When the customer comes to the door, ask or wait for permission to go into their home, don’t barge in. Permission is usually given visually so don’t ask for permission if they gave it with a nod of the head or by standing back to let you walk in. Once, I was invited in to teach a company whose employees had been taught to ALWAYS ask for permission. These guys were like robots. The customer would invite them in with a nod and then they would ask for permission. Have you ever slow danced and you felt out of sync with your partner? That’s what it was like. It was an uncomfortable rapport breaker.
Human interaction is complex. Be natural, open and honest in your relations with everyone. There are some good skills and best practices, but the best practice is to be yourself and be natural.
Control the service call by asking questions, not answering them. If you are answering questions, educating the customer and trying to woo them with your product knowledge, they are in control. You never know what unnecessary subject you might talk about that might hook their anxiety, fear or send them online to educate themselves and compare.
The way that you establish control is to quickly introduce yourself and then quickly ask them how you can help them today. If you already know them, use your common sense and be natural in how you greet them. You could say, “Hi John, its good to see you, what brings us out here today?” If you have no tools, it implies “let’s talk.”
I know that you already know why you are there because it’s on your dispatch. However, the process of communication does not give justice to the speed of thought. This is not a book on communication but let’s look at something important here.
The entire idea of what the customer wants to communicate to your dispatcher is in the customer’s mind’s eye. The customer has to use words in an attempt to convey the totality of all his thoughts. When the customer does this, he goes through a process of generalization, distortion and deletion to convey his thoughts. We all do this.
Think about what I just said, “We all do this”. This means the dispatcher does the same thing to you. He deletes, distorts and generalizes what he was told. Now, as a technician you are two steps removed from the customers’ reality and the customers’ reality is really not reality so you are three steps removed from it. If your company has a CSR department and dispatch never talked to the customer, you’re four steps removed from reality. This is why gossip is so destructive. By the time the rumor spreads, it’s often not even close to reality.
I want you to hear the customers’ best description of their reality. So ask them when you greet them, even if you think you already know. I listen to thousands of greets and I’ve never heard a person complain about asking them, “Why am I here?” or “What brings us out here?” Have you ever shown up to fix a sink and the customer told the office it was a problem with the toilet? I would imagine you could think of an example.
I can think of one ride along where dispatch told us that the customer wanted an estimate on a new faucet. However, when I asked what brings us out here today, I heard much more detail, pain indicators and opportunity that was not on the dispatch. We sold a very nice $1,000 service call based on what I heard from the mouth of the customer by asking that question.
Relax and listen after you ask that question. We want to hear about the customer’s pain and frustration. You can’t do this by showing up dressed for battle like the example I gave you earlier, with your head down and your mouth and ears closed. You must ask and then you must listen. As you listen you must ask other questions that reverse this process of deletion, distortion and generalization.
When you ask questions and listen in this manner, you gain understanding of what their agenda and expectations are. Customers feel affirmed when we understand them, and when a customer feels affirmed he feels connected to you. Feeling connected is the essence of rapport. You establish and gain rapport by asking and then listening at the door, hallway or wherever he takes you. Just listen.
You now have the affirmed customer and a better understanding of the situation. Now we must share our agenda with them. I am assuming this is a demand service call, which means they called us because something is not working and the office advised them of a service call fee. Matt Koop, the developer of “The New Flat Rate,” teaches a simple script that I agree with that simply confirms this with them by saying something as simple as the following:
“I just want to clarify with you that the office did share with you the service call fee of $79.00.” If they did not understand, explain it again and get agreement.
We have another agenda too and I need to get their agreement on it. I want to show them a menu of options after I determine what needs to be done, and I want to gain permission to do this. I want to pre-frame the process by leading them in that direction before I get there. This is called future pacing and establishes more control.
Here’s what it sounds like to me using some of Matt’s words and mine also.
“Mr. Jones, I’m going to go back to my truck and get my tools and get started. I don’t know how long it will take me to determine the fault. However, once I do, I would like to show you all your options for taking care of it today. If you choose one of those options today, I will be able to waive the service charge fee for you. How does that sound?”
Now the customer has a clear expectation of your process and has agreed to it. Many folks don’t realize that we can fix their problem today because many service companies don’t fix problems the same day. I would submit to you that excellent customer service is solving the customer’s problem today.