What’s More Important: Finding Customers or How to Keep Customers?
Who is more valuable to you and your HVAC business — one delighted customer you already have or ten new customers?
You can do something very positive for your business right now by taking that question very, very seriously. The best way to begin is by having an honest look at how you’re already answering it: How much of your budget is spent on customer acquisition versus customer retention?
If that second number is very small (or non-existent), you are overdue for a paradigm shift. You can keep ignoring the need for a scalable customer retention plan, and it might be a shortcut, but that’s a huge risk in today’s business world.
In a nutshell, the key to customer retention is providing an exceptional customer experience–d the key to customer service is building an authentic, mutually-beneficial relationship with your customers. They want a connection to a real person, not just a company or canned reply. They want to know that you really understand them and their experience. Anything you can do to make that connection more genuine and personal is going to make it more lasting and valuable, for everyone.
The bottom line is that you need a marketing strategy and you need a customer retention plan, but they are closer to being the same thing than ever before. People are always looking to share a story, and when they’re blown away by your business, they remember it and naturally tell others. Delighted customers are critical to attracting new customers. So let’s talk about some essential tips and techniques for increasing customer retention rates for your HVAC business.
Really Get to Know Your Customers
How well do you know your customers? Not your prospects. Not the demographics. Them. How well do you know the people who have bought your products or called your company when they needed HVAC service or replacement? This will look different for every business, but generally, the people on your team that have contact with your customers need to be investing part of their time in just getting to know your customers. They need to understand why this is so important, and they need the official support and resources to take that time, or make that effort.
If you’re thinking about ways to make a more personal connection with your customers:
- Use social media … to be social. Remember when Facebook was more about old friends catching up or new acquaintances saying hello? There’s no reason you can’t still use social media channels that way. It’s important to remember, though, that person-to-person interactions are stronger and preferred to company-to-person, impersonal messages.
- Think about specific questions you want your customer-facing employees to be asking. Train them in the difference between an open-ended question and one that will solicit a yes-or-no response. Talk about the best times to ask those questions. Make a plan for how to record those answers and how to reference or use this strategically in your future communications.
- Surveys are still great ways to get to know your customers. Customers need a consistent mechanism in place to feel heard, so they can recognize employees or give you negative feedback if needed. Customers who do not have a means to give feedback often get frustrated, but it’s easily remedied with good communication. Be sure to survey immediately and make it easy for the customer to respond. Pay special attention to their comments; they’re a goldmine.
- Don’t just ask people for their opinion — ask them for advice. Genuinely asking “Is there anything I could do better?” communicates humility and a desire to serve. It will result in true growth both as a person and a business. Set the stage for an ongoing dialog that really rewards them for their time and input.
- Respond quickly. Never let feedback get put on the back burner. Regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, this is communication from your customers; keep the conversation going! Always respond in some way to thank the customer and validate their thoughts. Use reviews on social media as a chance to follow up with customers and deepen those relationships. That might lead to the opportunity to learn more about why they loved (or didn’t love) your product or service, or to ask follow-up questions.
Really Get to Know Your Customers’ Experience
Understanding the customer experience (CX) is complex and pretty much impossible without a plan and investment of some time and money. If you partner with a company that specializes in measuring CX, you’ll likely get more reliable information that you can put to use more quickly. Another big advantage is that you’re more likely to avoid your own biases.
- To do it yourself, visualize the entire relationship: From the moment they find your website or pick up the phone to call you, all the way through purchasing and after-the-sale service or continued maintenance. How hard was it for the customer to find the information they were looking for? How quickly did the team respond? Was there unnecessary communication or complicated phone menus, or a friendly greeting and immediate help?
Your goal is to make transactions easier, which leads to stronger relationships and more sales. You want every customer to think “that was so easy …and SO helpful.” We pulled together 6 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience, covering topics like internal buy-in, rewards, and equipping your team to execute your plans.
The Real Goal: Better Customer Service
If you’re thinking that spending all this time and money to get to know your customers and understand what’s happening with CX is a big investment that your company can’t afford, maybe this will help. The real goal under all this work is cultivating a deeper commitment to customer service. These days, it’s impossible to think about customer service and sales as separate divisions, priorities, or goals.
Outstanding customer service is what wins customers, keeps customers, and turns those delighted customers into advocates for your business. To a stranger, your company has very little credibility — even if you have a great product, even if you have a great reputation — if they haven’t heard great things about you from someone they know and trust.
Creating and offering a great product or service is the most important thing your company can do. The second most important thing you can do is pair that product or service with remarkable customer service. This isn’t about giving you a bump in your bottom line — this is literally your lifeline to a sustainable business in the evolving business world. We know that HVAC companies face a tremendous amount of competition, and that customer service is something everyone wants to brag about. If you want some ways to stand out from the pack in your area, we’ve got some ideas about customer service skills that really promote your HVAC company’s growth.
Define Reliability For Your Team
Since customer retention depends on customer loyalty, and customer loyalty depends on your company being trustworthy, you have to remember that customers don’t trust people — or companies — that aren’t reliable. It’s just not enough to include “reliable” somewhere in your mission statement, tagline, or website copy. You need to think through and define what reliability will look like for your company and to your customers.
Your website needs to be updated and reflect accurate information about your services and pricing. Your technicians need to be on time. Your products and service need to be worth recommending. Methodically go through each facet of your business that the customer sees or interacts with, and take an honest assessment of the reliability of your technology, people, systems, and service.
There’s one special area of focus when it comes to improving reliability, and that’s in responsiveness to customer questions, feedback, and reviews. You know that customers have less and less patience as they are looking for goods and services — especially if their HVAC system is down. If they ask or comment, you need a plan for how to respond quickly and personally.
Surprise and Delight Your Customers
We’ve written a lot about how to surprise and delight your customers because it’s the cornerstone of our organization. We’ve seen what a difference it makes when a company can truly put a smile on a customer’s face. It affects everything we’ve been talking about so far and can make or break your plan for customer retention.
Delighted customers are one step beyond just satisfied customers. They’re more likely to come back and recommend you to others. They are also much more likely to respond to invitations for feedback which will help you get to know them and their experience. The idea of reciprocity is part of what sets the stage for that kind of mutually-beneficial communication.
How can you surprise and delight your customers? An emotional connection is critical for developing customer loyalty and retention. We believe food is one of the best ways to build connections with people. Food is multi-sensory, plus relational and personal. We use food to celebrate, meet, and enjoy time with others. It’s the perfect inroad for a company to celebrate relationships with their customers.
To Your Success: Customer Delight + Business Insight
Hopefully, some of these ideas have helped you see where your existing plan for customer retention can be improved. We know it’s a never-ending process, and we also know what it’s like to come alongside companies that need support developing a plan, executing customer follow-up, or collecting the customer feedback that you need. Our business, To Your Success, has a comprehensive customer retention and loyalty program. Click here to learn more.