CLEVELAND, OHIO – Let’s face it, the customer service representative gets no attention. They feel like they’re on the bottom of the totem pole in almost every service contracting business. After all, all they do is just answer the phone, right?
Brigham Dickinson of Power Selling Pros sees the CSRs as the vital point of first contact with the customer. He opened up his session at Contractor Leadership LIVE! with a question: How would you feel if you were losing 40 percent of your customers?
Most of the attendees at his Wednesday afternoon session responded with variants of: Sick to my stomach; Despondent; Defeated. But one person said, “Excited!” And why? “Because it means there’s 40 percent more business out there for me to get.”
That was exactly Dickinson’s point. Brigham Dickinson is president and founder of Power Selling Pros, a leading coaching and training firm dedicated to teaching businesses how to “wow” more customers. Power Selling Pros offers various training packages and can deliver four levels of certification to a company's CSRs. Brigham started Power Selling Pros when he saw that call handlers needed assistance consistently converting calls to bookings.
“According to industry experts,” Dickinson said, “we’re only booking 60 percent of our calls.” On top of that, 30 percent of the industry isn’t even recording their calls, so they don’t really know what’s going on.
Of the 70 percent who do record their calls, about 50 percent of them don’t know the true call conversion because they don’t use third party tracking and verification. “And if you can’t track and measure it,” Dickinson said, “it means you can’t improve.”
Also, there are plenty of service contractors who seem to think that the 40-odd percent of calls they fail to book is just the way it goes. That it’s not worth the time and trouble it takes to try and convert the people who may be a “hard sell.” And Dickinson has a counter-proposition to that argument also:
“If your average service call revenue is $500, and your CSRs take 20 calls a day, if they book one more call a day over 250 days, that’s another $125,000,” Dickinson said.
The big mistakes
Many CSR’s are too focused on where the calls are located. It’s an easy mistake to make – you need the location to dispatch a technician, after all. But it puts all the emphasis on where the problem is, and not what the problem is, and how it’s affecting the prospective customer.
Some CSRs will talk about dispatch fees before they even know the customer’s name or their concern. Customers have an emotional need to have their problem understood, and it’s on the emotional level that the purchasing decision is made. “The sale is made emotionally,” Dickinson said, “then justified rationally.”
Another mistake is letting the prospective customer hang up. “If the customer gets off the phone,” Dickinson said, “and doesn’t see any difference between you and your competition besides the price, you’re doing something wrong.”
Train your CSRs not to talk about the price, but about the problem. “It is the problem,” Dickinson said, “that is the source of your customer’s emotional distress.” That’s what you’re selling to.
Train them up
At several points during his session, Dickinson played several service calls. Some were nightmares that made the entire audience cringe. Their common factor? A disconnect from the customer -- a failure to see the customer as something more than an inconvenience to be dealt with.
But Dickinson also played several service calls that had the entire room smiling. Calls that showed a happy, positive transaction where both sides, the CSRs and the customers, felt valued and appreciated. Empathy is what made all the difference.
Train your CSRs to be happy, positive, confident people. Confidence is of the utmost importance, and it only develops from being well-trained and practiced. Train them to be value-creators, not order-takers.
CSRs need to be active listeners, always focused on what the customer is saying, and often, in the better examples, repeating or paraphrasing back the customers’ own words to let them know they are being understood. The ideal CSR needs to be compassionate and caring, which is something that goes beyond any script.
And these principles, these values can actually go beyond the CSR and the customer there on the phone. They can improve an entire company culture. Imagine, Dickinson said, a discussion between a dispatcher and a service tech that is, say, about to go on a fishing trip the next morning. And it’s 3:00 AM.
“One way to handle the conversation is to just say, ‘Hey, Tony, it’s your job. Go out and do it,’” Dickinson said. The other might be, “Tony, I know you don’t want to do this, and I know you’ve got plans tomorrow, and I’m sorry, but I think this family really needs the kind of help that only you can give them. Do this for me and I’ll remember it, and I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
That kind of attitude not only improves an entire company’s performance, it sets the technician in the field up for an entirely different level of success. It’s the sort of thing that will create a real “wow” experience for the customer.
Amazon will NOT eat you alive
There is this idea of a world where everyone has instant access to the lowest possible price for any thing, or any service, with the thinking being that low price will always beat out any competitor.
And the implementation of that idea is actually not too far from reality; Amazon is offering plumbing, heating, HVAC and electrical components at very competitive prices. They are also trying to broker deals with service companies to install those components – for 25 percent of those companies’ margin.
But the smart service contractor, according to Brigham Dickinson, doesn’t have to worry about Amazon. And why? Because of Buc-ee’s Convenience Stores.
Buc-ee’s is nominally a chain of gas stations in Texas, but they offer other things as well. For example, 20 different kinds of nuts, huge slabs of jerky (not just beef, but deer, antelope, and nearly any other kind of game animal you could name), sparkling clean bathrooms, samurai swords hanging on the walls, and gas pumps as far as the eye can see.
“Buc-ee’s offers an amazing experience,” Dickinson said, “and that experience is something that Amazon can not duplicate.” Dickinson points to Buc-ee’s, to Zappos shoes, to Chick-fil-A, as businesses that have created an amazing experience for their customers.
“It’s about the experience you make for the customer,” Dickinson said, “and the money is a by-product of that.” And a great CSR is the first step towards making that experience happen.