The Main Reasons Your Service Business is Losing Customers
It is the rare business owner or manager who doesn’t want more leads. Retaining those acquired customers, long term, is a separate issue.
In the home service world, pricing is nothing but a race to the bottom. There are always companies willing to do the job more affordably than you. To attract and retain leads willing to pay what you’re worth, get customers to stop fixating on price.
Instead, deliver value that makes pricing insignificant. If customers see value in the service you offer, they’ll gladly pay what you’re asking.
Value manifests through a consistently outstanding customer experience. By providing an experience that’s miles ahead of the competition, you turn customers into loyal evangelists.
Your first interaction with customers should always be a top priority. Most service companies don’t maximize this opportunity. Depending on how it’s handled, the initial inquiry phone call will nurture loyalty or drive customers away. Which result would you prefer?
Here are several customer experience solutions to help you create value and build loyalty during your first engagement. These are the main reasons service businesses lose customers before the appointment even begins.
Listen, Don’t Just Hear
The people who answer your phones when a customer calls are crucial. Without good call-handlers, you’ll never convert interested customers into bookings, and ultimately, revenue.
But what makes a good customer service representative (CSR)? It comes down to 3 main actions:
Customers don’t want to be heard, they want to be understood. Your CSRs need to show customers your business truly cares about their needs. This starts very simply with listening.
No customer wants to feel like an interruption or an inconvenience. When a customer is on the phone, they should receive undivided attention. They don’t want to repeat themselves multiple times or have to explain the problem again or be told they’re booked for a water heater flush when they actually need a faucet repaired.
Listening builds customer confidence and ensures your team gathers the right information efficiently. It also equips service technicians with detailed and accurate information to help them do their job better.
Demonstrate Empathy to Build Rapport
You’ve already built trust by listening, now build rapport with empathy. When a customer says they have no hot water, or their AC hasn’t worked all month, or their roof is leaking, acknowledge their pain. When they express stress, concern, frustration or anger about their situation, react. A simple empathetic comment in response to their problem shows you’re listening and makes a connection on a personal level.
After carefully listening and empathizing, CSRs now have permission to communicate about your services. Once customers feel a connection with the other human on the phone, they’re willing to hear about your business and how it can solve their needs.
Communicate to Set Expectations
In the words of Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
Communication is your key moment to maximize value. This is when CSRs should share why your company is the best choice. And if they’ve listened to the customer and empathized with their pain, the value can be tailored to meet their immediate needs.
What sets you apart from the competition? What do your techs bring to the table that others don’t? This is where your unique value exists. CSRs should never discuss scheduling or price until the customer sees value in the solution you provide.
Beyond building value, what can the customer expect on the day of the appointment? Assume customers have never hired a service provider in your industry. Even if they have, they don’t know how your company runs.
Failure to set customer expectations sufficiently at the outset of the relationship leads to confusion and miscommunication later. Clarity, understanding and value will help you overcome objections before they start.
Train CSRs to Ask the Right Questions
Some customers call ready to provide plenty of information about their problem. Other customers might have trouble explaining what they’re experiencing.
Gathering useful information facilitates a better handoff to field staff or sales. To get info that’s advantageous for your field staff, your customer service team should ask the right questions:
What’s the problem?
How long have you been experiencing this?
When was this installed?
Where is it located?
These questions are a good starting point to understand the basics of the situation. They help your team:
- Determine the level of urgency
- Schedule the most appropriate technician for the job
- Make sure technicians arrive well-prepared to troubleshoot and solve the problem quickly
- Prepare with a full-stock of the right replacement parts, tools or equipment needed
- Know how much time to schedule technicians for, based on complexity or ease of access
Many other questions that foster a smoother appointment and lasting relationship could come up during the conversation. Train your customer service team to know when and how to dig deeper for key details about the job.
Prevent Problems With Accuracy
When you hire a new employee to handle inbound calls and scheduling, attention to detail should be high on their list of skills. Meticulous note taking during the booking process saves a lot of headaches down the line.
Typos, inadequate job details or inaccurate customer records create countless problems on the day of the job. Mistakes also create future challenges with follow-ups, billing, marketing efforts, maintenance plans, etc. CSRs should diligently check and double-check their documentation before moving on to the next task.
Failure to Follow Through
Scheduling problems are the primary cause of lost business in service industries. While this can come from mistakes on the office end, it can also stem from customer forgetfulness. Reminders and alerts to customers are a safety measure for your company. They protect you from wasting profits sending techs to jobs where the homeowner has completely forgotten and isn’t available.
Besides being a failsafe for your dispatch board, improving the scheduling process makes a huge difference in customer service. Over half of all homeowners want appointment confirmations, reminders and dispatch notifications as part of their customer experience.
Try to make these aspects of scheduling easy on your staff. Can you automate appointment notifications through your booking software? Most homeowners prefer email or text alerts anyway, so if your software is capable, this is the best option.
Customers don’t pay for things they don’t feel are worth it. Pricing is often the object of hostility by a frustrated customer, but truthfully, people will pay anything if they see value in it.
You can’t compete on price, but you can compete on value. Building value from the outset of the relationship is the best way to achieve enduring success in the service industries. By showing customers the benefits of working with you from the first interaction, you’ve set the whole experience on the right track.
About the Author
Mel Ebenstein is Director of Perigee Partners’ Service Businesses division. Mel has worked with many service providers to help them achieve enduring success by focusing on providing the best possible customer experience and incorporating that into their branding and marketing. Mel's industry experience is very broad, including home services contractors (strong emphasis, since 2010), CPA firms, health care practices (traditional and progressive), colleges, public relations firms, employment/staffing agencies, coaching services, senior care facilities, pharmacies and more.