by  Jim Hinshaw


Just had a chance to preview a consumer survey we do every two years for our Alliance members.  It showed some revealing things, some things that I knew, some I didn’t.  Over 4000 responses, all across the nation.  Here are a couple of items that I was not sure of.


First, how does the consumer find us?  Over 45% said they would check with a friend or co-worker to get a recommendation.  Another 30% said they would use an internet search engine.  Only 10% said they would use a tool like Yelp or Angie’s list.  Yellow Pages was down to 5%.  Please don’t shoot the messenger, I realize some markets still have a viable Yellow Pages package that works for them.  But on a national level, only 5% use that tool.


If that is the case, you need to have a robust referral program, where you reward your customers for purchasing from you.  The customer needs to know it, as well as each employee.  Make it something that is valuable, but not overly pricy.  Many are using a maintenance agreement as a thank you for referring new customers.  The great thing about maintenance agreements is that they don’t cost nearly as much as the value they represent.  If your maintenance agreement is priced at $220, the cost is much less, but the benefits are much more.  Much more effective than a dinner at a restaurant, which may or may not be a positive experience.


One the second item, an internet search engine, we must embrace this electronic era we are in.  People are going to the internet more today than ever, they will only increase the use of that source of information in the future.  So we have to have a presence, and excellent reviews.  Work the review process, let the techs know that part of their job is to request and receive great reviews.  Quality Degree, one of our members in Pennsylvania, has a company slogan offering Five Star Service.  And they mean it.  According to their website, they have 1427 Google Reviews, with 4.9 out of 5 star average rating.  Strong.


Get those reviews, if you don’t have as many as you want, consider a service to help with collecting them.  There are many that will send texts or emails to the customer upon completion of the call, “please rate us, it helps others make the same positive decision you did.  Let everyone know if we did well with 5 stars.  If you can’t rate us with 5 stars please call, we will do everything in our power to make it a 5-star experience.”  There are many variations of that theme, cost is negligible, now that you know that is part of the decision process the consumer is doing today.


Another survey answer that surprised me was: what were the biggest turnoffs from a service technician or installer coming into my home?  Highest rated was poor grooming, 69% of those surveyed said that bothered them the most.  Then came tobacco odor, 62%, followed by torn or frayed clothing, 46%, finally we see facial piercings at 40%.   Here are some easy fixes.  Get a set of barbershop clippers in the office.  Offer to trim up the hair if a tech looks straggly.  Make sure the hands and nails are clean.  I realize they will get dirty along the way, but with some of the great solvents available today, no excuse for having dirty hands or nails.  Get an extra set of uniforms for each tech, keep them in office, or they can keep them in the vans.   Shoes shined, belt that fits, it is all noticed.


Tobacco odor is handled by something like Febreze.  It can make most odors in a shirt disappear.  That and baby wipes will make a tech feel fresh and smell better, two good things.  Don’t forget 2 breath mints.  They are cheap insurance against offending a customer.  Finally, facial piercings.  Realize that is a personal choice many have made, but the customer makes choices as well.  Don’t give them a reason to not do business with you, or not refer you to their friends.


What we have to realize is that we are on stage every minute of the day.  Someone is watching everything we do, listening to everything we say.  You are driving a billboard all around town.  Your employees need to be aware that they are the company when they are in the customers’ homes, and when driving from job to job.  Their actions can get them on channel 5 news tonight, we pray in a positive way.


Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.