implementing goals brings the certainty of long-term failure,” says Beall.
Bob, with the support and buy-in of his family and team, set the following goals for his business:
- Create sales enhancement tools that provide the business greater opportunities for success and separate them from their competitors.
- Follow the Mr. Rooter® Plumbing 14-Step System™ and continue to train new plumbing specialists on a regular basis.
- Give back to the communities that have contributed to our success and create a public presence as the number one plumber of choice.
Their strategy began by creating a four-minute Trenchless Technology video and brochure. The video is a combination of the 14-Step System, as well as, the advantages of “lining” instead of replacing a sewer by way of conventional excavation. The video is professionally done and allows the customer to understand the entire process. They all agree that the video is a large part of this success.
Beall also created a two minute video on Tankless Water Heaters that explains the innovative features and benefits. Both of these videos have given Beall’s team an edge over the competition. After all, people buy what they can “see.”
To accomplish goal No. 2 Bob not only made a commitment to send his entire team to Mr. Rooter’s regional Success With Advanced Training (SWAT), but also started presenting SWAT himself. Beall has taken his entire team to every SWAT training opportunity available from Columbus, Ohio to Washington D.C. in the past two years. As a successful franchise depends on following the system, Beall believes that a continual re-embracing of the system turns the 14-Steps into a habit. Recently, Bob has generously traveled to other shops to teach and has invited shops to join him at his locations when holding a SWAT meeting.
Beall added, “Traditional marketing has lost its impact.” Since supporting their community is second nature to the Beall family, introducing the Courteous Plumber at events they sponsor and shows they participate in became the focus to achieve their third goal.
They have sponsored events to raise money for UPMC Children’s Hospital and attended annual Pittsburgh events which include: the Blues Festival, Vintage Grand Prix, Italian and Irish Festivals, parades, Pittsburgh Power and Penguin games, home and trade shows and golf outings. Having the Mr. Rooter mascot attend these functions adds enjoyment for the whole family. Beall also offers expert plumbing advice through the Internet, which has built trust from the community.
Joe Kijowski, Beall’s general manager, commands strong leadership in the Ohio market by meeting realistic and timely goals. Relationships have been built with Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, the Caring for Community Campaign and relevant environmental Green Team Recycling community goals.
“I’ve been fortunate in building an efficient team of credible, forthright and teachable front line employees,” said Beall. “This was a prerequisite in order to achieve the organization’s goals. I believe that success in the workplace depends on the ability to build a valuable team that understands and participates in achieving the organization’s goals. Together, people are able to accomplish what one person alone cannot.”
Beall’s family-oriented philosophy, driven work ethic and achievement in overcoming the challenge of being legally blind has taught him that living up to your values (organizationally and individually) has tremendous business worth.
“It enhances reputation in the business community and builds long-term business relationships with customers,” said Beall.
Most recently, the Beall’s added their third market with the purchase of the Dayton, Ohio franchise. “This responsibility adds additional challenges. I have a measurable system in place and a strong team that will enable me to take on the day-to-day activities without hesitation,” added Beall.
“With customer satisfaction as our top priority, courtesy is and will remain the most important tool in our toolbox.” When the customer comes first, according to Beall, “the customer will last. It’s our job every day to make every aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
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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