The 5-5-5 Plan for Contracting Business Growth
Customer relationships, not marketing strategies or sales tactics, are the backbone of any contracting business. That always has been, and always will be. So here’s your 5-5-5, customer relationship plan for contracting business growth. 5 skills, 5 attitudes, and 5 leadership decisions for you.
5 Skills for Killer Customer Service
As an owner or someone responsible for the marketing of your business, you know how competitive your market is, and each customer’s experience counts. Here are 5 critical customer service skills you and your team need to master in order to provide an exceptional experience every time.
- It takes two things to practice reflective listening. First, attentiveness. To understand what’s important to your customer, you need mental focus, good eye contact, head nodding, note-taking, and staying off the phone and away from other distractions when the customer is speaking. Have your reps silence their phone entirely, when in the customer’s presence. The more the phone rings and dings in their presence, the less valued they feel. Secondly, repeat back to the customer what they literally just said, or the big picture of what they said. This lets them know you actually understood them. “Mrs. Jones, I hear what you’re saying. Your family’s safety and comfort is top priority, but you have to be mindful of your budget as well. We have some great solutions to achieve both those goals.” Slam dunk! Reflective listening communicates value to the customer and helps you and your team keep the customer’s main goals in mind.
Master the Unexpected Perk
- Most of the time, when a customer gets a perk or freebie on a sale, it’s because something went wrong. But have you considered proactive perks? When you throw in a free pound of freon on a service call, a thermostat upgrade, a pack of air filters, or Thank You gift after a replacement, that is what turns a “satisfied” customer into a delighted one. To master this skill, your team needs freedom to know what and when they can dote upon a customer. If a customer is already happy about the quick turnaround on their repair or install, do that little something extra to drive that positive emotion through the roof.
Know It All
- Products? Your team knows them cold. Protocols? They recite them in their sleep. Every team member that is face-to-face or on the phone with a customer needs to know it all, in a good way. Nothing inspires consumer confidence like employee confidence in your products and services, or how to handle a given situation. Even the most prepared rep will get a question they can’t answer every once in a while. When that happens, they stay positive with the customer and let them know they’ll have an answer just as quickly as possible.
Maintain the Delicate Balance
- Great customer service means treating everyone like a real person (not a problem, or a sale). But also not taking problems or criticism personally. Most people know how tricky this is to accomplish, especially in peak seasons when your team is weary and stretched thin and your customers are panicked and uncomfortable in their homes. Everyone’s a little more on edge and emotions are closer to the surface. But as difficult as it may be at times, staying composed makes all the difference on the path to delighting the red-faced client. Keep calm and cool, continue to value the customer, and keep your focus on solutions—not the problems, misunderstandings, or disagreements.
- If you give your technician or CSR a mixed-up Rubik’s Cube and they smile, that’s a sign you’ve hired the right person. It doesn’t matter if they know the algorithm to solve it “correctly” or if they peel the stickers off to make it work—what you have is someone who’s not afraid of problem-solving. People who genuinely love problem-solving are probably also the people that don’t take situations or conflict personally. If your shop has a truly customer-centric philosophy, then customer complaints or misunderstandings are nothing to fear. You simply do what it takes to not just resolve the problem, but to wow the customer. Comp the job cost, come back out, file a warranty for them, give them some free upgrades. Yes, you may lower the profitability on that particular job, but remember you always win, when you take care of people. And also remember that Customer Lifetime Value is just that—long-term, and lifetime. Never worry about the job. Worry about the customer. Always value the goose far above one individual golden egg.
5 Attitudes for Better Customer Interactions
Excellent customer service skills are a good foundation, but how does your team carry themselves in customer interactions? Don’t overthink these behaviors. If these things are as natural and simple for your team as the following list, you’re in good shape.
- Be Responsive
- Return calls quickly. Provide information and answers fast. Give 110% every step of the way. Your customer’s in a tough situation and response time is everything. This let’s the customer know you’re on their team and that they’re working with the right guys.
- Be Dependable
- Always do all you can, to do what you say you will.
- Be Respectful
- Even when—especially when—someone isn’t being very respectful of you or your time.
- Be Patient
- The key to real patience is sincerely enjoying and understanding people. Patience isn’t a problem after that.
- Be Empathetic
- Understand and care about what your customer feels and why they feel that way. In business relationships, as in any relationship, EQ trumps IQ–all day long.
5 Leadership Decisions You Should Make Today
Take the Lead
- Let’s start with you, and flip things around a little bit. You’re the owner, or the person responsible for this company’s brand and image. Look over the list of 5 Customer Service Skills above. Is this how you interact with your team? Are you modeling what those skills look like in the ways you treat your own employees? Take stock, ask for honest feedback, and sharpen your own skills first! The team will follow.
- Review the 5 Ways to Interact, above. Think about ways to look for those traits in new hires. Maybe you need some new questions or topics to bring up in the interview process. Personality tests can be a helpful way to gauge what kind of bent a potential employee has.
Use Positive Language
- Train your employees on the difference between telling a customer “We can’t get a team to your house for another hour because we’re short-staffed today” vs. “We will have a team at your door at 2:00 to finish that installation.” Keep the conversation moving toward the positive goal with consistently positive language.
Keep Checking In
- This is a huge step. You have to keep talking with the employees that are talking with your customers. Schedule regular times to discuss your expectations for customer service. Get them training where they need it. Keep asking them what they are hearing from customers, and be ready to make adjustments.
Say “Thank You”
- Customers need to know you’re glad to have their business and that you want an ongoing relationship with them. Nothing says “Thank You” like an unexpected gift, after the sale, especially when it’s delivered to the home and can be shared with others. This is one of the most effective ways to turn a “satisfied” customer into a “delighted” one. There are lots of gift choices, but by far, a gift of food is the very best choice of all. That’s because food is the best driver of customer loyalty and positive emotion. Food is an essential component of human relationships and friendship and is also multisensory (4 out of the 5 senses!) and therefore more memorable than pens or other trinkets. To Your Success has been in the customer relationship business for 2 decades, and our signature customer gift package is one of freshly baked cookies with a custom greeting card and customer survey. There are many “half-baked” customer gift ideas out there, but hand-baked cookies are right on target!
Experience What To Your Success Can Do for Your Business
The tips found here are a great foundation and should get you started on transforming your company’s commitment to excellence in customer service. Saying “Thanks” in a real and memorable way will help your business stand out in the ultra-competitive home services market. Let the experts at To Your Success show you what’s possible, so you can turn your “satisfied” customers into delighted clients that really make you stand out from the competition. Learn more or schedule a demo of our services today.