In my latest book, Passing the Baton, I outline how to book a successful inbound call. During each inbound call, you only need to follow six simple steps which lead to better, stronger relationships and increased profitability for your business.
When I owned an HVAC business, I implemented these six steps and encouraged my CSRs to adopt them. In the companies I’ve watched develop under my coaching, CSRs have noticed the calls are not always as urgent as we might assume. In fact, clients demonstrate flexibility about when we can come out. For a business, this returns control over profitability to you; it removes the control from the customer. As a result, we now have the ability to dispatch based on the relationship with the customer and the urgency of the call.
Many of us have never been taught the importance of listening carefully; however, the ability to listen is a powerful yet subtle skill. Often, we’re eager to drive the conversation in a direction that benefits us and makes our voice heard. So, take a step back and listen to the customer, that is the first step.
Too often we tend to interrupt customers on the phone, especially those who ramble. When we listen, the customer believes that we can help them, and we should affirm the customer that we can help them.
After listening comes gratitude, implementing gratitude means saying “thank you.” It might look like the sentence below.
“Thank you for calling; we appreciate it. Have we been to your home before? We can help you.”
This is easy to implement, but many of us omit such a meaningful sentence.
You might just also be able to express empathy at this stage.
What does empathy look like? An example of an empathetic response might be “I realize … “, “ I know X can be frustrating.” , etc.
Through listening, gratitude, and empathy you establish rapport and a connection. If you miss this chance to build a relationship, down the line, the customer may not be as forgiving.
Step two is optional with existing customers and clients. However, it is never optional with new prospects.
If you’ve never been to their home before, then this step is crucial because customers have a choice. To the new customer, we express gratitude like this “We know you have so much choice out there, so thank you for choosing us.”
The Yellow Pages
Back in the day, we’d advertise in the Yellow Pages, and there were many HVAC services to contact in Birmingham. I’d always thank the new customer for calling us and not the competition.
What’s more, this step is an opportunity to qualify the prospect. If the prospect has called five companies before yours, they’re not a good lead. However, if the prospect spotted your van in a neighborhood where your business sees top results, you’re on to a winner.
Regardless, we express sincere gratitude which is more than “thank you.”
Sincerity conveys appreciation to the customer. We don’t deserve, and we don’t owe. When someone treats me with respect, even if I don’t deserve it, I am humble and grateful.
Establish the key details and note this information, you want to both understand the customer and strengthen your client base. Think of WH questions such as those below.
Once you have this information, you’ll have essential insights for dispatch and contact details to develop that new relationship.
If you don’t get contact information, how can you follow up with the customer? Moreover, you are not qualifying them correctly. Getting detailed information about who we are talking to is a qualifier for going further with them. It is a mistake to tell someone your dispatch fee if you do not know who they are or they are not willing to tell you.
The subtle skill of listening comes back into play here. Listen, and always listen carefully. Ask the question: “When were you hoping we could come out?” Too often we assume the customer wants us to come out immediately, and often the answer might surprise you. People have busy schedules just as your business does. Work with the customer to find a day or a time that suits both sides: your business and the customer.
CSRs should book every call every call even if you can’t go, and here is where the funnel comes in. Skillful dispatchers pull out the most profitable calls from the funnel and send their leading technicians.
What happens when they ask can I come out today?
It happens. Put all the calls into a bucket and pull out the gold. We go to the most profitable calls on that day. If it’s quiet, we might go to the lower paying jobs. Remember, you need to do what is right and best for your business.
With a new customer, reach an agreement. Ensure that the customer understands how your pricing works. For example, if you’re a flat-fee company, explain that you don’t work by the hour but by the job. And, if you charge a service fee, make it clear. A temperature check to ask “How does that sound?” provides consensus between you and the customer. With agreement comes reassurance, therefore, affirm the customer that before any work begins, a technician will go over the pricing and service options.
Remember, that while an established customer will know the drill, still reaffirm “You know we have a $79 Service Fee?” Their response will most likely be, “Yes. Sounds good.”
Finally, don’t forget the important details. However, only ask questions after you’ve listened to the customer. Details help you to decide which technician best fits the job, and provides a strong insight into the issue awaiting them at a property. Chase up any uncertainties and get the details before you end the call.
Remember, do not chase these details until now, the final step. Too often CSRs chase this information in step one, and this is a mistake. Controlling the conversation takes practice.
The Six Steps
These six steps are easy to implement; however, many businesses neglect them. Learn to listen, and say thank you more.
Looking for more tips to grow your business?
The book, Passing the Baton, explores the inbound call in detail with case studies to give you additional context.
When I think about the HVAC or plumbing residential service and replacement business, I often compare it to a relay race where team members complete each lap and then pass on the baton to another runner to take a turn; It’s all about contribution. The outcome of the race is determined depending on how well participants run each lap and how effectively the baton passes from one runner to the other. Drop the baton, and you lose. Run too slowly, and the competition wins.