- THE MAGAZINE
Yep, your resident curmudgeon Steve Toburen weighing in here with his usual contrarian view. This ICS issue is on “innovation.” And yes, over my 45 years in this industry I’ve seen incredible changes for the better! (You’ll see many great examples in this issue.)
But even after all these changes, it is amazing how many core business principles have remained the same. (Or have become even more important.) For example…
The Power of a “Customer Cheerleader”
My business success was based on consistently creating delighted “cheerleaders.” These are ecstatic clients who sing your praises from the roof tops! According to studies, this super happy, unpaid salesperson cheerleader would, on average, promote your business to five of their friends, neighbors or co-workers. Wonderful!
Today? With online review sites and social media (can you say Google, Angie’s List, Yelp or Facebook?), just one of your customer cheerleaders can shout out their surprised delight to thousands of people they have never even met!
So what should you do? Refocus yourself (and your employees) on the 80% principle: “Over 80% of how your client decides if you did a good job or a bad job is based on their relationship with the person(s) performing the service.” How to do this? By developing a service system script that consistently and dramatically exceeds the customer’s expectations.
NOTE: For a free step-by-step “Moment of Truth” (MOT) service system script for residential carpet cleaning just write me at stoburen@StrategiesForSuccess.com. Or if you prefer, I’ll send you a MOT script for restoring a water loss. Or both - just let me know!
The Devastating Effect of a “Negative Cheerleader”
Sure, customers have always complained when they felt ignored, abused or ripped off. In fact, the same studies I mentioned above state that, on average, an unhappy customer will tell 25 people about their bad experience with a business! That is five times more than the customer cheerleader profiled above! I guess bad news really does travel fast!
Today? You have a love/hate relationship with the Internet! The same social media sites that let your cheerleaders promote your services (for free!) can also become an extremely unfair double-edged sword. With a few impulsive strokes on their keyboard, a customer can easily accuse you of horrible work or unethical bait-and-switch practices! You can even be totally trashed online by an unscrupulous competitor posing as an unhappy customer. Even worse, thousands of potential clients may see these unfair reviews and choose a different company and you have little or no recourse!
So what should you do? Strive to build a positive, professional relationship with every single client. (You can’t afford to tick off even one client in today’s online world!) If possible, always do a final walk-through of the job with your customer. Show them any areas that did not respond 100% to your efforts and verify that they are still happy. And right after the tech leaves the home, have someone else in your company make a quality check call on your client.
NOTE: Why is this quick check call so important? Because even a slightly miffed customer will often vent their spleen online before even giving you a chance to resolve their concern. This is totally unfair, but it is what it is. Deal with this problem by heading most (but not all) of these trigger-happy keyboard cowboys off at the pass by making an immediate quick check call to all residential clients. Just maybe they will dump on your call person instead of splashing it on their Facebook page!
Marketing to Tightly Targeted Prospects
In the old days you (grudgingly) signed up for another year of the Yellow Pages, ran some newspaper ads, did your “door hanger five-arounds” and you were good to go! With this traditional approach, you were paying for access to the total population base of your entire market area. The problem? Only a tiny fraction of these folks would ever need or use your services. So the experts always said to target your best prospects. But how?
Today? With search engine optimization and a judicious pay-per-click strategy, you are advertising only to those prospects that need, want and can pay for your services. Now you can dial down into specific demographics even further by advertising on Facebook and other local social media.
So what should you do? Get web savvy. Focus on your website design. Hire an expert to clean up your website and make it professional, functional and, most of all, emotionally appealing. The number of potential clients who arrive at your site and are turned off by its amateurish design and immediately click away can be enormous.
Even worse, you may be totally oblivious of these lost-forever potential customers! So start tracking your “bounces” (prospects that see your site and then “bounce” away), click-throughs and conversion rates. Don’t know how to do this? Sign up with Google Analytics (it’s free) and start obsessively tracking your web results.
NOTE: Many of us old Luddites (including me) are totally clueless when it comes to serious Internet stuff. If so, please hire an expert! It just cracks me up that a carpet cleaner will ridicule homeowners who clean their carpets with a rental carpet cleaner instead of hiring a professional. But then, this same cleaner will hack together a second grade-level website that creates huge damage to their business and think it is great!
HINT: You don’t have to be held hostage by local website developers or SEO experts. The Internet lets you hire very creative and reliable freelance experts from anywhere in the world. (Many of these people are home-based so their prices are very reasonable.) Ask yourself one essential question: Which is my highest and best use? Me personally learning the constantly changing rules of the Internet? Or cleaning carpets for $100 or more per hour while hiring a web expert that will work for 25% of that?
Holding Your Employees Accountable with GPS Tracking
Technicians have always been tempted to become loose cannons when working out from under the boss’ watchful eyes. Why? Because up until now, there has been little or no consequences for their wild driving and unauthorized side trips. And of course, even worse, are the cash side jobs that go straight into your employee’s pockets?
Today? Instant, online GPS tracking of your vehicles (and how they are driven) can give you immediate feedback. Even better, your employees will know they are being held accountable and this keeps honest people honest! A GPS tracking unit can notify you any time your vehicle goes over the speed limit or veers off its pre-programmed service route. It will even track when your truckmount is running and the daily and cumulative hours. (Great for tracking maintenance intervals.)
HINT: Have the GPS units installed on a weekend and don’t inform your techs of the change for two weeks while you track their movements and daily driving behavior. Then call a meeting and explain the capabilities of the units you installed two weeks ago. You will be able to hear a pin drop in the ensuing thoughtful silence!
Don’t let the online GPS tracking of your employees lull you into a false sense of security. Sure, the immediate accountability of a GPS unit will improve your employee’s driving and production. But it will not let you know what is going on inside the customer’s house!
Creating delighted cheerleaders, avoiding negative cheerleaders, targeting your marketing and gently holding your employee’s feet to the fire have always been important. But with the recent business innovations we’ve profiled, you can actually do something about these essential goals. It (almost) makes me want to go back into business again!