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Things Your Customers Won’t Tell You (But You Need To Hear!)

Originally published: 07.01.09 by Greg McAfee

If you don’t keep up with trends, you are not keeping up with customer expectations.

Today’s customers expect things that yesterday’s customers didn’t. They also have more choices in service providers, so they are less inclined to tell you how they feel. They’ll just move on to another company if they are unhappy.

One thing your customer won’t tell you is that you are behind the times. If you don’t keep up with trends, you are not keeping up with customer expectations. Here is a checklist of nine pitfalls that will send customers to a competitor. Use this list for a customer-service tuneup, and you can be sure your company is keeping up with trends in the eyes of the people who matter the most — your customers.

Whenever I call your office, I get a busy signal or your voicemail.

With today’s technology, having multiple phone lines is inexpensive and gives every caller the opportunity to speak with a live person — even if you are a small company. In the first few years of our business, we had a couple of lines designated for our customers, and rollover lines used for our credit card and fax machines. Talk to your communications

provider about what you want and what you can afford. They are used to dealing with all types of companies of various sizes.

You arrived 20 minutes late without a phone call!

How much effort does it take to call the customer when you’re running late? This is something all service technicians must be doing, and you need to establish a system to confirm that they are. We call customers ahead of time to tell them we are on the way. We also make courtesy calls the day before to confirm the appointment time. We realize our customers are busy people, and they appreciate being reminded.

Your van leaked oil in my driveway, and it was so dirty and old that I was embarrassed to have it on my property!

Your trucks and vans are a highly visible representation of your company. Most people don’t visit hvacr facilities, but they do see your trucks on the road and parked in a variety of places. We wash our trucks at least every other day. Consequently we are known for having the cleanest trucks around, and this conveys to our customers that we will take care of their homes in the same manner.

Your technician showed up at my door wearing a plain t-shirt and jeans. I was concerned about it being an imposter and felt uncomfortable opening my door.

Uniform service can cost as low as $8 per week/per person, and that includes washing and delivery. Your installers or technicians will represent your company much more professionally wearing a uniform with their name and a company logo on it. I have found that if employees don’t look professional, they probably won’t act like it either. An unprofessional look is an immediate turn-off to customers.

Why do you use generic invoices with no company logo? I want to be able to identify where my money went when I review my accounts.

There are so many printing companies around today, and some specialize in serving hvacr contractors. Take advantage of this to present your company in a professional manner. Documents for invoices and estimates, and business cards should be consistent in design. They also should be numbered for internal record keeping and accuracy. The paperwork left behind for customers should be easy to read and give the customer all of the information they want: name, contact information, what was done, what was charged, what was paid, etc.

Why don’t you accept credit cards? Get out of the Stone Age!

If you are not accepting credit cards, you are missing out on several thousand dollars a year in revenue. Many people purposely use credit cards to make large purchases. Some want to receive “rewards” from banks, take advantage of purchase guarantees, to record and/or organize purchases, or to pay off a purchase on their own schedules. Make it easy for the credit-card customer to buy from you, and they will buy more.

I wanted a quote on an R410-A system, but you only install units using R-22.

We all know that next year R-22 will not be in new systems, yet some hvacr companies are holding on to the idea of only selling R-22 units and even buying them up and storing them for 2010. Around 1995, we installed an R410-A heat pump system and have been installing them ever since. All our technicians and installers are certified to do so. The windshield on a car is larger than the rearview mirror because too muchtime shouldn’t be spent looking into it. R410-A is the way of tomorrow.

I wanted a service plan that automatically notifies us to schedule routine maintenance of the hvacr system, but I was informed you didn’t offer such a plan, and that I should just call and schedule the service when I remember.

Customers appreciate when you takeaway the burden of remembering to get equipment serviced. For years, dentist offices have been sending out postcards as reminders. My optometrist even has me write my own address on a post card, and then he sends it to me the next year. Do you think I would remember to go without the postcard? No way!

When I called after 4:30 p.m. for a service call, I was told there would be a premium for overtime.

To be a successful company today, you have to be willing to adjust to the changing needs of your customers. Most people work during the day and have family activities to squeeze in as well. They don’t want to be penalized because of their busy schedules. At McAfee, we offer and have even trademarked the slogan “8 to 8 At the Same Great Rate.” Our customers appreciate this acknowledgement that modern life is very busy.

I hope you now can see the importance of keeping up with trends, even if you are not hearing direct complaints about being out of touch. Remember that Henry Ford told potential customers they could have any color car they wanted as long as it was black. He put his own needs and desires before those of his customers. Other manufacturers responded by offering a variety of colors, and Ford lost his grip on market share. We need to give our customers what they want, or we will lose market share as well.

More on Multiple Phone Lines

According to Chris Tjotjos, president of digital phone and data-systems provider Logos Communications, Westlake, Ohio, multiple phone lines are the most inexpensive way to ensure that you don’t miss a prospect’s call.

“You won’t get more than two tries if it’s a first-time call-in from a prospective customer. In most areas around the country, a typical four-line system costs less than $150 a month.”

If you are a slightly larger organization, Tjotjos suggests checking with your phone-line provider to see if a PRI line is cost justified. (PRI stands for primary rate interface and is the equivalent of a T-1 line for voice.)

“A PRI line is like buying a case of soda versus paying for the individual cans. We’ve found that if you have 10 to 12 lines, a PRI line would be justified because it’s the equivalent of actually having 23 business lines.”

For more information contact Logos at 440-871-0700 or email at ctjotjos@logosinc.com

Benefits of Renting Uniforms

According to Cincinnati-based Cintas, the hvacr industry’s service model has inherent challenges that uniform rentals can help to address. First and foremost, not only do the majority of employees work outside of the office, but they must be both presentable and comfortable while working, according to the company, which provides uniform rentals and other workforce solutions.

Other benefits of renting uniforms include:

Protecting company identity: Brand awareness is one key to success in the hvacr industry. Customers need to know who to call and that the company they choose employs reliable professionals.

Uniforms also promote an image of quality. Keeping technicians comfortable and productive: Extreme temperatures, weather, and other conditions can quickly create a difficult environment for technicians to work in. They will be most productive if they are comfortable.

Improving cash flow: Direct sale expenses can hurt your cash flow. And when you purchase uniforms (as 38% of the hvacr industry does), you’ll always take periodic hits to your bottom line. Rental solutions can spread this cost out over time and ensure access to cash for other business challenges.

For more information contact Cintas at 1-800-CINTAS1 or email: maileyh@cintas.com

About Greg McAfee

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