The only way to judge the quality of a service is to consume it. Services aren’t like physical products. You can’t read the packaging on the box of a service. You can’t pick up a service to see how heavy it is or what it’s made of. You can’t kick it, taste it, touch it, or smell it. That leaves consumers with tangible clues about what they might expect.
Tangibles are proxies for the type of service customers can expect from your company. They are physical clues. By looking at your tangibles through your customers’ eyes, you can identify improvements that capture more calls and improve satisfaction.
Your most visible tangible is your service fleet. Customers expect your employees to treat their homes no better than they treat your trucks. So how are your trucks? Are they clean or dirty? Are they well maintained or do they look like demolition derby wannabes? Are they professionally lettered with well designed logos or amateurish, DIY hack jobs?
Every company employee is an ambassador for your business in the field. In many ways, your people are your product. So how is your product?
Are your technicians in uniform? Is it a complete uniform? Do they wear blue jeans or work pants? Do they don manufacturer gimmie caps? If your techs wear caps, they should be company caps. Do you provide picture ID badges?
Are your techs groomed? Are the shirts tucked in? Did they shower and shave at the start of the day? Once I had an employee who told me she didn’t need to wash every day because she didn’t sweat. She didn’t think people could tell. She was wrong.
What about odor? Do they smell like Marlboro or cheap aftershave? With today’s hypersensitive public, the best odor is none.
Keep breath spray, hand wipes, and extra shirts on your trucks. Make it company policy to use breath spray and hand wipes before each customer encounter.
The way your team talks with and listens to the customer is another tangible. Your call taker can win or lose a call simply by her deportment over the phone. It starts with the way the phone is answered. During seminars, Maurice Maio used to call the offices of contractors in attendance. Most were embarrassed by the way the phone’s were answered. Call your company from time to time.
CSRs should speak clearly and friendly, remembering that people usually call service companies under distress. It’s the CSR’s job to reassure them and then, book the call. Keep a small mirror by the CSR’s phone and tape “People Can Hear a Smile” on the mirror.
Similarly, technicians can win or lose business based on their demeanor. If they simply stand up straight, square their shoulders, smile, look the customer in the eye, and nod in acknowledgement when the customer explains something, they’re half way home.
Customers don’t just use tangible clues to pre-judge your work. They refer to tangibles to evaluate what’s been done. Frankly, the customer can’t tell good maintenance from bad. But, the customer can tell when you’ve waxed a condensing unit or furnace. This may be all the customer can see.
Carry handheld and portable shop vacs on your trucks. Clean the work area better than it was before you arrived. Wear shoe covers when entering the house. Place tools on company logoed tool mats. Use drop cloths for installations. Surround condensing unit installations with landscape timbers, weed block fabric, and lava rock.
Contractor paperwork is often abysmal. Given the state of technician penmanship, getting the pre-printed collateral right is crucial. Often it’s poorly designed and typo-riddled, shouting to the customer that yours is a careless company.
Hire a graphic designer to improve your forms and invoices. If you’re going to use third party collateral, use material prepared by companies with a good sense of graphic design and marketing.
Speaking of marketing, your marketing material similarly sends signals to the customer. Does yours look professional or amateurish? Don’t forget, it can look too slick as well. Review your website, consumer newsletters, post cards, direct mail letters, door hangers, flyers, presentation books, business cards, radio and TV spots, and the myriad of other marketing material with an eye towards to the message you’re sending.
Judging Your Company
Sometimes it’s hard to judge yourself. Use Craig’s list or a temp agency to hire three people who match your company’s target demographics. Have them call to schedule maintenance that you will reimburse them for. Instruct them to review everything about your company from the website to the way the phone is answered to the paperwork.
Once the service work is complete, bring the faux customers into the shop to look everything over from top to bottom. Instruct them to review all paper and marketing that’s visible to the public. They should report their findings to you and, possibly, to the entire company in a service meeting.
Remember, people judge you by your tangibles.
Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, which provides contractors with great sales, marketing, and business collateral that’s well designed with a marketing flair. The Service Roundtable is HVAC’s largest contractor business alliance with more than 2500 users. Give it a try. The program only costs $50 a month and provides access to top contractors, leading industry consultants, and literally millions of dollars of HVAC collateral. If you don’t like it, you can quit at any time without penalty. You can reach Matt by email at [email protected], toll free at 877.262.3341, or on his mobile at 214.995.8889.