- THE MAGAZINE
A very common topic of discussion in classes and on Internet bulletin boards is how to grow one's business and, inevitably, what programs work the best.
"Growth" plans may include using flyers, postcards or newsletters. The common thread in all systems is to keep your identity in front of your potential or actual client or customer (you choose the term you like best). It is your choice whether to use a passive system like direct mail, where your marketing piece must entice the prospect to read it and then take action by calling you, or to use an active process such as "Five Arounds," which is most effective if it involves face time and interaction with your prospect. And then there are those who are convinced that a large, noisy truck with lots of graphics is certain to attract lots of new folks with cleaning needs.
Whatever your approach, it is important that you institute procedures to keep your company name fresh in the minds of those that choose to call you, and that you make it clear to them that you appreciate their business. Contact with your customer shortly after services have been completed is the basis for building the rapport that leads to the repeat customer and referrals to their "circle of influence."
"Thank You" cards should go out by first-class mail, and should be personally signed by the "boss," within a day or so of the work being completed. It may be of value to include information on additional services you offer, such upholstery cleaning or grout cleaning, as well as discount coupons good on these additional services and/or coupons to pass on to their friends or relatives. Some companies even send flowers or candy, anything to make the customer feel special and appreciated. If you choose to follow up with personal phone calls, the person making the calls should also be sure to express appreciation for the opportunity to serve the customer's needs, and invite them back for any additional needs that may arise.
Evaluation sheets may be postage paid and left by the technician for the customer to send in, or else be collected by the technician when the job is complete. The sheets should ask for evaluations of such topics as promptness; physical appearance such as uniforms, personal grooming; demeanor; and satisfaction with services performed. This evaluation can also be performed by telephone from your office. Some companies distribute cash bonuses to employees that receive high rankings. It is generally accepted that evaluations returned by mail will provide more accurate responses than those collected by the technicians since some folks will "flavor" the responses if they think the tech will read the forms on the way back to the office.
Silent complaints will kill any goodwill you have generated and will defeat the goal of business growth. The silent complainer will not tell you of their concerns or problems, but will simply not use your service and, even worse, will tell neighbors and friends not to use your services. This type of complaint does not even provide you with an opportunity to address it. Some years back I was doing consulting work for an $8-billion, family owned chemical-manufacturing company with an interest in entering the on-site carpet cleaning world. As they made their initial foray into the business, they followed up each job with a personal call from a company representative asking about the customer's satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the services performed. These reps were instructed to listen closely for any hesitation on the part of the customer when discussing their satisfaction, and to ask probing questions to ferret out any concerns the customer may be reluctant to volunteer. This was their approach to dealing with the silent complaint.
Constant contact is one of the most effective techniques available to promote a steady growth of your customer base. It may take the form of sending newsletters or postcards on a regular basis. This task is getting increasingly easy to employ with the abundance of newsletter and postcard programs available to the business owner. Research indicates that it is far more cost effective and time efficient to retain a customer and train them to buy from you than it is to generate new customers.
Referrals can be very lucrative if "mined" effectively and constantly. Some companies pay cash to consumers for referrals that end up buying their services, and some offer discount coupons on future work. Often, these discount coupons may be combined so the customer may actually end up with free jobs if they refer enough new accounts.
Whatever direction you choose to go to grow your business, the quality of work you offer - and the customer contact you provide - must be consistent and monitored on a regular basis. Be aware of the value of a sincere " Thank you" to the customer, as well as the value of showing your concerns about their satisfaction. Be aware also of the silent complainer that will rob you of the chance to satisfy their dissatisfaction, taking from you the chance to turn them into a cheerleader for your services.
Nothing magic here, just lots of common sense, eh? Hope these thoughts of mine help you as you work to grow your business. Until next month, see ya!