Mike Detmer is the principal of Mike Detmer Business Solutions and provides companies in the systems integration space with easy-to-use, business knowhow modules that enable owners to better plan their business and their functional managers to execute key duties at higher levels. After spending most of the year working in New Hampshire, my wife greeted me back home in Florida with a loving smile and a long honey-do list. In particular, all the palm trees, oaks, and bamboo clusters around our house were in dire need of an immediate and severe pruning. So, the next morning, I telephoned a tree service that I had used in the past to schedule the job. Unfortunately my sense of urgency was derailed when I got a voice recording asking me to leave a message. Toward the end of the day, having not received a return call, my reliance on that company plummeted and I began to seek a second option.
I remembered seeing a professional-looking outfit pruning my neighbor’s trees and remembered a company name from the sign it posted and the graphics on its trucks. A quick Google search and my iPhone was autodialing El Cheapo Tree Service (which, it turned out, was anything but cheap). Within several rings, someone answered, listened to my request, took my name and contact information, and booked an appointment for the company’s owner to stop by and quote the job answered the phone. Just like that, my business was switched from one company to another and my old tree service lost a couple thousand dollars in the process.
The take away from this experience that residential systems integrators can apply to maintain and grow their business is one that has been around for decades: “Never miss a telephone call.” Now that’s a bold statement, as typical phone records show a diminishing number of talk-time minutes and an ever increasing rate of texts and e-mails messages. Yet when it was time to make a purchasing decision I choose the good old-fashioned telephone and can assure you that many of your potential customers will do the same. The underlying principle is fairly simple, when ordering a home service many customers still prefer to use the telephone.
The challenge of never missing telephone calls is compounded for many in the systems integration profession. This is because the job bids, system designs, ordering, and installations you do on a daily basis are time vampires, which make it easy to miss a call. Nonetheless, here are four things you can do to ensure your customer calls are always attended to:
1 Get Help
Several years ago, a Consumer Reports article pinpointed the top gripes that consumers had about service providers and second on their list was not getting a human on the phone. In some industries, where you are a captive customer, not getting a person to talk to is becoming acceptable. However in the Residential Systems integration business, connecting with a person can make all the difference in winning a job or not. So don’t leave anything to chance. If you are too busy to monitor the phone all of the time, subscribe to a telephone answering service like the tree trimming service did. Today’s services are competent and flexible. A quick Google search will reveal that you can add an answering service to get 24/7 phone coverage for a nominal cost. In the case of the tree service, I suspect that my business will pay their answering service bill for years to come.
2 Let It Ring
Another way to not miss calls is to keep your phone’s ringer on. This way you never forget it is in silent mode and won’t miss calls unnecessarily. It’s not rude if you are on the job and your phone rings. At times though it may be rude to answer it. In that case, ask you phone to dismiss the call and remind you later so that you’ll never forget to call back. Additionally, you can have your phone send a message to the calling party, i.e., I’m busy right now but will call you back within the hour.
When ordering a home service many customers still prefer to use the telephone. 3 Message Like a Pro
In the case that you can’t take a call, make sure that you have a confident, positive-sounding outgoing message on your voice mail. Record it in a quiet area, prepare a script and speak clearly when dictating the message. Remember, your message leaves an impression on the listener about you and your company. Here’s an example for you to adapt: “Hello, this is the voice message system for (your name) at (your company’s name). I’m sorry that I can’t take your call just now but will return your call as soon as possible. At the sound of the beep please leave your name and the number you wish to be called back on. Thank you for calling (your company’s name).”
4 Reply Systematically
Call back within one hour. If you haven’t noticed, “quick” isn’t quick enough nowadays. And while checking your phone for messages every hour may seem onerous, missing just one sale can make a significant difference in your cash flow. So if you don’t have office staff or an answering service to field telephone calls make it a habit to check your phone at the top of the hour. It’s easy to do. But if you are the forgetful type, you can always set reminders in Outlook, Google Calendars or via IFTTT.com.
While I suspect that to some of you this advice is preaching to the choir, in today’s busy world the simple yet important things tend to get left behind. Be sure that you aren’t one of the complacent ones and seal the deal every time opportunity calls.