By Kate Kauffmanon in Contractors, Small Business Tips
New data from financial information company Sageworks shows seven of the top 10 industries with the highest sales growth are related to construction. However, Sageworks also reports that the construction sector has below average profitability relative to other small businesses. For construction business owners, the opportunity for financial success is ample. So why are so many failing to attain it?
Customer service may be playing a big part. Walker Info anticipates by 2020 customer service will overtake price and product as the key differentiator for businesses. And for growing businesses, the phone is a critical customer touchpoint: 80% of callers are likely to become repeat customers after a positive phone experience, 74% are likely to choose another vendor after just one bad experience.*
As a contractor, good customer service sets you apart from the competition—but being available whenever a customer calls is incredibly challenging. A remote receptionist service can help you deliver exceptional service to every caller, while increasing your productivity and profitability. Here’s how:
Make great first impressions. According to Consumer Reports, 72% of callers who reach an automated answer will hang up without leaving a message—and potentially call a competitor. You don’t want miss out on a job because you’re too busy to get to the phone. A remote receptionist service provides the coverage you need when you need it, so potential customers don’t fall through the cracks. No more risk of losing customers to voicemail—every caller is greeted by a live, cheerful person prepared to follow your custom instructions. And if you’re looking to hire subcontractors, remote reception is a solid asset. Receptionists will answer live when candidates call and gather or relay any info you need, so you can make an informed follow-up.
Keep current customers happy. When you’re on the go all day, you’re not always able (or in the mood) to answer the phone in your warmest customer service voice. But that’s exactly what a remote receptionist can do, no matter if you’re at a job site or with a customer. A remote receptionist service gives you a team of talented people dedicated to being friendly, professional, and above all, helpful—so callers are happy, and you look good.
Get more done, earn more money. Little interruptions can add up to a lot of lost (billable) hours. A remote receptionist connects only the calls you want and happily fields the rest, so you can focus your attention where it matters most. Some of the best services allow you to change your call-handling instructions on the fly, so wherever the day takes you, your remote receptionist team is always informed and equipped to handle calls to your exact specifications. With the freedom to focus, you’re able to accomplish more each day. And many services can be turned on and off easily, so you only pay for what you need.
Gain peace of mind. You’ve worked hard to build your business, and with a remote receptionist, you can actually enjoy the freedom of owning a business. Whether you’re on the road, at a job site, or taking a well-deserved break, you’ll rest assured knowing every call is handled by a customer experience expert. Best of all, a remote receptionist service provides that reassurance at a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house employee.
Your customers depend on you for quality work, but they’re looking for quality customer service, too. A remote receptionist service can empower you to run your company more efficiently, and create great experiences for your new and current customers—helping you rise above the competition and build word-of-mouth buzz that drives referrals.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
Does your 24-7 live chat service include Facebook and Google Messenger?
Home service company chat should, and I’ll tell you why.
Facebook messenger has 1.3 billion active monthly users, and that’s far from the main reason you should be using it.
Over 2 billion messages are sent each month — between people and businesses.
And yet still, that’s not the primary reason — this is:
Facebook Messenger has 100% deliverability, 80%-90% open rates and click-rates over 50%.*
This shows how readily customers accept and open messages from companies sent via Facebook Messenger, and how receptive they are to the content within the message.
Let’s put that into perspective, starting with Messenger stats, and ending with a case study and snapshot.
It’ll cover the combined power of Messenger, SMS, and 24-7 Live Chat, so you can see what these tools can do for home service companies on an individual level.
Compare Messenger stats to the home service company email open (19.68%) & click-through (7.2%) rates.
So should we dump email as a relic of the past?
Email still boasts a powerful ROI for residential service companies, and to avoid belaboring the point, I’ll leave it at this.
So how much better will Facebook Messaging work — with its 80%+ open rate and 50%+ click-through rate?
And Google Messenger isn’t far behind — the stats are still in the works, but we expect to see impressive results from them too!
Back to the question —
Is your live chat service leveraging the power of these platforms?
Because while it’s true to say that 24-7 live chat is powerful as a standalone service, without SMS, Facebook Messenger and Google Messenger, it’s not nearly as effective as it could be.
Let’s take a look at the numbers from a real life 24-7 Live Chat + Facebook Messenger + Google Messenger case study.
For starters, here’s how Ruby performs for residential service clients on average.
Home Service Industry 24-7 Live Chat Service Stats
With a Ryby Chat Specialist (Digital CSR) added to the team, home service companies are able to convert 35% of their chats into quality leads.
Their average response time is 30 seconds, to deliver what many consider an unmatched online customer service experience.
Customers responded with the highest rating possible.
Why is 24-7 live chat so effective?
It’s not an easy question.
A big part of it is the convenience of getting answers immediately.
Another piece in the puzzle is the quality of the information given, and the way it’s delivered, with a human connection (from people, not automated responses).
This is what it looks like in real life.
Client Spotlight: Hunter Super Techs
The home service market emphasis on speed, efficiency, and a masterful, frictionless customer service is far from a misplaced set of ideas.
Amazon is redefining customer expectations with frictionless sales and customer service.
Customers have been clear in expressing and indicating by their actions what they need in 2018, and companies like Hunter Super Techs recognize the need to meet the rising demand.
Simply put, the challenge is:
To meet the growing need for frictionless speed, above & beyond customer service, and an authentic human connection.
Above & Beyond Customer Service
Ruby Chat Specialists set Hunter Super Techs apart in the digital arena by delivering the above & beyond customer service that goes beyond even the highest demands of the modern customer.
Part of this is simply being there when the customer needs them, regardless of the day or hour.
24/7 customer service makes a real difference for home service companies, as you’ll soon see in our client spotlight.
When a customer or prospective customer visits the website, a residential service expert known as a Chat Specialist greets them within seconds. If the visitor asks a question, whether through Facebook Messenger, Google Messenger, SMS or the Live Chat box on their website, the response is the same — the question is answered in a matter of seconds.
If the visitor asks a question, they don’t get a robotic auto-reply, but instead, are greeted warmly and given a knowledgeable answer from a professional but friendly human. They respond professionally but with empathy, because they understand that relationships are what build companies.
The Impact | 30 Day Stats
While there’s plenty to be said for building an above & beyond reputation with 24-7 live chat, sometimes it’s more telling to dig into the cold, measurable facts.
Over the last 30 days, these are the numbers from Hunter Super Techs’ records.
30-Day Client Snapshot: Hunter Super Techs
Total Chats: 167 chats.
Leads: 49% were leads. As in, interested prospective customers.
Total Leads: 81 leads converted.
Avg length of chat: 7:40 minutes.*
After hours leads: 13 leads converted.**
In the end, it’s not Messenger that matters — it’s not chatting or SMS — it’s the combination of these tools wielded by a professional live chat specialist.
That’s what will make the deepest impact on your new and current customer experience, and ultimately, your company.
*From an SEO perspective, the longer people stay on your site, the higher your site will rank in Google and other search engines. In this case, 180 chats at an average of 7 minutes each translate into approximately 21 hours of visitor on-page time. Not to mention the clicks that many visitors contribute inside the website while they chat. These clicks are valuable because Google tracks clicks to help decide how relevant and valuable your website is. The more the merrier.
**Between the hours of 7 PM to 7 AM, 13 chats were converted into leads. Without a 24-7 Digital CSR, those visitors would have left without a conversation.
A single truck with a wrap or other form of graphics can, and almost inevitably will generate in the ballpark of 16 million visual impressions in a year.*
Here’s a few stats from possibly the best study on the subject:*
► 97% of survey participants remembered the ad on the truck.
► 96% said fleet graphics made more of an impact than billboards.
► 98% said the ads build a positive image of the advertiser.
Let’s Start With Brand Exposure
Peacocks are nature’s best moving ads. Like you, they want to spread their brand to every corner of the earth.
By attracting attention. They’re big. Bold. Colorful and brilliant.
They stand out.
Like a good ad should.
If you want to be successful, give your vehicles the same strategy.
Those shiny big-birds don’t beg for attention. They just get it. Because of their design.
Not the Better Business Bureau.
Make your graphic Big, Bold and Bright. And if you’re feeling froggy, throw in a Beautiful for a 4-B vehicle graphic.
Outside-the-box in a peacocky, purple cow sort of way. That’s what we’re going for.
The cars surrounding you should be gritty little clumps of mud next to your shiny gold nugget of a moving graphic.
Here’s how to create a winning vehicle graphic.
You’re Designing for Your Customer Not Yourself
Design your wrap for your target customer. It doesn’t matter how cool you think it looks if it doesn’t work for your target customer.
Solidify Your Brand, Then Design
Your brand message should be completely fleshed out before you spend money on any advertising. Vehicle wraps are no exception. If your brand’s focus is muddled, your wrap won’t work. Everything on your vehicle should communicate your brand — your colors, logo, font, and message. What are your colors? Are they bright and different? Do you have a logo you are proud of? Do you have a standard across all print mediums that looks the same?
Don’t Spend More Than You Need To
The best thing about vehicle graphics, is how cost effective it can be.
Here’s some solid advice from Trace George, CEO of VSP Graphics. He says, “3M, MACtac, Arlon, Avery, and Oracal are the best-known fleet graphic manufacturers available to contact through their websites,”* but keep this in mind.
You may have local shops near you who can do a great job despite their limited on-hand materials. Make sure to shop around to keep your costs down. Calendared vinyls, for example, are less expensive than cast vinyls, so you can save some decent cash there. But be warned – there’s trade offs.
Same goes for laminating. You can opt for NOT laminating the vehicle before wrapping, and that’ll help save you some cash, but make sure you’re using specialty materials like matte colors, chrome, or carbon fiber, and you understand both sides of the coin.
More than anything, your wrap company needs to work with you to find the best value while respecting your budget.
Call around. Ask for a free quote. You’ll learn a lot.
If they try to push you into high-cost solutions without keeping your budget in mind, drop them like a hat.
Choose the Most Effective Colors
Do people associate certain colors with love, aggression, trust, greed? Sure. But there’s one thing that matters much more than all of that: Does it stand out? Yep. That’s first and foremost.
If your design stands out, you’re halfway there.
Those should be your top priorities, and then the poorly understood element of color psychology.
Realistically, almost any color is going to have some kind of positive connotation attached to it. So as long as you’re not boring people to death with gray or something, you’re probably good. Again, bright and bold is what we’re shooting for. Like a peacock.
Take Bob Hamilton for example. See how easy that van is to see from a distance? The font is simple and clear. The most important pieces of information are big, front and center. Wherever the eye most naturally tracks to first, that’s where the most important info should be.
Cut the Fluff
Reduce your text down to the bare minimum. Just enough to get your message across.
Too much text dilutes your message and it’s visually unappealing to boot. The last generation or two has record-breaking attention spans, and not in your favor.
Try reading your vehicle’s message out loud while timing yourself. If it takes more than 3-4 seconds, consider chopping some text.
Fit Your Wrap Style – Or Don’t
Matching your wrap style with your vehicle is usually a good idea. Matching it with your brand? ALWAYS a good idea. If you’re dressing up a small vehicle, consider a fun, cute style of wrap. A bold, rugged wrap goes good with a big truck or SUV. And then there’s the other option.
Don’t. If you pull it off right, styling your wrap to the opposite of what people expect can attract the most attention. It’s called juxtaposition if you’re into fancy words.
The Ultimate List of Vehicle Wrap Do’s and Don’ts
DON’T – Design your graphic before you know what the vehicle looks like, and have a template.
DO – Take good pictures of the vehicle to be wrapped, and check it against your template.
DON’T – Clutter your vehicle with too much stuff. If creativity trumps clarity, you’ve lost the battle.
Do – Go with your gut for the first draft(s). Let your creative side go nuts, then whip out some good old-fashioned logic and reason to edit away the crazy. Believe me, it’ll make a huge difference.
Don’t– Ignore the roof. When you’re wrapping a vehicle don’t forget the roof. Placing graphics and text on the roof may not produce as many views as the rest of the vehicle but it can still be worth doing. This is particularly effective if you work in areas with a lot of tall buildings where people will be looking down at the vehicle.
DO – Communicate well with your design team to make sure your design will play well with the vehicle.
DON’T – Expect people to see only one or two sides or perspectives of your vehicle.
DO – Plan on people viewing your vehicle from all sides – even consider the top of your vehicle.
DON’T – Put little words or graphics on top of ridges on the vehicle.
DO – Leave plenty of room between text and your logo, and avoid awkward spacing.
DON’T – Choose graphics, text, or font styles just because you like how it looks.
DO – Keep it super simple. Again, clarity should always take the first priority. You only have a few seconds to capture their attention, hold it, and get your message across. Loading your design with too much info is like forcing people to drink from a fire hydrant. Not effective.
DON’T – Ignore the importance of whitespace.
DO – Be okay with being different. Even very different. Think about it this way. It’s not just peacocks — just about any bird you can think of has a boldly colored mate, and a more camouflaged mate. Blood-red Cardinals, sky-blue Bluebirds, pumpkin-Orange Orioles – the male stands out the most and gets all of the attention.
Sounds kind of unfair doesn’t it? Of course, he’s also the first to get eaten by the neighborhood cat too. So there’s that.
There are two major instincts at war with each other here — standing out to get more attention vs blending in to hide from predators.
Standing out wins every time for the male birds, and it should for your vehicle too.
Considering the thousands of eyes that follow your vehicle ad every year, it’s really one of the cheapest and most effective forms of advertisement you can get.