One of the most common conversations I have had with business owners in the HVACR, plumbing and electric industries over the years is about value.
Here are some examples of how this term is used in different contexts and applications:
We throw this word value around so often that I wonder if the term has lost some of its “value.” To get really clear on what we mean when we discuss value in terms of employee expectations and customer satisfaction, let’s break the definition of value down from everything I found on Google.
Consider that value equals worth. If we interchange these words, perhaps it will help us focus more on what we are really fighting for in our business. Here is another way to look at these questions:
To help you increase the value/worth of your business, I am going to dissect each one of these questions and provide you with action steps of what you can do to be more valuable as a leader.
Are you the kind of person that dreads payroll week? Well, you’re not alone. Every business owner gets nervous about payroll for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons probably has to do with you wondering if you’re paying people what is fair or if they are being over compensated.
First, I want you to take “fair” out of the vocabulary. Why? Because everyone has a different perception of what is fair.
Is it fair to pay Sally $21/hour just because she has been with your company for 15 years, but she is a low performer? To Sally, yes, she would say it’s fair and she deserves this higher pay for being a loyal employee.
Then you have Jane who has only been at your company for two years and is an extremely high performer. Should she be compensated higher because of those results? Maybe to her, yes. And maybe to you, yes. To Sally? No, because Jane hasn’t put in her dues, and it isn’t “fair.”
Being fair and paying people accordingly will always be about perception. Therefore, it is important to not have a performance review just once per year. They should be happening at least once per quarter. This will make it easier for you both to track progress, make goals, stay emotionally engaged and talk compensation through hourly wage, salary, commissions or bonuses.
Action Step No. 1: Make a scorecard that you will review with your employees at least once per quarter. On this scorecard, the first column will outline each expectation and responsibility. Make sure their role is clearly defined.
The second column of this scorecard will be outlining anything your employee does to exceed expectations — how they went above and beyond what is expected of them. The third column will show the Top Goals for the month.
By tracking and measuring what is expected of employees, this will help you determine if their base pay is covering the value that is being produced. Then when it comes time for you to hand out bonuses and raises, you won’t have to wonder if your employee has earned it or not — just look at their scorecard.
I work with technicians daily. They are amazing at their craft and provide a service that most homeowners can’t do themselves — myself included. They have a unique skillset which makes them worth every penny they charge. Yet they frequently discount their work just because a customer says “Wow, that’s expensive.”
News flash! It probably is expensive, and customers will always worry about price. Always. So, what it comes down to is really owning your worth and the value of your work.
Action Step No. 2: Quality work isn’t cheap. One thing that I encourage technicians do to when they get pricing pushback is to say something like this: “Yes, I agree! And any customer who has had this same kind of work done has said the exact same thing. Yet I have never had a customer disappointed with my work. To do it for less, you simply must cut corners somewhere, and I’m not willing to do that.”
Own your value and your worth. You’re not a parts changer, you are a solution provider.
One of the saddest things I see in this industry is that business owners do not invest in proper training for their call handling teams. Yet these amazing people are the first line of defense!
As an owner, you probably invested thousands of dollars in marketing and advertising just to get your phone to ring. We’ve found that the average cost per call per new customer is around $350. So why wouldn’t the people who provide the first human interaction between your company and that new customer receive training?
CSRs who don’t have training might sound like this:
CSR: “Thank you for choosing XYZ Heating and Air, my name is _____. How can I help you today?”
Customer: “Yeah, I was wondering how much you guys charge to come out and look at my AC?”
CSR: “Sure … it’s $89 for us to come out and diagnose your situation and from there the technician will let you know how much it will be for the repairs.”
Customer: “$89 just to come out?”
CSR: “Yeah, for us to come out and do that.”
Customer: “Okay, great, thanks. Just calling around. I’ll call you back if I need you.”
CSR: “Great! Call us back if you need us.”
I have heard this same kind of conversation happen hundreds of times. Call you back if they need you? Dude, they didn’t call you for fun! They have a problem. Which means they are either going to pay you for a solution or pay your competition — they’re not simply going to sit at home with a broken AC. You can’t hope they will call you back. Hope is not a business strategy.
Just because the customer asks you for the price does not mean you have to give it to them right away. They probably don’t know what else to ask for. Don’t let the price be the only thing a potential customer remembers you by.
Call handling teams need to create a different kind of experience that demonstrates why your company is worth the $89, or whatever it is that you charge.
Action Step No. 3: Stop saying “For us to come out and diagnose your problem it is going to cost $89.” Customers don’t want to pay you just to “come out” to their home. Where is the value in that?
Instead, build up your technician and set the expectation of the kind of work he/she will perform while in the home.
“We are excited for you to have the totally awesome heating and air experience from XYZ. Welcome to our family!
“All of our service professionals take pride in their craftsmanship and will do an excellent job of taking care of you and getting your (insert problem) up and running. They will perform a thorough diagnostic assessment of your situation and work to get to the root of the problem.
“For them to complete this assessment, it is only $89. After they discover what is wrong, they will provide you with some options of how to move forward with pricing and repair. They also arrive fully prepared to get started on the work right away.
“I know you’ll be very happy with our service and the integrity we bring to the jobsite.
(optional: “How could I let my service professional know you’ll be taking care of that today? Cash, CC, or check?” )
If you do not have a service agreement at your company, I highly recommend starting one … now. This is the only predictable way to make money and ensure your team always has work to do. Service agreements, however, are not simply meant to keep your call handling team busy with scheduling calls or your technicians busy during the slow season. These appointments provide huge opportunities to connect with your customers.
I’ve frequently wondered why it is difficult for CSRs to sell these over the phone or for technicians to close them when they’re on a call. I’ve come to these two conclusions.
Action Step No. 4: If the WIIFM isn’t answered for each member of your team, then of course they won’t sell them. WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” Each member of your team should receive incentive for closing these deals, or else why would they do it just to make you more money?
Everyone is looking to grow in a company, and this is a great way to help them grow. Perhaps it is financially, or even PTO. Maybe it is dinner delivered to their family one evening or even a day at the spa. Find out what motivates your team and then help them create a game plan of how to achieve it quickly. Goals that are set too high and take too long to achieve will lose their attraction, which results in low momentum and poor results.
Action Step No. 5: Once your team has a good understanding of WHY service agreements are important and how it benefits them, they’ll need continuous training on how to offer these membership plans over the phone and in the home. This means you can’t just do a one-and-done training on selling.
Your team needs on-going coaching and practice to stay up on their skills. Everyone hates to “role play” in these kinds of situations, but it is the only way to ensure that service agreements are staying top of mind. These should be offered on every call — inbound calls, outbound calls, happy calls, follow up calls and service calls.
These membership programs, when priced right and offered right, will add tremendous value to your company and help your customers see the worth of having an insurance plan on the most expensive appliance in their home.
Working in the trades means you will always be essential and always have a job. Increase the value of your business by investing in yourself and in your team to get better. This is the only way you will gain long term, loyal clients.
Invest in yourself and in your team to get better — this is the only way you will gain long-term, loyal clients.
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Winston Hancock discusses Gilman Heating & Cooling's long history, the need to transition marketing to a professional firm and the importance of training and education.