Plumbers, HVAC technicians, and other home repair professionals often see people at their worst. Techs come into a customer’s home at a stressful and uncertain time (when something important is broken) to provide a technical service that the customer doesn’t understand, for a cost they often see as excessive. To paraphrase one business owner, “Customers need us, but they don’t want us.”
That may be why these two parties are so often portrayed online and in popular culture as adversaries. A recent survey by Consumers’ Checkbook found that reviews of plumbers, for example, frequently include terms like “overcharged,” “unprofessional,” “incompetent,” and “dishonest.”
But your company can avoid following that old, tired narrative.
With a strong service offering and a blossoming reputation for excellent work, a concerted focus on improving the customer experience can win you more bids, earn you repeat and referral business, and even help preempt nasty customer calls and online reviews on the rare occasion when a repair goes wrong.
Here are four ways you and your technicians can connect with customers and help drive repeat business from day one.
1. Let the customer know what they don’t know.
You and your technicians are experts in a highly complex field, and subtly reminding your customers of that fact can eliminate some of the negative attitudes outlined above.
It all starts with the first phone call from the customer.
Unless they’re a repeat customer, chances are they’ll be calling other providers to compare prices and availability.
That first conversation needs to go beyond just providing those two pieces of information, and that is where your technicians will draw from their experience and technical training.
Suggest questions the customer should ask your competitors about the specific problem they’re having, questions that highlight your company’s knowledge and experience:
- “When you call around to other companies, be sure to ask them what kind of pipe they use, because if they use X pipe, that can cause you problems down the line.”
- “Remember to ask them what kind of warranty they offer. We’ll come back for free if the repair fails within the next year.”
- “Ask them if they’ll clean the condensation drain line for free when they repair. That’s something we always do because a clogged line can make the repair less effective.”
Comparison shopping for technicians can be a pain, especially for bigger jobs where the techs need to come to the job site to provide an estimate.
To make that job easier, experts recommend that consumers start by looking at star ratings and reviews online. If your company has already made it through that step and onto the customer’s shortlist, this brief consultation may garner enough goodwill and credibility to put you at the top of their list or even cut their search short and choose you.
2. Build deep technical knowledge in-house
A key element of this strategy revolves around keeping the customer better informed and even educating them about the technical aspects of the job. However, a common barrier to this type of comprehensive service is that your techs may be too green, or they don’t completely understand why they do what they do.
Today, on-demand immersive training programs for trades professionals are available to help ensure that even your newest technicians build great foundational skills. By providing your green and senior techs with ongoing in-house training opportunities, they will become proficient in basic to advanced jobs, tackle more calls confidently and, be ready to perform tasks to the customer’s satisfaction.
With a deep, technical understanding of their craft, you will not be needed to intervene as frequently to remediate issues on service calls. This frees up your time for more important management tasks. Plus, you will experience greater cost savings from error reduction and decreased callbacks.
Proper training is the core of building a five-star brand. No matter their skill levels, all technicians can arrive at jobs prepared to give the customer helpful insights into the work being performed.
3. Conduct a “pre-game” consultation.
Even though tradespeople are hired to fix systems integral to our daily lives, customers struggle to make the mental link between that essential role and the cost they charge for their services.
Again, this can be helped by subtly reminding the customer just how technical your work is and the depth of experience you bring to the table.
- Why did the system break?
- What exactly will you be doing during the repair?
- What factors would the industry and others in the profession use to determine whether this particular job has been done well or not?
- What extra steps do you take to exceed that “well done” threshold?
4. Conduct an “exit interview” and a check-in.
Once the job is done, revisit the points discussed in the “pre-game” consultation. Share before and after photos of the work, if you have them. Let your customer know if there’s a possibility the repair might not hold, how to tell if it’s failed and what they can do to address that situation and prevent further damage immediately.
No customer is going to be pleased in the event of a failed repair, but they’re less likely to scream down the phone line at you and fire off a one-star review if they were warned that it was a possibility and told what to look out for. Next, give your customer tips on preventative maintenance.
Finally, a few days after the repair is complete, do a follow-up call to see how the work is holding up and whether the customer has had any issues. This is a great way to close out the project and a good time to ask for an online review and referrals. It’s also a good opportunity to ask the customer if there are any other projects they are thinking about doing that you might bid on.
Ten extra minutes per service call can change the trajectory of your business.
Anticipating your customers’ needs and keeping them in the loop can differentiate your company in the marketplace and infuse your brand with trust, reliability, and reassurance.
It will also make customer interactions more professional, pleasant and reduce the number of angry calls and negative reviews you get.
Finally, great technical training courses, like the ones offered by Interplay Learning will transform your techs from workers to skilled consultants. This transformation can allow you to charge more than competitors, sustain your business through rough patches and even help you attract new talent.