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.”
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The holidays are a great reason for your business to reach out to your customers. Whether you’re in the plumbing business, landscaping or perhaps electrical repair, no matter the service, here are four ideas to keep your business top of mind going into the New Year.
#1 Send A Holiday E-card
Email is a cost effective and simple way to stay in touch with your customers. The holiday season is the perfect time to thank your customers for their business and also offer them something special—maybe a 20% discount on a maintenance plan heading into the New Year or a free service on your next visit. Offering a small service for free or at a significant discount gets your foot in the door with that customer. Play around with creating your email’s subject line, as it is the first thing your customer will read.
#2 Sponsor A Charity
Create a campaign or event challenging your customers to help your business in a worthy cause. Not only are you doing a good thing for your community, but the “Halo Effect” casts a positive view of your business among customers. Nobody likes a Scrooge during the holidays, but for those running an HVAC or landscape business, those service calls may be down in the winter months. If you’re on a tight budget, a business can still contribute significantly by volunteering time to its favorite charity.
#3 Participate In An Event As A Company
The holidays are prime time for community events. Connect with your team and your community by participating in a parade, fun run, or Christmas tree lighting ceremony donning shirts with your company’s name. For simply the cost of the shirts, you can make hundreds to thousands of impressions just by being present at a local event.
#4 Add A Little Holiday Cheer
In the service industry, it’s all about the details. If you’re looking to give a small gift to your customers, consider investing in promotional product with your logo and company contact info. A calendar with quick tips and reminders about your services throughout the year is practical for the customer and also gets your message across. And remember: “The best way to kill a bad product is with great marketing.” Once you’ve implemented your plan, be sure to follow through on your promises and provide a great service. It’s important that your technicians understand the importance of going above and beyond this time of year. December can be a stressful time in the home without a backed-up toilet or malfunctioning microwave. Innovative marketing combined with expert, professional service is what makes a “Cheerleader Customer” who will sing your praises.
As part of The Dwyer Group® network of franchises, business owners receive professional marketing services. They also gain insight from connections with more than 1,600 franchisees world-wide. Learn more about The Dwyer Group’s seven service brands—Aire Serv®, Glass Doctor®, Mr. Appliance®, Mr. Electric®, Mr. Rooter®, The Grounds Guys® and Rainbow International®—by calling 1 (866) 696-1504 or at www.LeadingTheServiceIndustry.com.
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Korey Kaigle is one of the youngest franchisees in The Dwyer Group® family. At 23-years-old, Korey is employed fulltime by the Army and owns his own The Grounds Guys® franchise, a business he started at 22.
Born and raised in Swanton, Vt., Korey served in the Army National Guard for six years as a medevac Crew Chief on Blackhawk helicopters. He served in Iraq from 2010-2011. Upon his arrival back to the United States, Korey began researching opportunities to own his own business and saw opportunity in The Grounds Guys.
“They allow me to be myself, but made me an entrepreneur and gave me potential. I see a lot of groundskeepers in the area but they limit themselves because they can’t expand,” Korey said. “The Grounds Guys gives me an opportunity to grow and have a support team. I’ve never been in business, and they gave me the tools I needed.”
Recently, The Burlington Free Press featured the incredible story of the local soldier turned entrepreneur.
Korey is one of more than 230 military service men and women and veterans that own a Dwyer Group franchise business. Through the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative the company has given nearly $1.5 million in franchise discounts to transitioning military personnel and current veterans.
In 1991, The Dwyer Group the founded the VetFran program, a voluntary effort of International Franchise Association (IFA) member companies to encourage franchise ownership by offering business franchise opportunities and financial incentives to honorably discharged veterans. The company’s mission with VetFran program is to help veterans achieve their dreams and goals by being in business for themselves. Learn more at http://www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com/VetFran.asp.
What is public relations, and should I be doing it? If you’ve ever found yourself asking this question, here’s some news: you’re already doing it. Public relations (PR) is simply the flow of communication between you and the public. So, how is your communication doing? Is it proactive, or reactive?
The number one thing that you can do to improve your local PR is to ensure that your frontline customer service is top-notch. If your customer service is lacking, then focus your energy on that area before you attempt any mass communications. Any increase in traffic from media coverage will only amplify your business’s deficiencies, and will drive those new customers away if they aren’t responded to in a timely and courteous fashion. Read more
By Laura Shaheen
With autumn here and firmly entrenched, it’s time to give your company’s holiday marketing schedule some serious consideration. The holidays are one of the best times to reach your customers. Sluggish summer habits get a burst of energy with the snap of the cold and the thought of holiday parties and gift giving. Use this time wisely to attract more customers, and to better serve your current clients.
1.) Make plans: It’s easy to foresee using a fall and winter marketing schedule, but less clear cut to actually establish one. Plan for the holiday months early, and determine any promotions or discounts you’d like to run. Coordinate these promotions with your bursts of advertising or direct mail—haphazard planning in this regard has been many a company’s downfall.
2.) Utilize a direct mail campaign: Once you’ve run the numbers and determined which promotions or marketing you can afford to run, use direct mail campaigns to educate your customers. Consider synching your mailing campaign with promotional e-mails, blog updates, and social media promotion. The more cohesive, the better.
3.) Make your company website holiday appropriate: This doesn’t mean changing the company colors to red and green and posting a garish, bright holiday banner across the top of the page. In fact, we might recommend against such updates. However, talk to your graphics and web designers about sprucing up the company page with a few little holiday reminders. For inspiration in this regard, think Google’s mostly subtle logo changes. It never hurts for a few quick prompt about the holidays to jog a customer’s memory.
4.) Update website user-friendliness: It’s reasonable to expect higher website traffic in the fall and winter months, mostly due to the circumstances of the weather and events. For companies in the home repair business, you can bet things will start going wrong the day before a customer’s house party, or just when the temperature dips below freezing. Be prepared for an influx of web traffic by updating parts of the company website. If you’re in the retail business, is your shopping cart button prominent on every page? Is it simple to purchase from your company? The last thing you need is a lengthy product purchase process that allows customers to get distracted and put off buying. Consider utilizing wishlists or other interactive ways to encourage turning one time buyers in loyal customers.
5.) Utilize SEO: Like we mentioned in our previous blog on SEO, don’t be afraid to make your company as search-friendly as possible. This might include upping the number of blog posts, or changing the titles of your pages to include some more relevant search terms.
At the heart of the matter, all that this comes down to is effective preparation. Be sure that you’re ready for the changing weather and tides of consumerism. Have quality staff, effective promotions and proper schedules set aside. Such arrangements can mean the difference between coming into the holiday months blind and coming in prepared.
By Laura Shaheen
The times of business are changing, and the internet has been at the forefront, leading the charge. Now, instead of searching through phonebooks to find specialized services, most people bring their hunt to the internet. There are endless reasons why: speed, convenience, etc., but also because the internet provides what the yellow pages do not: customer reviews.
As human beings in the internet generation, we feel more comfortable in taking advice from complete strangers than simply picking a name from a hat. Typically, this is a good thing. Truly excellent businesses are allowed to shine through their positive reviews, while their lesser competition gets bogged down by deserved negative reviews. However, there are always the one of two negative reviews that really scare people off of a certain service or company. There reviews might be there for a whole host of reasons. Honestly, some people simply like to stir up trouble. They might have had a less than satisfactory time with your company, or perhaps they’re mistaking you for a different company. No matter the reason, negative reviews need to be dealt with, for better or worse.
But how? You may ask. I have no control over the website and this review is chasing off sales!
Never fear, there is hope. Follow these tips to battle negativity and encourage likability and your company will reap the benefits of a greater and more positive online presence.
1.) Stay calm and never lash out when angry: There are probably very few things in the world more aggravating than Googling your company only to encounter an atrocious and malicious negative review about your company. The review might be an outright lie, but the most important thing to remember is to never lash out when angry. The internet is like an elephant, it never forgets, and people have long memories. If another prospective customer logs on, reads a negative review and then reads you screaming back at the negative customer, they aren’t going to be prospective for long. Remove yourself from the situation and do not post anything for at least 24 hours. By then hopefully your rage will have cooled, and you can begin to make amends to your online reputation.
2.) Offer to meet and discuss the issue: So you’ve waited 24 hours, you log back in and the review still gets your blood boiling. That’s normal, especially if the critique is warrantless. The best way to run damage control on the situation is to respond to the review in a calm, collected manner and offer to make reparations. Perhaps you could respond by saying: I’m sorry you feel this way about your recent service with Your Company. We would like to get to the bottom of this issue. Please contact us at this number, or feel free to come into our office to discuss your situation personally. We look forward to seeing you. This approach doesn’t just nip the issue in the bud, it makes you look coolly rational and willing to deal with even the most fractious consumers.
3.) Don’t get bulldozed: No matter the business, there will always be people in the world bent on tugging the tiger’s tail. These people might be looking to take advantage of you, or perhaps chancing on the bet that you would rather pay them off than deal with them. They might be looking for refunds or rebates, and they most likely will have done things like this before. If you truly look at the situation and realize that they are making outrageous demands with no fact to substantiate them, do not simply give in to what effectively is blackmail. They are holding your company’s reputation hostage, and giving in will not serve the company’s best interests. Be polite, but firm.
4.) Ask yourself if there truly is a problem: Though there are always the pranksters and scum looking to simply ruin a day, oftentimes customers who post negative reviews really do feel cheated and wronged, and this is something to take very seriously. Perhaps your employees mishandled a situation, or maybe something went wrong on your end. Investigation into complaints can turn your most staunch opponent into your biggest fan if you resolve their issue quickly and show that you value their opinion.
5.) Build reputation in other ways, effectively drowning out the bad noise: A lot of the time, you cannot simply wave a magic wand and remove the bad review from the review site. The best way to counter a bad review is to drown it out with positive ones. Give people a little credit, most people will not take the one negative review seriously if it is lost in the flow of happy customers. Build your company’s reputation by providing excellent service, but also by boosting your online presence. This will also help with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and will drown out the negative voices.
1.) Converse, don’t just sell: People don’t want to be lectured to, and the minute you start rolling into a sales pitch, oftentimes people begin building their reasons why not to submit. Build relationships and it will become their idea to use your services. The different is palpable.
2.) Respond! The glories of social media: Oh social media. You’ve added a face and a personality to companies. No longer are we simple names in the phonebook, or even an address on the web. Now, through social media, companies are living, breathing entities that can interact personally with their customers. If a customer posts something on your Facebook, negative or positive, write back to them.
3.) Inquire and ask for opinions: People love to give their opinions and they love to answer questions. Make your social media pages as interactive as possible and your online reputation will become infinitely more likeable.
4.) Honesty and genuineness: Perhaps the most important point, it’s very easy to read something for its genuineness. Your customers are going to go with the company that they feel is the most honest, hardworking and which will ultimately give them the best deal and experience. Allow your honesty to shine through and negative reviews will become a moot point.
How many of you say (or hear your grandparents/parents say) “You’ll attract more flies with honey than vinegar!”? I am in NO way comparing our valued customers to bothersome insects, but I am trying to make a point.
Are you utilizing your methods of social media correctly? Are you employing social media in a way to keep and attract customers’ attention and interest, or have you become the page that people click “Ignore” or (Gasp!) “UNLIKE”?
Below, I hope you all will find valuable ways to keep the customer first and foremost in the mind. A business is NOTHING without customers, and building your customer following can start, or continue, with online social media.
That golden, goopy, sweet and delicious honey:
Dear Abby [Insert franchise name here]! A primary reason customers look to connect with companies via social media or by Google is because they need you to fix something. If you provide it, they will come. Have the easy-peesy answers to simple questions available at their convenience, but also invite them to ask you directly via an @name tweet or message on Facebook. A great way to boost your following is to simply provide a fun tip each day.
A GREAT example is @MrAppliance. They search for comments on Twitter with “broken” or an appliance name, and respond directly to those users with, “No need to make food in the microwave. Look up the nearest Mr. Appliance and give them a call. We can fix it!” You have to give people a reason for sticking around and remaining a fan of your page or Twitter account.
Good PR is a two-way street! How to improve a service if there is no feedback? People REALLY like to feel like their opinions matter (AND THEY DO!) When you invite them to comment on service, it makes them feel more valued and not just your average, run-of-the-mill customer. If you invest more interest in their opinion, you have a friend/customer for life. Not to mention those wonderful “how are we doing?” posts you can put on Facebook and Twitter, fearlessly inviting the world to see how your customers view you. Those companies with guts are able to handle anything, even a bad review. Ask how you can improve it!
SALE ON AISLE 8! Let’s face it, people LOVE bargains, coupons, ANYTHING to save them money. The primary reason customers connect with brands is to take advantage of promotions or coupons, so bring it to them in the simplest of ways, a click away!
Customers are willing to “like” a page with the hopes that the brand will “thank them” by giving them a discount or special offer. When you’re creating these offers, aim higher than the mundane and average, “10% off…” Make sure it’s something unique and is an offer people will want to cash in.
Guarantee a coupon for following on both Twitter AND Facebook. Host contests on Twitter with trivia related to your concept and award the first 10 people who respond with the answer and your @direct name! Make sure you are reaching out to people in the way they WANT to be reached out to; the new-age of social media is upon us, people!
Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh! Okay, no one likes a sourpuss with absolutely NO sense of humor…But a class clown isn’t exactly what we are shooting for. You want to show the world your personable side, without losing their confidence in your brand.
There is no harm in posting a link to something funny (within good taste/reason), to a recipe or to something you support (like The Ronald McDonald Charity House, Relay for Life, etc.). Don’t bombard them with opinion, stay out of politics, but make them realize you aren’t an automaton that posts blogs, never reads comments, doesn’t care what people are thinking, etc. Have a blog that details what you did with your family, post pictures of the grandkids; essentially help them to get to know you.
But here comes the vinegar…
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I was always taught, religion and politics are NOT dinner conversations. Don’t make following you on Twitter or Facebook an awkward or embarrassing fact. I know I have deleted a cousin or two who spouted off religion-related rants or politic-fueled fodder just because I didn’t want others to see it!
Be Switzerland. Make sure you allow your followers their rants about your service (or praises!). If you invite it, it will be given. Treat each and every comment as if it will help your image, (and you would be surprised, bad comments help too!)
Don’t start pointing your finger or criticizing the customer, because who knows, maybe they will remain loyal to you! Instead of censoring their messages because it’s not nice, have a public discussion with that customer on how to improve!
I. Am. A. Robot. Another reason people’s fingers hover over that “Unfollow” or “Unlike” button is because they can’t get around your updates and Tweets to see others! Don’t flood the screen with information.
A Tweet or three a day will suffice. A question or blog update twice or thrice a week will do. Don’t change directions so many times that you lose their interest. You can even have a theme per week, if it floats your boat! You know your audience best, so go from there!
Tumbleweed Tweeter. You know those old Westerns where, to emphasize nothingness, a big tumbleweed floats across the screen? Do NOT be that tumbleweed! You are emphasizing to your customers that you CARE, therefore you need to actually be there… I know, it’s a shocker.
You want your image to be between a season veteran grandpa of five and a helicopter parent. Show you care enough to let them comment freely on your brand, while also emphasizing that you are there to help with absolutely anything they need. (Pretty spot on, don’t you think?)
If you start something, like a blog, Twitter account, Facebook or something else, maintain it! Nothing annoys people more when they go to the trouble to find you online, only to have you disappear on them. What was the point?