Services businesses are “the gift that keeps on giving” in the revenue department…if managed effectively. Unfortunately, many are not very well managed and somehow lose their connection and relevance with customers. The success of Angie’s List and other similar customer advocate intermediaries is a direct result of service vendors inability to remain relevant and build long term value through their customer base. For the vendor that is paying attention and wants to avoid the fate of having every job delivered by a customer service web engine that siphons off valuable margin, here are some tips for growing that do not require massive investments in sales and marketing.
Never Miss a Service Call
When a customer calls, whether a new prospect or an existing customer, how effective is your company at responding? An effective response is directly proportional to the immediate visibility the customer service rep has to supply and demand.
Supply visibility is knowing the current status of all of the field technicians that might be able to respond. I crack up when I see PC-based dispatch boards that represent “what was supposed to happen” at the beginning of the day but immediately become irrelevant when the day begins. If your dispatch board is not updated by every action the technician takes in the field (or does not take), it is irrelevant by 8:05 AM for making customer service decisions. Putting the customer on hold, or heaven forbid, calling them back when you know what is possible, is the kiss of death. Review the board and make the decision NOW about which tech will make it happen and when. If the decision has to wait until you finish a game of “phone call rodeo”, the customer will not be amused, and you will lose the call.
Demand visibility is quickly reviewing the customer history and having an educated opinion on what might be causing the problem. Providing some instant advice based upon your location record as to how they might reduce the severity until your technician arrives will gain you hours of cushion to get to the location. For example, knowing that the water cutoff is in the broom closet 12 steps from the front door. If you have to traipse back to a filing room, or if your technician reports are limited to scans of terse, hard to read, hand-written reports relating the history, you have little opportunity to establish credibility with the customer and move toward a solution in the first 2 minutes of the interaction. If it is a long run for the nearest technician, you are losing valuable points with the customer that may result in a lost customer when the next service opportunity arrives.
Maximize Maintenance Revenue
If the month of May has 285 maintenance services due, how many do you deliver? If your answer is less than 95%, your organization is not best in class, and you are missing revenue. Maximizing maintenance revenue requires 2 key capabilities: visibility to the undelivered work and customer scheduling efficiency.
When you have visibility to what is committed but undelivered, you can drive your technicians to respond. When you do not know what is happening hour to hour and day to day, and you are waiting on a folder to come back to the office to understand the productivity of a week of work, you have no hope of maximizing maintenance revenue; you do not know who is productive and who is goofing off. You need to know the productivity of every technician every hour of every day. The money is out there just waiting to land in your pocket, but you need constant visibility to take it all.
Committing the customer to the work is also a requirement to maximize maintenance revenue. Ideally, committing the customer to the work does not involve 5 phone calls to each customer. Having visibility to the customer preferences for service (never Tuesday, always early, etc.) as well as a notification system that allows you to easily connect with the customer lowers the expense and aggravation of committing the customer to the schedule. This customer engagement model for scheduling is a challenging technical problem, and I expect some very interesting innovations to emerge in this area.
Deliver More with Less
Growing without selling also means having capacity to deliver without expensive and slow ramp up of new resources (techs, trucks, admins). When you can squeeze more out of the current resources and just say “yes” to the calls that are already arriving, that is the ideal situation. Additionally, the ability to seamlessly “source” work to trusted partners when you have absolutely exhausted your ability to fulfill it with your crew is critical.
Squeezing more out of the current resources means that you have the visibility to where a well-applied squeeze will be effective. Squeezing your most productive tech as hard as you squeeze the loafer because you cannot see the results is a recipe for some pretty low outcomes – the best guy leaves and the loafer stays. It also means that your office crew is not covered up with mindless additional administrative work when new opportunities arise. How effective is your process in the office at scaling to meet new demand? Is it a miserable paper chase with stacks of folders representing different status migrating from desk to desk? Or is it a well oiled machine with instantaneous status alerts online that hardly notices an additional 15% uptick in orders?
Delivering more with less also means that you can have the ability to subcontract work to trusted providers with a click of the mouse. If your subcontracting process is not a simple redirect of work in your management application, with your subcontractors using the same technology platform and processes that you use to hold your techs accountable, then you have the wrong application and it is time to call ServiceTrade.
The best sales lead in the world goes something like this:
“Yesterday while I was at your location, my technician noticed a problem with Equipment A. He documented it with photos that I have attached to the quote that you can review online. We can fix it this week, and all you need to do is click ‘Approve’ in the upper right corner of the online quote.”
As long as you are incurring the expense to go to a customer’s location, whether for a maintenance call or a service call, or even a sales call, you might as well maximize your opportunity by noting everything that you could do for the customer. When I say “note,” I do not mean some chicken scratch on a piece of coffee- and tobacco-stained paper that rides around in the truck for another week. What I mean is an organized record of digital artifacts, including photos, audio memos, and perhaps even video, that is easy to redirect back to the customer online to demonstrate your organization’s thoughtful stewardship of their equipment. Online quotes with photos are more than three times as likely to be approved by the customer than flat paper quotes delivered via mail or email attachments.
If you are ready to grow, but you are not ready to suffer the ramp-up of expensive sales resources, consider how these tips might generate the growth you want. Connecting with customers in the digital age is an amazing new opportunity for service companies. The ones that figure it out will grow with an absolute minimum of marketing and sales expense.