You Need the Right Fuel to Turbocharge Profits

Five inputs — leads, closes, deals, average sale, and upsells — will lead to more customers, more sales, and greater profits.

Every contractor will tell you that he or she would like more customers, more sales, and more profits. The trouble is, those things are outputs. You can't control them; they're the result of other things. Fortunately, the things that lead to those outputs are under your control. Five inputs — leads, closes, deals, average sale, and upsells — will lead to the three outputs you desire.

'Leading' Off
The order of these things is important, so we start with leads. The first step of getting more customers, making more sales, and netting more profits is to have leads. That means making the phone ring, and all of your marketing efforts go into that.

Once the phone rings, it's important to handle those calls in an excellent manner. When someone calls, there's a 50-50 chance of that person becoming a customer. What makes that caller want to book an appointment? At Climate Partners, we always try to "wow" customers. This starts with handling their call professionally, in a friendly manner, and booking the appointment quickly to show that we value their time.

Follow Up with Information
We then follow-up with information that may be interesting to the customer before our visit. If there's information we can send to the customer via e-mail or regular mail about us and our visit, their system, or our products or guarantees, we send it. We've created many informative materials for just this purpose.

Focus on Revenue Builders
Once we have the call booked, the focus shifts from the office to the field. Here, we strive to make sure that our average sale is correct. What are we charging? Many contractors don't know their break-even point. If we don't charge enough per call, we won't make money. So to reach the second wish of more revenue, the steps are to make sure our pricing structure is sound, and create opportunities to increase our average sale.

What we do when we get to the customer's home is going to affect the average sale. The appearance of our trucks, the appearance of our men, the aids and materials we have to show the customers to educate them about their homes and their HVAC systems, all go into increasing the average sale.

The Value of Home Assessments
Once we're in the house, we look for upsells. If we're there for a simple heating or cooling tune-up, we look for other things that can be done to enhance the customer's comfort or the home's energy efficiency, such as indoor air quality products, whole-home energy check-ups, and water heaters. I actually don’t like the term "upselling." We don't sell customers anything, we simply provide opportunities for them to buy. It's an educational process.

Have you ever bought a book from Amazon.com? If you have, you know that the Amazon website automatically recommends other books you might like. You've no doubt seen the page on the Amazon site that says, "Customers who bought this book also bought . . ." We do the same thing. What have other customers bought? We give customers a list that reads, "Customers who have had us do a tune-up also bought these services or items . . ." and then we list the most popular additional comfort and energy efficiency investments their friends or neighbors have made.

Most people don't know about the products available for their heating and cooling systems. It's our job to make them aware of what they might like or need.

Every step flows to the next. We set the appointment, run the appointment and we have all the things in place to support our pricing structure. We have educational materials to show customers all the things we can do, give them the opportunity to buy things that will make their lives easier, more comfortable, safer, or less expensive. We provide great service and give them the opportunity to buy. That ultimately translates into our revenue.

Proper Procedures = Efficiency = Higher Profits
Once the customer has made his or her decisions, our role goes from the field back to the office. Now it's the owner's responsibility to maximize the margins. What are the efficiencies of our operations? How productive are we? Do we have systems and procedures in place to make us as efficient as we can be? Do our facilities enhance or detract from our ability to make money? Do we have the right inventory? Do we have enough tools, are our trucks right, are our phone and computer capabilities right? Is everything we can control as streamlined and efficient as possible to support our goals?

Everyone's ultimate wish on their list is higher profits. But I can't increase my profits until I do everything else. The order of these things is critical. First things first. If I know the things I can control to get my outputs, then I can identify an error in the process and fix it. If I don't have enough customers, there's no point in focusing on my average sale or my cross-selling or my margins; I know I need to go back and look at increasing the number of customers. What am I doing to generate leads, and how am I handling people when they call on the phone?

Conversely, if my phone's ringing but we're not booking appointments, then there's something wrong with how we’re handling those phone calls. And if we're busy with customers but not making any money, I know I need to look at my pricing structure and average sales.

It all flows together. You know the things you want. To get there, you can either wish for them, or you can focus on the things you can control.

PHONE ETIQUETTE: a Main Ingredient to Growing Your Customer Base
We record many of our phone calls and play them back in a training session every week, so our team can see what we sound like — good or bad. We track how long customers are on hold, what kinds of questions they have, and analyze why they did or didn't book with us.

The phone is not an inconvenience. We have signs on our desks stating that the person on the other end of the phone is the reason we exist. That applies to every customer, every time.

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So, if we've made the phone ring, and we've done a good job of booking the appointment, we've taken the steps we can take to handle wish number one: more customers. The number of calls vs. the number of people who say, "Yes you can come to my house," is the number of customers you have. So if you want more customers, you need to generate more leads, and do a great job of booking appointments. — TC

Tom Casey is the CEO and co-founder of Climate Partners, Milford, CT, and recently co-founded Dr. Energy Saver, a national home performance contracting franchise. For more information about Climate Partners, visit www.click4climate.com. For more information about Dr. Energy Saver, visit www.drenergysaver.com. Casey can be reached at 203/783-3169, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Is the Customer Always Right?
by Steve Coscia
Some customers behave badly, and these encounters usually result in a moment of truth. As a customer service professional, a moment of truth occurs when training and preparation are put to the test. It's a situation when rational thinking, a calm demeanor, and a deliberate response must prevail.

Most importantly, you only get one chance to get it right. With even a hint of rolling eyes, snippy retaliation, or apathy, encounters with customers can escalate out of control. Remaining calm isn't easy, but it's achievable with practice and application even in the midst of a personal attack.

What causes some customers to behave so badly? It may be that they've been rewarded in the past for their bad behavior with special treatment or immediate service. These customers have learned the cause and effect relationship between their exaggerated behavior and exclusive accommodation. Some believe that being a customer entitles them to be demanding and condescending. And still others either don't think before they act or they're just plain ignorant.

The likelihood of a mutually satisfying resolution increases if a service professional can maintain good composure, respond appropriately, and show genuine empathy for the customer. However, once the self esteem of a customer is damaged with an inappropriate response, the offended party might become defensive or, worse yet, play the victim, with even more reason to carry on.

The maxim "The customer is always right" unfortunately has confused some service professionals due to an apparent incongruity between one's perception and the reality of a given situation. This uncertainty might give some service professionals cause to focus on and attempt to fix a customer's behavior.

To remedy a customer's objectionable behavior, the service professional must determine its root cause. Conversely, when a customer is in the wrong, it's important for the service professional to contain the situation so it doesn't deteriorate.

Steve Coscia works with companies who are committed to world-class customer service. His videos, books and audio programs have helped thousands of professionals. He can be reached at [email protected]

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