4 Outbound Rules You Need to Start Breaking

Some rules are like un-forked fried chicken:

In Gainesville, Georgia, it’s illegal to eat fried chicken…

…with a fork. A confused tourist got arrested for that in 2009.

Here’s the point.

Some rules are made to be broken, or at least ignored.

Today we’ll focus on the unwritten rules that’ll slowly crush your profits unless you break them first.

This is how to bring your outbound system to the next level, by breaking foolish rules.

Rule-to-Break #1: “It’s Okay to Have a Slow Season.”

The most deadly company-killer is a poorly managed slow-season.

All but the best of your competitors have bored individuals filling in their time with brainless busy-work just to look productive during the slow season.

That’s a valuable opportunity for you, for obvious reasons.

Who wrote the unwritten rule that certain months should be a slow time for your company?

It’s a rule that needs be broken.

The slow season should be your fast season.

When the demand starts to fade, turn up your marketing, full force. Things should actually get faster.

Because this is the time to gain on your stronger competitors and overtake the weaker ones.

You need to drum up the demand that forces you to hire more techs, plumbers, and/or electricians.

That’s how you grow.

And what’s the best way to do that?

Transform your “slow season” mentality into a “fast season” mentality.

Now, here’s how to build more business even when you’re slow.

Rule-to-Break #2: “We Hire Normal CSRs Like Everybody.”

We’ve all heard about the legend of Achilles. He was an extraordinary hero; skilled, powerful, just about invincible.

That’s what we’re looking for.

But instead of fighting skill, we’re looking for modern day sales prowess. Heroic work ethic. Top of the line customer service, discipline, and communication.

Ultimately, a new breed.

I’ve never hired a customer service rep to answer the phone.

Instead, I hired outbound people.

Great outbound people are rare. They’re CSR workhorses who can hit the phones non-stop and sell like a machine.

Not many people can pound out 100+ calls a day while answering the phone just as good as anybody.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s very difficult to find people with that kind of personality and skill. But it pays off.

Because they’re the ones who’ll transform your slow season into a fast one.

Here’s another rule to break.

Rule-to-Break #3: “We Only Pursue Recruiting When We Really Need to.”

Push yourself, the owner – whoever recruits – push them to recruit harder.

Make your hiring process more efficient, and a much higher priority.

Here’s something to think about.

I’d definitely try this if I started over again – I’d acquire lead lists. Not for sales. For recruiting. I’d get lists of techs and have my team call them, non-stop. That could create a bottomless recruiting pool of talent.

Keeping your pipeline full is far from easy. For most people, it’s far from fun. But people are the lifeblood of your company.

If you’ve hired a strong team, you’re halfway there. Now you need to lead them.

Rule-to-Break #4: “My Team’s So Good, They Don’t Need Coaching.”

Outbound calling yields regular house visits. That’s good. But are they calling correctly? Are they pushing themselves?

What’s inspected is respected. Set your expectations and hold your people accountable to hitting their KPI’s.

Measure:

► Their conversion rate on inbound; how many they made, how many they booked.
► How many emails they sent out.
► Total calls booked.

Focus on getting each individual to beat your company average instead of goals.

Always, always focus on your people. Steer them away from the “us vs the company” sort of mindset. That’s toxic. Treat them good and they’ll treat you good – if you’ve hired good.

And balance that with quality accountability, because even the best have low-performance stretches that you can coach them out of.

Here’s yet another rule to break.

We don’t do many service checks in the off season.

That’s lame in the sense that it literally cripples your company.

Let’s flip that around to create the #1 rule to keep.

#1 Rule-to-Keep: Hit Your Marketing Hard in the Off-Season.

Your techs don’t like it because they’ve adjusted to a poorly constructed system.

It’s up to you to lead them out of that system.

You should hit it hard during the “slow” season with both your outbound people and your techs, plumbers, and/or electricians.

Which brings us to system checks: Do your system checks in the slow season.*

Because you want to be fresh on your target market’s minds when things start picking up.

If you’re hitting the phones hard and making house visits in, say, March and April (the end of our off-season here in Kansas City), guess what?

When May and June roll around, and people start needing your services, who do you think they’re going to call? Yep. You, because your company has been freshly planted in their heads.

Throughout the year, keep your eye on plumbing and electrical system checks. As you grow, you’re going to have slow days. That’s just how it is. But you need to have them go out consistently so you can keep growing, and have less of those days.

QuickTip: February is a difficult month because you can’t check the freon. Just don’t check the freon on 5 years or younger. Give it the stamp of approval. Move on. Keep those system checks rolling. It’s also a good way to have new techs practice and learn through experience.

The same goes for the plumbing side of things, but you’re doing system checks in June and July, or whatever your slow season is.

 

Notes:

*Always call it that. If you call AC checks, well, AC checks, in the cold season, people are going to think “why do I need to check the AC, it’s not even warm,” and they won’t do it. Instead, check everything at once and call it a system check.

The Single Biggest Problem With Most Contractors’ Websites

Every day when I sit down at my desk to start the day I ask the same question:

What is the single biggest problem plaguing most contractors’ websites and how can I best solve that problem today?

The reality is that the list of problems for most websites is fairly lengthy.

For example:

  • Website is not optimized for mobile
  • Website does not feature an easily accessible phone number
  • Website has poor SEO
  • Website lacks a constantly updated blog with unique content
  • Website displays generic, boring, feature-heavy content
  • And on…
  • And on…

However, every morning I go back to one problem that stands above all others.

…and that problem is:

The website is not focused on producing a desired action from the visitor.

Stay with me here.

Most of our websites allow more than 95% of visitors to leave without “converting” or producing a desired action. Desired actions include a phone call to the office or the visitor clicking the “Schedule an Appointment” button.

Of course, this is a tremendous inefficiency in our businesses and represents a significant opportunity for growth. Imagine if we could lower the 95% to 93%…

That’s 40% more website visitors taking action!   When more people take action on your site, you have more revenue opportunities and sales increase!

So, now that we know the problem, what is the solution?

***Engage your visitors to live, in real time with online chat!

When you provide an option for your visitors to chat with your business, you are decreasing the barriers for that visitor to start a relationship with your company. In turn, your company will interact with more visitors, have more sales conversations, and create more opportunities for new customers.

I Need Technicians! — Recruit Techs (Plumbers, Electricians, HVAC & Other Home Service Techs) Much Faster

Recruiting technical roles is one of the largest pain-points in managing a residential service business. It actually makes me sad when I listen to the news and they say it’s hard to find a job.  I’m thinking – “Go be a plumber or an HVAC tech!” Just about any tech in the home service industry!

After having great success with hiring for these technical roles over the last several years, I thought it would be helpful to share my methodology. I have used Linkedin, Craigslist, BirddogHR, Facebook, gone to supply houses, offered recruiting bonuses, and even hired a designated recruiter. After using each avenue to recruit, I have learned there is no “magic bullet.”  No one method is superior to another, just different. Please allow me to share my method of success for recruitment and its corresponding pros and cons.

Note: These methods work wonders in HVAC, plumbing, electric, and many if not all other home service industries.

Linkedin- Linkedin is great for salespeople and more advanced roles inside your office like HR or Marketing. I have hired all three of these positions using the Linkedin Job Postings.

Pro: This is designed for genre recruiting because it delivers your posting as a recommendation for people that fit that genre. If you are looking for a marketing person, then you’ll be able to attract a chunk of marketing people because that genre fits into the framework.

Con: It doesn’t work for a lot of management roles. I tried to hire a HVAC Service Manager from this and that’s not really a genre that Linkedin catches (it was a total waste of money) – And it costs upwards of $400+ to post a job on Linkedin.

Craigslist- In many ways, this is my secret weapon of choice, but I’ll spill the beans here. Posting is fine and it’ll bring you candidates, however, calling people that are offering plumbing, hvac or electrical service is where you’ll really excel. I cold-called all of them weekly. I told them, “I just want to tell you what our company is all about”– more on this in a bit. These people aren’t job hunting, but they do feel alone. They don’t have a network of people that can empathize with their situation. Many of them would actually sit down with me because I was in the industry.

Pro: I hired many people from my cold calling efforts. Not all of them worked out, sometimes they had a hard time wrapping their mind around the price or the pay structure, but the quantity made it work. I had one major success, he was a million dollar service plumber and best in the company at sales, work ethic, and attitude. Additionally, I had many other wins including earn-outs situations for their usually small customer lists and phone numbers. Additionally, posting for Entry Level Plumber (Electrician or HVAC Technician) was a fantastic way to find drain technicians or apprentices. It’s free to call “competitors” and only $25 for a Craigslist job posting- just make sure you are posting weekly because your listing gets buried fast.

Con: You have to kiss a few toads here. This is a quantity play, not always quality. Posting here is a good way to fill the pipeline and keep your Technicians Sales Engine going.

BirddogHR: This is not a magic bullet either. This is mostly a CRM/pipeline in my mind. It’s a great tool for posting, too. More importantly, it is a great place to track and house all the applicants in your company. The MOST important part of recruiting and using this tool – or Zip Recruiter (same thing)-  is making sure you are following up with every single lead. (more later)

Pro: This is such an easy way to post for jobs. It hits Indeed and a few dozen other random sites. You can refresh job postings every 30 days with zero effort and refreshing them is important. You will see huge influxes at the beginning of these refreshes because it pops to the top of all the boards. It is a great way to house all your applicants, easy to search them, and organize what you’ve done with each one.

Con: Maybe it works too well as an always running piece of recruiting because I’ve noticed that it almost becomes white noise if you don’t make it a priority. Be deliberate about checking this all the time so you don’t leave any applicant wondering. They almost tote this product as a one stop shop (I would argue that it might be this way for many businesses), but it’s not for our industry. To hire plumbers, HVAC techs, electricians and other home service techs, you have to do all things.

Facebook: Social media is great because you can hit a lot of people quickly. However, it’s very difficult to target a specific kind of person with the technical experience you want. Facebook ads are great for attracting green technicians –that person working in the stockroom at Michael’s, wondering what they’re going to do with their life. Target your post knowing this: If you ask for a guy/girl with a lot of experience you probably won’t find him/her.

Pro: Pretty cheap for the amount of impressions you get. You are exposing someone to your ad when their defenses are down (you are more likely to have someone digest it that way). People can share what you post if it’s compelling enough and then you’ll get real traction.

Con: Probably not going to get you someone that can just start in a truck right away. Use some level of creativity if you want the viral effect.

Supply Houses: This is super old school. It’s more of a time suck than anything else if your plan is to hang out and build up your network. The technicians coming and going from the supply house already have a job to go to that day and are making money. What does work with Supply Houses is posting a flier with your recruitment bonus on it, I even put the little cut pieces of paper at the bottom of the flier for easy tear-and-call functionality.

Pro: If you have a contact at a supply house and all the technicians know them, they can be super beneficial to feed you leads. There is always a cork board next to the front door you can post information on (make sure to replenish it because it will be torn down, often.)

Con: Good and loyal technicians do not want to be seen talking to their competitors, management, or ownership. If someone does come up, it might not be the attitude of the person you want on your team.

Recruiting Bonus: Most of us have built pay-for-performance environments in the residential service industry. It’s natural then that giving them an incentive to recruit goes a long way. I like to also encourage retention on this. The referring plumber or tech can get $2500 after 90 days and then $1000 for each year their referred plumber or tech stays. I only use this incentive for technical roles.

Pro: People tend to hangout with the people that look and act like them. If you have a performer, then you would do well to hire their friends. Your employees want to work with good people. Very few employees will choose an incentive over poor work relations as a long-term strategy. They are more likely to bring in quality candidates.

Con: You have to make it rewarding to bring people in, meaning: Techs need not worry about having less work by recruiting for you. If they work less as a result, the incentive failed. And make your company an environment they will want to refer into! If everyone is worried about being fired or the next change, they won’t bring their friends into that environment.

Designated Recruiter: For many of you, I know that hiring a person to only recruit is difficult because of your company size . I would argue, however, that if you have good management, then you can hire someone for around $13.00/hr. Also, you can look to fill the position on a par-time basis. Maybe someone in school would be a good fit? It’s a hard position to find, but once you find someone that “gets it”, they will pay off in a big way.

Pro: This person can grind for you! Cold calling is not for everyone. If you can find someone that can deliver on par or better than you, then it’s a perfect situation. Managing all the channels above isn’t easy while trying to run a business. A dedicated recruiter will, at the very least, relieve some of the hiring pressure for you. They can handle the grunt work, leaving you to be the face that meets with prospective people (if that is your desire).

Con: It’s hard to find this person. It’s someone that has the ability to make something from nothing. I have found that people who are good with phone sales have this something-from-nothing ability. The cost is a not beneficial if it’s not done right. Like many things in our businesses, it becomes an overhead headache. A super dynamic person or a pretty good person, coupled with super strong leadership, is the key to success here!

The Pipeline

I thought of my recruiting efforts as just another sales department in the company. I built up a pipeline of leads and I chased them until I lost them or won an employee. A with all sales departments, you need to constantly be feeding the machine with leads. You need to aggressively do all the things above on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

I had a revelation one day last year. I heard about a fantastic HVAC salesman from another company and I was told I should go after him. I worked hard and finally got to sit down with him. We talked about the typical sales vetting things and then he dropped a bomb. He disclosed that he already applied for my company 2 months prior. He said he would think about my offer, but he eventually said, “No.”. He had already did given us a chance, but we “wouldn’t interview” him. Lesson: Never stop reviewing your applicant pool. It’s your pipeline! If you stop talking reviewing your applicants, this could result in some major misses. From that point forward, I reached out to every single applicant that applied for technical or specialty role in our company. If you are swamped and have “no time” or you are in a seasonal lull and “don’t really need anyone”, you still need to talk to your applicants. Often, you get the best candidates applying in your seasonal lulls because their current company can’t provide them with enough calls.

To recap, your recruitment should be thought of as another sales channel in your growing business. Don’t take your foot off the gas. –ever.If you stopped taking calls into your company for one day, what would be the impact to your sales? It’s no different for recruiting.

“I just want to tell you what our company is all about”

This is more or less the phrasing I used when asking prospects out to coffee or lunch. I never used the word interview. What comes to mind when people hear the word ‘interview’ is typically an objection, at least in most gainfully employed people’s minds. But having a conversation over a cup of coffee is no big deal. Get the prospect off-site, comfortable, and make it casual. The off-site is another key. The best guys are typically already employed and they don’t want to have their work truck or van seen in their competitor’s parking lot. Having their truck at Panera is not big deal.

My goal with recruitment was to build as much of the pipeline as I could into relationships. I would always gauge the interest of the prospective employee. I would either offer them a job on the spot or often times just leave it at, “Let’s do this again!”, or, “If you ever need anything give me a call.”. Throughout our meeting, I would ask them about themselves, tell them about the company, and then share personal things about myself. I focused on building the relationship so that the chance of them wanting to meet with me again was greater. Ultimately, my goal was to be the person they called on the worst day at their current employer, asking if I was still hiring (it happened more often than you think).

Last Piece

This is my shameless plug: make it as easy for applicants to connect with you online. I have found that an putting a chat service on your website can benefit your company in a number of ways. A online chat service can…

  1. Deliver you additional leads from engaging new customers while they are on your website.
  2. Provide a fantastic customer experience for repeat customers while they are on your website.
  3. Interact with possible applicants that come to your website to check-out your company.

There’s a ton of value-building aspects with an online chat service. I have looked at a few myself and I would definitely rate HomeServiceChats as one of the very few (if any) chat companies that offer unique service to our industry. Installing chat software on your site is like having a potential applicant walk into your office and the receptionist says, “You are going to love working here! This is the best job I’ve ever had and they treat us so well!” –it just makes sense! If you have any questions on the above material, don’t hesitate to reach out 401-992-4287.

Top 4 Lead Generation Strategies for Contractors

Construction receptionist

In 2018, 97.3% of all leads for contractors were driven using this single marketing method…

If only it were that easy.

That said, there are four marketing concepts that nearly guarantee lead-gen success.

And that’s incredibly important, because like all of us, you have competitors who are working night and day to snatch your company growth and pocket it.

Now, there’s a small galaxy of tactics you can use to follow through on the following concepts — marketing can get stupid-complicated, really fast.

So we’re going to keep it smart and simple.

If you use these proven lead generation habits in pursuit of the subsequent methods, you’ll successfully generate leads a solid 8 out of 10 times. (You’ll see what I mean. By the way, when I say leads for contractors, I’m talking about home service companies like plumbing, HVAC, electrical, roofing, landscaping, etc.)

The Foundation: Up Your Lead-Gen Chances by Over 500%

  • Lead Generation Strategy

Company owners who document their lead-gen strategy are 538% more likely to successfully generate leads than owners who don’t. But that’s just the bird’s eye view. Let’s get on the front lines on a more tactical level.

  • Lead Generation Tactics

Company owners who document their lead-gen processes are 466% more likely to successfully generate leads than those who do not. That’s really good. But we still need to dig deeper.

  • Lead Generation Objectives

Finally, owners who set lead generation objectives — smart goals — for their company are 429% more likely to successfully generate leads than those who don’t. And lastly, 81% of the people who set specific objectives also achieved them.*

Now, let’s jump straight into the top 4 ways to generate more leads for contractors:

The Hub: Turn Your Website Into a Contractor Lead Machine

Your website is the hub of all your online lead-gen efforts.

It’s 2018. Newspapers, commercials, and outdated websites are heading in the direction of Alexander Graham Bell and dubstep (they’re either dead or dying).

Your customers are all online, and most of them will find and research you online. That is, on their phones. Tablets. Watches. Crazy times. Having an outdated website in this market is like hiring a sales rep who can’t count to ten without taking off his shoes.

Your website should be your digital CSR.

It should be prepped and ready to serve every visitor that steps through it’s programmable doors.

Not only that, it should be able to a) reach out to pull in new customers (by sending blog posts to your marketing list for example) and b) convert them instantly, in real time once they get there (see below).

This is how.

  • Build a regular blog and email list. First, the numbers. B2C companies that published 16+ blog posts each month pulled in 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.*

Your blog is one of your best excuses to reach out to your customers and potential customers every week. Think about it. If you texted them every week, or randomly called, they’d get mad, right? But with a blog post, you’re giving them something valuable.

Source

This does two things. First, it reminds them that you exist, keeping your company at the top of their minds. Second, with each new post – if they’re good posts – your reputation as a leader in the industry grows, and the goodwill they have toward you grows as well.

  • 24/7 live chat. How much traffic does your site get each month? If live chat can book even 1% more of your website traffic (when realistically, it’s closer to 15%) think about the revenue your company could generate.

I like using every tool in the toolbox, as long as it’s profitable. Live chat is a very profitable tool and there’s no two ways about it. Whether you do it in-house or hire a live chat team, you should be using it.

Amp Up Your Google My Business & Facebook Pages

As a rule, sales friction is your most bitter enemy. Wherever you see it, you need to squash it like the parasitical bug it is.

Sales friction is simply whatever makes it harder for your customer to do business with your company. (Slow response times, bad website user experience, slow pages, no “click to call” buttons, no instant chat service, etc.)

Now, I’m going to tell you something important. Most companies are behind the learning curve when it comes to their online platforms. This represents a massive opportunity for your company.

The key is to cut the sales friction from your online platforms, and the best way to do that is to man those platforms with 24/7 live chat. That way, instead of having to visit multiple sites before finding a way to communicate with you (most customers will start their research on Google and find your Google my Business page), the moment they land on your Google my Business or Facebook page and read your reviews, is the same moment they can talk with your company to learn more and book an appointment. (If you have any questions about online chat and want an answer NOW, chat with my team in the chat box below — they’ll take good care of you.)

To convert your leads immediately, get those pages loaded with social proof as well. Aside from your digital CSR, that’s what convinces them to do business with you.

Reviews are little trust bombs that blow up every time someone visits one of those pages. Gets credibility and social proof all over the place. It’s glorious. But you won’t generate many new reviews without asking for them. Make sure you have a smart system in place that incentivizes your CSRs and techs to ask for the review.

Plug Your Contractor Lead Leaks 

Depending on the company, a single lead could represent hundreds to thousands of dollars of new revenue.

A bad lead conversion strategy (or not having one at all), will result in a lead “leak,” where many of those leads fall through the cracks. (They aren’t followed up on, or are kept waiting for hours and even days too long, etc.) That could easily be thousands upon thousands of dollars down the drain every month.

Here’s a simple way to fix that problem:

1. Call your leads immediately.

2. Text your leads immediately.

3. Email your leads immediately.

4. Call your leads every day for 10 days.

5. Email/text your leads twice in addition.

6. Establish monthly long-term follow-up for unscheduled leads.

The Email Campaign

Email marketing ROI is incredible. But you have to go about it in the right way, and it’s not always easy.

This is what we did. We created a newsletter. In this newsletter, we gave away things we knew our customers valued. Things they really wanted. (The giveaway should match the audience you’re giving to.)

In the middle of each of our branded newsletters, we planted the giveaway, followed by our promotional material.

We created the giveaway link with Survey Monkey.

The form was very simple:

Name, phone, and email.

One question. (How old is your heater? For example.)

And this is key.

We encouraged them to share the giveaway on social media. And they did.

Every time they shared, our email opt-ins increased. That’s one simple way to grow your newsletter/email list.

We spent $12k per year on the giveaways, to give you an idea. It was more than worth it.

 

How to Reduce Sales Friction

Home Office

Sales friction is a vitally important, yet seldom discussed topic in our companies.

In physics, F = MA. More mass and/or acceleration leads to greater force. Friction, the enemy of acceleration, causes the force to decrease. This is why a bowling ball rolls faster down a wooden bowling lane than it does across shag carpet. Can you imagine trying to roll a strike if the lane were carpet?

In sales, friction is the reason why most companies don’t throw strikes. To throw strikes, you need to reduce the overall friction of the sales process. You must identify every aspect of your sales process that might make it more difficult for your customers to say “yes” and come up with executable solutions to overcome the friction.

Let’s look at some things that commonly cause friction in the sales process.

  • Making it difficult for people to find your contact information
  • Forcing people to call you to schedule an appointment
  • Scheduling appointments too far in the future
  • Making customers reiterate their concerns instead of putting into a CRM
  • Not setting clear expectations for when the technician will come out or checking in
  • Not offering to fix the problem same-day
  • Not having easy payment options
  • Etc., etc., etc.

There are tons of things you could improve to make the sales process flow better.   Let me tackle just one area that most companies could improve.

One of the biggest areas of friction in the sales process for most customers is actually the process of picking up the phone, dialing your number digit-by-digit, and knowingly sacrificing 5-10 minutes of their day on a “new customer phone call.” There are a number of things that all must align perfectly in order for the new customer to execute a successful call.

  • The customer must decide that they are going to commit to an appointment with your company.

AND

  • The new customer must be willing and able to sacrifice 5-10 minutes to speak on the telephone at that exact moment.

AND

  • Your office must be open to picking up the new customer’s call at any hour, including the middle of the night.

All three of these criteria must align perfectly in order for a new customer to call your office and speak with your team.

I would like to suggest that this age-old method of waiting on new customers to call us is outdated, inconvenient (for the customer and company), and represents the single greatest point of sales friction in most companies.

Professionally managed live chat solves this problem in our companies. Let’s look at how online chat annihilates this “wait on them to call us” problem.

  • Customers don’t have to decide that they are going to commit to an appointment before interacting with your company. They can chat in to ask a simple question.   Then, the chat agents subsequently build value in collecting their contact information. Bingo! New customers!
  • The new customers can chat at any time that is convenient for them, even in times that would have otherwise been awkward or inconvenient for a call. They can discretely chat in while sitting in a conference for work, waiting at the DMV, while their kids are at soccer practice, etc. Bingo! New customers!
  • Chat agents are live on your website while your office is closed, making it routine to collect new customers information at all hours of the day. Chat in on Sunday @ 7:00 p.m.? Bingo! New customers!

After implementing chat on your company’s website, you should expect a higher conversion of web visitors into new customers. In our experience after handling thousands of chats, our average company client returns 45 new customer leads per month and a 40X ROI.

Is it time that you start throwing strikes? Ruby is the perfect solution for you.

How to Fix: “My CSRs Will Not Outbound” with 4 Concepts

This is the time of year that the phones are starting to slow… the A/Cs that were going to break have broken and no one really has money they are dying to spend on plumbing or electrical ‘nice-to-haves’ because school is just around the corner. It’s tough but it’s necessary to drum up the calls because if you don’t keep your technicians and plumbers busy then they will find someone that will and potentially move to another company OR they will sit around the breakroom sending negativity throughout the company. I’ve been there.

This is a very stressful position to be in. You walk into the customer service department and you ask them to try and call the service partners and get 10 more calls on the board for the next day. They groan and say “it’s Summer, no one will book” and you say “Please try…” Then low and behold, they were right and they are unable to book enough calls. This is not an uncommon issue. I visited companies in many different cities over the past 5 years and many of them had this same situation. We hire our Customer Service Representatives to answer the phones as their primary purpose but I think we are hiring them to do the wrong primary purpose.

I did a few things right and I think that making an outbound calling machine is one of those things. During my time at Bob Hamilton Plumbing, Heating, and A/C, I worked very hard at building the call center culture that complimented the marketing department. Here are a few things that radically changed the culture.

  1. Get a team that gets it. This is a hard piece to digest, but you might have the wrong people working for you. The Call Center can be a KPI driven powerhouse if you let it. Hold the team members accountable to their numbers and push out the people that do not do the work. I tracked lots of KPIs and coached the CSRs on them weekly. Conversion rate on bookable calls weekly/monthly, how many total calls booked weekly/monthly, percent of emails collected (free marketing material), how many outbounds made daily/weekly/monthly, and how many outbounds booked daily/weekly/monthly. Do not be afraid the get people on your bus that will get the job done. They exist and they are magnificent.
  2. DO NOT hire people to answer phones and then expect them to outbound. DO hire people to outbound and then expect them to answer the phones. Every time I hired a new CSR I would have them spend their first 2 weeks, sometimes more, only outbounding. I told them it’s the most important part of the job and after they get the hang of it, then I’ll teach them to answer the phones. We had professionals that worked for us and the professional piece of the job was calling out, not answering. Every person in our company, including the bookkeeper, could answer the phone and book appointments. True professional CSRs are experts at calling out to our service partners and getting them booked. It was hard and that skill was valuable to the company. Coming at them with that mentality gives them ownership over a part of the business and the attention for their good work pushes them to do more and work harder. Every time my CSRs weren’t on the phone with an inbound, they were calling out to someone on an outbound. The result was 5-6 CSRs making 300-400 calls a week EACH and booking hundreds of additional calls each month
  3. Change the words you use. One of my mentors in the industry has been Jim Hamilton, and he taught me this concept about 4 years ago. It changed my life. I don’t want to butcher his life-changing article so I’ll link to it because it’s published in PM Magazine: http://www.pmmag.com/articles/95870-the-words-you-say-can-ruin-your-business. I actually took the content of this article and I put it into our training material. Every CSR read it on their first day and we debriefed it afterward. And the language of ‘system check’ versus A/C check or Furnace Check did not stop with the CSR department. This is a whole company idea and your technicians have to understand the ‘why’ if it’s going to work. If you don’t explain to your technicians why they are doing a system check in August or in February, they will complain to the CSRs (that are working their butts off booking them) that they are a waste of a call- That breaks the whole program down.
  4. Outbound all year round! You can change the day that you are booking for based on a monthly calendar but you should never just stop calling out. Even during the heat of the season we were still calling out and booked the customers for a date further out. You know when you typically slow back down, so work smart and fill it early. We set different goals as far as how many to book but we never stopped. I am a firm believer in momentum and if you completely stop a train, it takes significantly more energy to get it back moving again. It’s fine to slow down or switch gears (book plumbing or electrical instead) but do not stop.

I think the Call Center is the heart of the company. They interact with the field, customers, suppliers, and more. If you put your time and resources into the Call Center then you will see huge differences in the effectiveness in every part of your company. I think they are the most overlooked and also the most crucial piece of a well run residential service company. I have many more ideas I would be happy to share in regard to the customer service department, including how to compensate them, how to coach them, and how to motivate them. Let me know if you’d like to set up a call and learn more, no charge! Although I might push you to use our chat service because you should be using us already!

Performance Based Pay — It’s a Love-Hate Thing

 

Chats Pricing Ruby App and Laptop Workflow

First, why does compensation matter?

A good performance-based compensation strategy does three things:

1. Attracts performance-driven employees.

2. Keeps them.

3. Incentivizes them to push beyond their current best.

Meaning, your best employees will consistently improve if you give them the right incentives.

That said, compensation is only a single piece of the puzzle — a big piece — but a piece nonetheless.

Know Your Employee’s Perspective

It’s important to understand your employee’s perspective when you put together your compensation strategy. In some areas of the world, pay is a matter of life or death. Here, it’s not.

For most of us (some might argue all of us), maintaining a competitive compensation is a must.

Now that you know your employee’s perspective, you can plan out the core of your strategy.

Types of Performance-Based Pay

Here’s a few examples of performance-based pay:

-Billable hour bonus structure

-Piece-rate pay for installers

-Commission for sales

-Hourly plus spiff

Your tech gets put in a truck and sent out into the world with your brand and reputation fluctuating with every action he makes.

They’re on their own. You usually won’t see him until the next morning.

Unfortunately, you have very little if any oversight to what they do in someone’s house.

You place an insane amount of trust in your techs, because you have to.

Heroically strong management is what you need, but that’s a challenging role to fill as a growing business.

So it’s vital to teach your people how to represent your company.

Instill your expectations, and hold them to it.

Your manager, heroic or not, will never be omnipresent.

This is why I like performance-based pay.

Why I Love Performance-Based Pay

Performance-based pay gets them to do the things you need them to. Especially the “above and beyond” spiff-worthy things that they should do anyway, but…

…probably won’t, like tagging shut off valves with branded shut-off tags. I’d even give them incentives to take off competitors stickers.

Simply put, it works. So I like it.

Why I Dislike Performance-Based Compensation

If you take it too far, performance-based pay is a nightmare.

If you focus more on performance-based pay than a strong culture of expectations, you’ll develop a “we only do this when we get paid” mentality. That’s an expensive problem.

Here’s something you all know. Techs are hard to find.

So they tend to get away with a lot more.

Here’s something you may not know. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Find the Balance

You have to set certain expectations and ensure they’re adopted by your culture. Tagging shutoff valves with branding material is something they should do on their own. And they won’t.

Unless you create a culture where it’s not just expected but enforced. Not by you. Not by your manager. By everyone.

Because you aren’t in the field every day with every tech, and neither is your manager (although he should be going out with them almost every day).

When your techs see someone leave without planting a tag, they should immediately report the incident.

That’s one example of the many expectations you should set.

More than anything, just remember that there’s a point of balance between performance-based compensation and a culture of positive expectations. It’s not easy to find it, but it’s there, and it’s worth finding.

When it’s all said and done, performance-based pay works, and it usually works very well. But don’t lose sight of developing a culture that gets them to do the things they should already be doing without extra pay.

How To Define Your Orthodontic Target Market in 5 Steps

Defining your target market is the first step to judicious marketing.  If you don’t know who you are trying to reach, you will waste tons (and tons) of marketing money!

So how do you determine and define who to target?

There are many different methods for defining your target market.  I find that the easiest and most useful way is to use a target market (TM) grid chart.  Below, I’ll help you put together your own TM grid chart.  It doesn’t need to be fancy, just handwritten and taped to the wall in your office.

If you have never put your target market in writing, do it now.  I guarantee you that if you put your target market in writing you will end up wasting less time making marketing decisions and ultimately, waste a LOT less on failed marketing projects.

Five Steps

  1. Identify your ideal decision-maker (this is your TM).  Ideally, this is an actual person in your practice that might represent the entire group.
  2. In the top left corner, start by defining the demographic characteristics of your TM.
    • Age
    • Sex
    • Marital status
    • Family characteristics and ages
    • Education
    • Work
    • Interests
    • What do they admire?
    • What do they dislike?
  3. Next, in the top right of the chart, detail your TM’s external pressures.
    • What do they feel pressured by society to do/think?
    • What do they feel pressured by society to not do/think?
    • What do they feel pressured by their peers to do/think?
    • What do they feel pressured by their peers to not do/think?
  4. In the bottom left of the chart, detail your TM’s internal aspirations.  Hint: These are likely to be related to the previous two quadrants.
    • What does your TM want out of life?
    • What are they seeking over the next year?
    • What are they seeking over the next 5 years?
    • What are they seeking over the next 20 years?
    • Also include (in a separate section) specific annoyances of your TM .   Likely these will be things impeding them from efficiently and effectively moving toward their aspirations.
  5. Next, in the bottom right of the chart, write down your TM “know and feel” factors.
    • What does your TM desire to help them with seeking their aspirations?
    • What does your TM think and feel when mulling over their aspirations and annoyances?
    • What does your TM want that helps them overcome their annoyances?
    • What specific statements would they make if they verbalized their wishes in regards to seeking their aspirations?

Bonus: Actually print a picture of your ideal customer.  Tape it in the center of your TM grid.  This will help make the grid “come to life.”

If you are having trouble finding a picture of the specific person, just search them on Facebook.

Here is an example of TM grids that should help you understand what the final product should look like.

Give us a call!