By Mike Treas
Why do customers call us? What do they want? Customers call us for one reason, they want our help! They need service, they are uncomfortable, they feel unsafe, they have a question, they need a part (filter, water panel, etc.), they need HELP! Are we helping our customers or are we making it hard for them to get the assistance they need to make their family safe and comfortable at home?
Your customer wants to know that they are getting a fair price and priority service. They want to know we will let them know all the things they need to know when they need to know them. They want happy, eager, willing individuals who are ready to meet their needs. They expect us to be consistent, to be there when they need us, to always use quality products and perform quality service with a professional image. Deliver when we promised and know what we are doing. Understand their needs and give them our uncompromised commitment to be available for them, no matter what. Keep in mind, they keep us in business, pay the bills and have the power, just as a board of directors does to elect to use our services, to re-order from us or to tell a friend about our services.
So, how do we exceed customers expectations? Be friendly and helpful. When we perform our job with empathy and show them how much we truly care, the customer will help us help them.
When a customer calls, you must determine their needs quickly and be prepared to book the call properly in your computer system while they are on the line. To determine the customer’s needs you need to begin by “being” who the customer needs you to be. Meaning, having the attitude of helpfulness and a true desire to make a difference in the customer’s life. They called us… not one of our competitors. They have chosen to give us the opportunity to earn their business and we had better be up to the challenge. To “be” who the customer needs us to be comes to light in how we interact with them.
First: our greeting. What does it say to the customer? Are we saying “how may I help you?” A receptionist asks this in order to know who to transfer the call to. Try this: “It’s a great day at XYZ Heating and Air Conditioning, my name is Mike, I can help you.” Now you are telling the customer that you can take care of their every need and will only transfer the call when you have exhausted every avenue for you personally to take care of their needs.
Once we established with the customer that we are willing and able to help them and earn their trust through the words, tone and friendliness of our greeting, then we can begin to listen to them to determine why they called. To truly listen, you must perform “active” listening when interacting with the customer. Active listening means to be quiet and focus totally on the caller. When listening, you will not interrupt the customer, assume they don't know what is wrong, or make judgements about the customer or their situation. When we act with empathy and truly listen, we then will have all we need to properly book a call that reflects the need of the customer.
Customer Service Representatives generating leads? “That’s not my job!” Oh, yes it is! When you ask the right questions and determine that the customer has a 20 year old air conditioner and a furnace that is at least that old, it is your job to help the customer understand that keeping that old dinosaur will cost them more than they should be paying in energy and repairs. When armed with the right information, you will be able to help customers in many ways by educating them about their comfort system. Like you, your customer makes decisions to take care of their family based on what they know. Sometimes, they have a solution in mind, like get the furnace fixed, until they are educated about the benefits to a different solution, possibly replacement. It is up to you and your center team to get you, the CSR, the information you need on old equipment and energy costs and role-play using the proper words to be able to convey this valuable information to the customer.
Generating Maintenance Agreements
When we receive a call from a non-agreement customer, we need to educate them about the benefits of the agreement. The hardest part is to bring up the subject in a what that the customer says, “yes. I want to hear more.” Well, you’ve been waiting for a “Silver Bullet.” Here it is: simple ask, “Do you pay full price or do you qualify for a discount?” Think about it. Is you customer more interested in getting their furnace tuned up or saving money? We are a nation obsessed with discounts. We will drive across town to save a buck-fifty on a simple household item spending $5.00 on gas in the process. Your customers want discounts. Try referring to your Maintenance Agreement as your “Discount Program.” You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.
You want to really generate maintenance agreements? Have your technicians ask the same question when presenting the price of the repair. It works, guaranteed.
A Customer Service Representative’s job description should read: To be of service to customers. Your entire focus must be the customer and their needs. Decisions on how to take care of the customer must, of course, include long-term profitability for the company as determining factors in the process but when “the customer comes first” is our motto, the customer will know that we care.
Mike Treas is a HVAC Business Coach specializing in residential replacement sales, sales management, customer service and maintenance agreements. Mike has worked with hundreds of contracting professionals all across the United States and Canada using proven processes and motivation to increase sales and customer retention. Mike has 10 years in the contracting industry working directly for Service Experts, International Service Leadership, Contractors Success Group and Lennox. For more information on how Mike can help you with your business call him at 913-568-3280.
TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN CUSTOMER SERVICE, IT IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT TO KEEP THE CUSTOMER IN YOUR SIGHTS.
By Mike Treas
Sometimes we get so caught up in making a living that we forget what life is all about: helping and sharing with people. And it is this – to help people – upon which customer service is based. That’s why the art of customer service is the greatest profession in the world.
We’re in the people business, and we’re only successful if our customers are happy and satisfied with our services. This is because a professional customer service individual comes to work for one reason and one reason only: to be of service to the customer. It’s impossible for a successful customer service professional not to be successful at helping others.
And considering the state of current affairs, customer service performers are in a unique position to help the lives of the customers they touch – and the health of the nation’s economy. Now, more than ever, our customers need our help – not only from the benefits resulting from our products and services, but from the strategies, knowledge, expertise and the empathy we can share.
As a professional customer service performer, however, when you contemplate negative possibilities, consider your opportunity – and your obligation – to help minimize these potential negative effects. We will all encounter customers who are fearful. You must ease your customer’s fear, uncertainties and doubts, and help them understand that you and your company are there to restore their comfort.
As a professional CSP, you know that understanding a customer’s fear, uncertainties and doubts and successfully easing them can be a major challenge. What’s the best way to handle general apprehensions your customers have?
First and foremost, put yourself in their position. Before making any recommendations or offering any suggestions, ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated if I called a heating and air conditioning company?” “What would I need?” “What would I want to hear?” “What would I be grateful for?” “What would I, as an expert in being helpful, know to expect or request?” Spending even a few seconds prior to each customer contact to get truly focused on being of service to the customer can make all the difference.
Second, if you haven’t been doing so already, I strongly suggest that you become a friend to your customers, as much as possible, in concert with being a professional CSP. Realize that common concerns may now be more urgent, traditionally “little” things may become gigantic roadblocks if not handled appropriately. Being a friend and being a customer service professional share many similarities, most notably the desire to help our “friends” solve their problems or challenges. Handle these “little” things with empathy, care and compassion, and put in a little extra effort for your customers.
And finally, learn the most valuable skill of customer service: the skill of listening. Good customer service professionals are good listeners. Be aware that many of the concerns your customers share might just be venting steam. Perhaps you’re the person who can provide the outlet to let them just express their feelings. Remain cognizant of this and resist the temptation most salespeople succumb to: the temptation to immediately talk and to become a problem solver. One of the most rewarding truths is that it really is possible in the same moment to be both a professional CSP to your customer and friend.
As a professional customer service performer, be helping your customer with absolute dedication and integrity, you’re giving back to your customers, who benefit directly from your knowledge, expertise, effort and empathy. And just as important, in your role as a professional CSP, you’re doing all that you can to help your customers be comfortable, healthy and safe in their home.
Growing your Contracting Business Through Maintenance Agreements
By Mike Treas
Maintenance Agreements are the lifeblood of the leading residential replacement HVAC companies. The first thing that has to happen to set up a Maintenance Agreement program is to create a culture that fosters the growth of the program. When all employees agree that Maintenance Agreements are good for the customer and want to help customers save money the program will be a success. It only takes a few that do not support the program to make it fail. The team needs to have a true desire to help customers save money and have equipment and accessories that make their life easier. And, when the team has a culture of company growth because they see themselves involved in that company’s future, they will support the program.
Discuss what to name the program. Understand that no one wants a “contract” with a service company. They do want discounts and they do want to save money on their utility bills. They also want their comfort system to last as long as possible so it is important to name the program so the customer sees benefit. Extra Privilege Agreement, Priority Club, Discount Club, Energy Savings Agreement are just a few names being used today by the leading contractors. When you ask a customer if they want to become a Maintenance Agreement customer they will typically not want to because it sounds like a benefit to the company, not the customer. Customers are members of Costco and Sam’s Club or they shop at Target or Wal-Mart. Customers want discounts. Customers want to buy, they just want to make sure it is the right thing to do. When we call the program “Service Contracts” or anything that sounds like it the customer will not want to participate. Besides, a “Service Contract” by definition includes service. A Maintenance Agreement includes “maintenance” but not service. It can be confusing to use the word “service” in the name of the program.
Establish an incentive for the team members who sell Maintenance Agreements. Besides $10 for each sold develop a introductory program that gets the team excited about helping customers understand the benefits of becoming a Maintenance Agreement customer. Offer a contest where each Maintenance Agreement sold gives the team member a chance to win a prize like a TV or a dinner or a family prize package to a theme park.
A company-wide meeting to rollout the program will introduce the program and get the ball rolling. At this meeting there needs to be brochures and potential marketing pieces. Introduce the how to offer customers communication that helps them understand the benefits of being a Maintenance Agreement customer. Review the KPIs that show how the Maintenance Agreement program benefits the customer and the company. Teach the team the words to use to get customers asking questions about the Maintenance Agreement program. “Are you a discount customer or will you be paying full price today?” Or, “Be sure to ask your technician how you can save 15% off your repair today.”
Introduce the rollout incentive and have the prize there. Give everyone a start with one entry into the contest that becomes two when they sell their first Maintenance Agreement. Get their commitment that they will help customers understand the benefits at every opportunity. Let them know that there is no turning back, this program is here to stay. Tell them you will offer each of them a Maintenance Agreement on their own home at cost. And, the principals are the first to sign up.
Maintenance Agreements are the lifeblood of a residential replacement company. Offer it to every customer 100% of the time, no fail. Customers are looking for a relationship with their service company. A relationship that helps them take better care of their family. A Maintenance Agreement helps them do just that. A Maintenance Agreement helps the team member make additional dollars so they can take better care of their family. Maintenance Agreements grows the company so that the team members have a future with a growing, profitable organization. Maintenance Agreements offers team members an organization to work for where they have a career instead of a job.