The HVACR industry is competitive and every wholesaler seems to be competing with a dozen other competitors for the attention of your customers.
You really only have a few levers you can pull to rise above the competition and position yourself as the preferred service provider for your customers – price, variety and convenience come to mind. However, the most effective way to lock your existing customers into working with you, attract new customers to you and generate referrals is to become the master of customer service.
Most HVACR distributors will debate the point above by saying, “We give really good customer service already and it hasn't elevated us above our competition.” And that's where these four powerful customer service strategies will change the game for you.
Customer Service Strategy No. 1:
Shock Your Customers. Most businesses think they deliver “great” customer service, but customer service is really one degree lower than is assumed by the business that provides it (just like everyone thinks their children are superior to everyone else's children).
Wake up call: Your great customer service is only good customer service (and is probably exactly the same as most other wholesalers out there). If you want to deliver customer service that wows your customers, your goal should be to shock your customers by how you bend over backwards for them. Do so much for your customer that they are left speechless.
Customer Service Strategy No. 2:
Build a Framework for Service. Every sales call or delivery to your customer's office is an opportunity for you to shock them. Unfortunately, if you send Jim on one visit and Bill on another visit and Pete on a third visit, the customer will get a different experience each time.
Wake up call: You're leaving your visits and deliveries up to the whims of the person who does the call. Instead, write out a step-by-step sequence of what an ideal call should look like – from how your employee should be dressed, what they should do on their way to the customer's office, who they should talk to, what they should say. Script out every second of the visit and look for ways to improve every moment.
Customer Service Strategy No. 3:
Focus On Problems, Not Products. As an HVACR distributor, your business is of course built on the products you sell. Unfortunately, all too often, wholesalers focus on the products themselves and hope that the customer chooses the right product for their needs.
Wake up call: Your customers don't care about products; they care about their business. Become a preferred vendor by shifting your focus from products to problems. Make your customers' problems your problems and seek to provide a solution. Ask each customer what challenges they face and get creative with your problems to see how they can be solved. You'll not only sell more products, you'll also be a go-to problem solver serving your customer at a level they won't get anywhere else.
Customer Service Strategy No. 4:
Be Proactive To Grow Your Customer's Business. This is the most advanced customer service strategy in this list and frankly, it will be too bold for many readers. However, if you are daring enough to try it, it pays dividends: Choose your biggest customers and reach out to their other (noncompeting) vendors. Then, with your customer's permission, meet regularly with those other vendors to discuss your mutual customer and find ways to grow that customer's business.
Wake up call: This almost unheard-of strategy is so powerful and it's so rare that you will set yourself apart as a master of customer service when you bring business-growing ideas to your customer on a regular basis. Your customers are busy running businesses of their own and they want those businesses to grow and succeed. While most customers view most wholesalers as supporters of growth, your customers will love your business because you'll be positioned as an accelerant of growth.
Price, variety, convenience – these are a few of the levers you can pull to compete in the cut-throat marketplace. They can hurt your business by driving down margins or spreading you too thin. However, delivering a higher level of customer service can change the game for your customers and for you, and can secure your position as the preferred wholesaler for all your customers' needs.
Mike Agugliaro is the co-founder of Gold Medal Service. Agugliaro also is a business coach at his other company, CEO Warrior, and has published two business books with a third currently in production.