As business consultants for the service industry, we work with many contractors and although their advertising budgets range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per month, they all have one thing in common...customer service reps (CSR’s) with limited knowledge in our industry.
After spending so much money on getting the customer to call in, so little is invested on how the call is dealt with, how the customer is educated on why your shop is better than the one mentioned in the Yellow Page ad on the next Google link. At the moment when you or yours answers the call, the potential customer hinges his entire decision on the way the call is handle and the credibility the CSR projects.
Most of our customers have nice, polite people taking the call but no effort is really being made to let the customer know that you not only understand the issue they are having but can also deal with it quickly and for a fair price. Service agreements or safety inspection contracts are not discussed, which would preempt the techs job of letting the customer know of an immediate cost savings while providing a service that assures the safety and well being of their home and family. No issue is expanded upon providing the customer a feeling that the CSR is well versed so they can only imagine how good the service tech would be.
So many lost opportunities to not only close the calls at a higher rate but bring up the average invoice by educating the customer of peripheral services and alternatives before the techs even show up.
So we have decided to write a program that will allow any call taker the ability to click on any topic discussed to reveal a script appropriate to the subject at hand. So when your customer calls, you can virtually transfer your knowledge base to the call taker allowing for better identification of the issue, better customer preparation while conveying to them just how credible your company is since the first contact they had was able to put them at ease while booking the call. How would that compare to your competition?
The system will also draw statistics on closing ratios per CSR, per call types, where your CSR is excelling and where they need to improve, which scripts work and which don’t, what are your busiest times, how many calls are lost because of your “diagnostic fee” and what fee level works best? Much more can be tracked and your input will let us know what’s important to you.
My question to you all is “what would you like to see in a program of this kind?” We would welcome a limited number of you to even help us out in creating the appropriate scripts so that any new contractor can start using this program immediately with little or no customization. Anyone willing to help will benefit from the software free of charge for up to one year. It will be entirely web based and cost only around $50.00 per month. We believe it will revolutionize our customer's ability to close calls and yield a higher profit while providing a better and more professional service to their clients. And considering that one additional closed call per month pays for 3 months of service, we doubt cost will be an issue.
Any comments are more than welcome; the release date is slated for the first quarter of 2009. We are in the final stages of programming but are still flexible enough to modify the code based on your input. So instead of wishing the program “did this or that" after purchase, you can help shape it from the start. I look forward to your input and thank you for your time!
Like electure said Lets leave the marketing issues aside ... Marc has his email listed and PM activated. I dont see a link on google for numbers cruncher anymore ,except for one of the flat rate Software companies.
My wife is thinking about putting together a seminar for small businessmen, simply based on the trades and vendors she has fired and why. #1 "call the customer back"! #2 "show up when you say you will" #3 "bring what you need to do your job"
She is amazed that in this economy people still will not return a call, they don't show up on time (or at all) and they show up without any materials. This is a customer with 800 resident/members who have money they want to spend.
Sorry about my email being to elaborate from a sales perspective, it was not my intent. Having evaluated and distributed third party software for some time, I was excited about gathering contractor feedback on what they would like to see in a new solution prior to it being finalized.
So let me reiterate my original message. Anyone who would like to provide there expertise and opinions in regards to the conceptualization of scripting software solution, I welcome your input. Anyone wanting to provide assistance in designing the scripts, let us know so we can contact you and make it worth your efforts.
We truly want to provide a tool to greatly improve first and subsequent contact with your customers, anything anyone has to offer is very much appreciated. Thanks!
I suppose the first thing I want to say is .... I HATE scripts. period. I think the only thing worse are the automated call directing canned "push #7 to hear if we really care" voice-mail mazes.
I want the phone answered by a person. I want the persons' greeting to be SHORT and clear. I want that person to know exactly where the call needs to go.
Then I want the call answered, promptly, by a real person. I do NOT want to endure 23 minutes of awful music, interrupted by 'your call is important' BS. Nor do I want to answer a dozen questions before getting to the point of "why are you calling us?"
Finally, I want the undivided attention of whomever I'm speaking with. I don't want that persons' attention diverted by other tasks, co-workers, etc. I don't want that person to be watching the clock, worried about their "mean time" statistics. I want that person to actually have some connection with the company ... not be in a call center in Outer Mongolia. And, damn it, I want them to speak ENGLISH. Preferably like Alistair Cooke; failing that, without any accent that you can cut with a knife.
There is no magic software that will cover for sloppy or arrogant business practices.
Now that's what I'm talking about, straight forward input, to the point, with a touch of humor and a picture of a cat! And as a matter of fact, we were thinking of adding an "Alistair Cooke" voice emulator, your feedback now confirms that common desire!
All kidding aside, I agree 100% with what you have said. The most prominent hurdle for small companies is having someone with the required talent to answer the phones, properly and concisely. This of course is a human resource expense that is unfortunately viewed as something that doesn't "directly" provide income, although getting a “run of the mill” CSR, an answering service or worst, a recorded message, hurts the business to a far greater extent. Worst of all, this happens without the owner even knowing since the caller will just move onto the next ad without leaving any feedback.
I agree that reading from a script is sometimes transparent but what we are designing is more of a guide than just plain text. It will go to insure that the facts you mentioned, "short and clear", "undivided attention", etc. are respected for all calls and more directives can be added allowing the owner to decide exactly how each call should be handled. Reading from a new script may be required for the first few calls but we expect the CSR to learn and become familiar with the script and, on the short term, apply the essential components using their own words.
Your post is a template example of how we want to provide business owners with the ability to have calls answered the way they want, time after time, without requiring them to either hover over the CSR or take the calls themselves.
And by the way, the statistics discussed are not meant to "calculate the average time per call" but more to find out which call types are approached successfully and which need reviewing. Another small example would be finding out which “diagnostic fee level” is best, should it be waived if the customer accepts the quote or should it be eliminated altogether? Right now, the entire interaction is one sided, providing very little feedback on how to improve. By allowing certain items to be tracked, the business owner can fine tune their approach to customers providing for better results with future calls.
Bottom line, although your front end may be more complete than the norm, the majority of our clients have someone inexperienced in the industry answering calls and being used as a glorified dispatch board as opposed to providing a human touch in identifying and satisfying the first and most important step of gathering new customers, first contact. Those few minutes spent with your CSR is what the potential customer is basing his or her decision on, usually, more of an overall impression of the call than anything else. Providing identification with the issue, a certain level of empathy, immediate feedback on how the problem will be resolved, continuity from what the CSR says to what happens in the field, all go a long way in increasing the chances of a customer requesting a visit as well as signing off on the work. They are looking for credibility with a touch of compassion in the first 60 seconds, and we think that the best person to instruct the call takers on how to achieve this goal are the owners themselves, just as you have done in your post. We want to make sure that these directives stick, call after call, that they are flexible enough to change with each individual problem and that they can be improved based on tangible results acquired over any given period of time.
I very much appreciate your input and based on this clarification, welcome any additional feedback. It sounds like you could provide valuable opinions to this endeavor and I look forward to hearing more, if you are so inclined, whether on a post or directly via email. Comments like yours are what we want to use in shaping the final version of this solution. In the event you would like to be a beta site for our initial release, I’m sure we would profit immensely from your hands on feedback.
This thread may get locked as it seems it bordering on marketing for the OP. I would like to keep it open , As we really dont have a" Service forum" available. Right now I am only a one man service company for resi stuff but i sure would like to have a couple trucks on the road one day.
I dont have a CSR at the moment but i do have to dispatch and take calls for 2 business that are service related , and it sure takes a lot of my time seeing how i also have to be in the field working. I spent 3-4 hours a day just taking calls and dispatching the Satellite installer and also my electrical work.
I would like to take this a step further to make sure that our participation in this forum goes beyond providing us with your feedback on the subject at hand.
I welcome any member to query us with any business related topic and, with the permission of the moderators; we could start independent threads to expand on any given subject in greater detail. We deal with questions from contractors of all sizes, geographical locations and specialties so hopefully, we can provide some varying perspectives at the least and perhaps, some sound advice from time to time.
I still want to hear from all of you concerning what would help you improve your closing ratios when converting a call to a visit and a visit to a job. We can eventually come up with something that will help enhance your existing CSR resource (or even your own approach in dealing with calls) to a mechanism that will represent your assets more concisely while providing tangible feedback for gradual front end improvement. No matter the outcome, sharing our various opinions and comments on “the art of handling calls” will only go to further our understanding of the topic and, as with any addition of information, better the end result, with or without the use of software.
I have no idea what area of the country, you are from, but in some states with licening, you can not play the service rep game, without ending up in court or answering to the state attorney office, there are however states with little or no consumer protection laws, where you can put some unlicensed person on the phone, to read stories to customers.