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Service Repair Funnel

As a commercial/industrial service contractor, what is your ratio of repair to recurring service revenue? 1 to 1? 2 to 1? 5 to 1? If you don’t know, you could be missing out on a gold mine of high-margin work. If you do, you probably know that there’s room for improvement. And, when skilled labor is so hard to find, you know that you’ve got to drive as much repair revenue as possible to maximize the revenue potential of each tech.

So, what’s holding you back? Funnel friction. In other words, how easy it is to move from the top to the bottom of the repair funnel. Now, before we talk about the friction, let’s define where the funnel begins and ends. Too often, service contractors think that all the magic happens once the deficiency or repair report gets back to the office. As I wrote in another blog post, it actually starts WAY before you ever find a problem to quote. To keep this post simple, we’ll be talking about a funnel that starts with reporting problems in the field and ending with customer approval:

Now, ask yourself: “How much friction is in each task?” Or, simply put: “How easy is each step?” The easier it is, the more money you’ll make.

Report problems from the field

How easy is it for your techs to send the office all of the information necessary to generate a quote? How is that information communicated? Phone calls, paperwork, and email attachments? Does that data have to be manually entered into your database that manages repair sales?

…Do you have a database to manage repair sales? ServiceTrade does this, and if you’re not using ServiceTrade, a good CRM is your next best bet.

It should be as simple as taking a couple quick pictures, videos, and audio notes that automatically get added to a database for your office staff to start working from. The easier it is, the more reports your techs will create.

Create quotes

How easy is it to take a report from the field and create a quote that’s ready for the customer? Do you have to read chicken-scratch handwriting on reports, call the tech for more details, and retype everything into a Word document?

It should be as simple as clicking a couple buttons to turn a digital report from the field into a quote ready for the customer. The easier it is, the more quotes your company will create.

Follow up on quotes

Does your team manage this whole process out of their email inbox/outbox? Is it obvious which quotes need a follow-up? Is that chain of communication effectively managed and easily shared across the team?

It should be as simple as viewing a list of quotes that are due for a follow-up, no matter which of your team members created and sent the quote. The easier it is, the more follow-ups your company will perform.

Approve quotes

Once your customer receives your quote, how easy it for them to say “yes?” Do they have convenient access to the pictures, videos, and audio notes that will help them make the best decision quickly? After they decide, do they have to print, sign, and fax the quote?

It should be as simple as viewing an interactive quote online with rich media collected in the field that can be approved with the click of a button. The easier it is, the more quotes your customers will approve.

 

The easier all of these steps are, the more repair revenue you will drive and the more you will get out of each of your techs. Spend an hour assessing your processes. You’ll probably be surprised what you find.

Another blog post you might be interested in: 6 key metrics that that boost repair revenue

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Give the people what they really want

If you asked people in the 1890s about personal transportation, they’d say “Give me a cheaper, faster horse.” Instead, they got cars and they happily spent more.  If you asked people of the 1990s about entertainment, they’d say “Give me more selection and cheaper rentals at Blockbuster.” Instead, they got Netflix and they happily spent more. If you asked people about retail in the 2000s, they’d say “Give me more selection and cheaper options at big-box stores.” Instead, they got Amazon Prime and happily spent more. If you asked folks about their pizza in the early part of this decade, they’d say “Give me better, cheaper pizza.” Instead, they got the Domino’s mobile app and they happily spent more. If you’re scratching your head about the last one, check out Domino’s stock growth since the introduction of their mobile app in 2011:

Domino’s stock growth of 644% since they introduced their mobile app

If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you know that Domino’s is using their customer mobile app to dominate the pizza wars. Every time I write about them, I have to pull a new stock graph to show just how much they’ve grown. Their success boils down to one word:

Convenience

 

That’s all customers really want. They’ll bark about price and quality right up until someone innovates and makes their life easier. At that point, they’ll happily fork over more money. When cars were introduced, they cost far more than a horse, but they didn’t have to be maintained on a daily basis. When Netflix hit the scene, it had a small selection, subscription services were unheard of, and it seemed to cost more than the occasional Blockbuster rental. But, Netflix didn’t require multiple trips to Blockbuster to watch a single movie. Amazon has shipping delays and costs more than big-box stores, but customers don’t even have to leave the comfort of their own home.

In this era, you don’t have to be a technology company like Netflix, Amazon, and Uber to be a game changer. Domino’s shows that you just have to think like one. Use scalable technology to give your customer a convenient experience and they’ll happily give you more money. It’s that simple.

What does this mean for B2B service contractors? Make customers’ lives easy with technology. Give them better information so they can make better decisions by providing convenient online:

  • Visibility throughout the service process
  • Access to detailed historical records
  • Quotes for issues that need repair

This may not seem like much, but neither does an app that makes it a little easier to buy pizza and track deliveries.

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WFH (Working From Home) FTW (For The Win)

There’s some sort of bug working its way through our sales team this week, so everyone who doesn’t feel 100% is working from home. The rest of us appreciate not being exposed to sickness while those affected remain productive in their home office. That’s just one reason why having a flexible working environment is a good idea.

working at home has advantages

Service businesses that use SaaS and other modern technology have the freedom to offer such conveniences to their employees. If you’re looking for a low-cost perk to offer employees, run a pilot program of working from or dispatching from home and see what works and what doesn’t. Some ideas for a paperless office:

  • Dispatch technicians from their homes.
  • Allow schedulers and dispatchers to work from home. Forward their desk phones to the mobile phones and they can manage where field crews are needed now and in the future.
  • Sales and account managers use SaaS apps to access everything about their client accounts to make recommendations, create quotes, or create audits that will help sell a contract program.

I can’t say that the risk of employees abusing the privilege is nonexistent, but if your expectations are clear it becomes the employee’s responsibility to work ethically and do their job. I bet you’ll find that many will do their work even better in appreciation for the trust and the convenience. Here’s some evidence to back that up (source):

  1. According to Gallup, remote workers log an average of four more hours a week than their on-site counterparts.
  2. People who work from home get more sleep and are more attentive, according to Penn State University.
  3. A typical business can save $11,000 per employee per year by letting them work from home 50% of the time according to a study by Global Workplace Analytics.
  4. Meanwhile, Gallup found that people who work remotely 20% of the time are more engaged in their work.

Many of us at ServiceTrade work remotely from time to time.  Some examples:

  • David Varnedoe writes and records scripts for ServiceTrade Certification courses from his home office. Sometimes he records audio while in his closet, but that’s a topic for another time.
  • Wes Cox conducts remote training from his home office. Wes and the rest of our services team can conduct webinar-based training from anywhere – and often do.
  • Shawn Mims spends hours doing the detail work of data management from the relative quiet and comfort of his couch under the close supervision of his two dogs.
  • I do a lot of writing from home for the same reasons – the quiet environment of my home office is more conducive to certain types of work than the bustle of the office. #2 above is a really strong selling point for me, too. That extra hour of sleep I get because I’m not commuting makes me a new person!

One thing that stood out to me at the 2016 Digital Wrap Conference was watching several owners of our customer companies log in to their ServiceTrade account to check in on what’s going on in the field. You simply don’t have to be in the office to know what’s going on in the business and to keep it efficiently moving forward. Today’s technologies offer many employees the freedom to do their work or dispatch from home, the coffee shop, or even on vacation if an emergency pops up. Why not offer this as a low-cost perk to your employees?

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Whole Foods Whole World

I bet the grocers that had a bad day when Walmart got into groceries about fifteen years ago are having a really bad week now that Amazon has announced their intention to buy Whole Foods. The innovations Amazon is going to bring to grocery buying go well beyond low price and internal operational tweaks. Amazon is going to use technology to transform the grocery buying experience, and the old competitors focused on their tired, old, internal metrics will be toast.

 

Marc Andreesen, a famous internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist, once said: “Software is eating the world.”  You can read his editorial in the Wall Street Journal here.  It’s true.  Customer service innovations driven by software are transforming every industry.  Netflix to Blockbuster.  Uber to taxis.  Amazon to booksellers, hosting companies, and now grocers.  When will it be your turn?  Which side of the statement will your company be?  The eater? or the eaten?

Do you suppose the first innovation Amazon is going focus upon is how Whole Foods does accounting?  Is that where they are going to put their innovation muscle?  I ask the question because it seems that accounting remains the first priority of service contractors when they think about how to apply technology to their business.  But it sounds really silly in the context of the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods, doesn’t it?  As I have said before, your perfect accounting process is perfectly irrelevant to your customer.  You should have a good one, but it will not save you from an innovative, customer-focused competitor.

I am not going out on a limb when I say that Amazon understands that accounting is irrelevant, and their focus with Whole Foods will be transforming how customers buy groceries.  They will eliminate aggravation and uncertainty for the customer through technology.  I bet there will be an awesome mobile app for pricing your groceries in the aisle and eliminating the checkout line.  I bet you will use that app to find the groceries you seek without wandering up and down the aisles.  I bet you will get interesting recipe ideas based on the ingredients you buy often.  I bet your buying preferences will lead to deliveries to your house via drone for the items you buy on a regular basis.  I bet the best customers with the most money to spend on groceries will gravitate to Amazon and their innovations. I bet I cannot even imagine the things they will do to make grocery shopping more convenient, and none of it will relate to how they do accounting.

So when will it be your turn?  Will you be the eater, or the eaten?  Are you considering how to upgrade your customer’s buying experience with your services?  Or are you piddling around with how to extend your accounting to wring a small bit of extra margin from your internal processes?  Are you building an innovative and growing brand that attracts customers to you?  With an experience that they cannot easily trade for the low price guy? Think about it.  Who do you want to be in your market?  Amazon, Uber, Netflix?  Or the other guy?

Your Best Sales Rep: Data

When you’re selling to a new customer, can you predict their future? You probably try and you don’t even realize it. Like a palm reader, you survey their equipment and try to divine what failures are likely to occur, how much ongoing maintenance will cost, and how much money you are going to make. And, like a palm reader, I bet you are doing this with very little useful information beyond your own experience. So, how can you get scientific about this process and make accurate predictions and decisions? Data!

When a customer has a particular model of equipment that you regularly service, you should be able to tell them the average cost and frequency of repair for that make and model across your entire customer base. Imagine walking into a sales meeting armed with that information. If you are up against a low-price competitor (One Truck Chuck), who do you think customers are going to trust? The guy who tells them “Yeah buddy! I work on these all the time. No problemo. It’ll be cheap cheap cheap!” or the professional sales rep who tells them “We manage 4,065 model ANS-3214s across our entire customer base. We find about 43% in need of repair and the average repair quote is $1,136.83.”

Sounds like a lot of work to get at this data, but it’s not! Let’s walk through the steps:

Establish a list of common assets

You don’t want to perform these calculations for every make and model of equipment you service. All you care about are the most common assets under management. This is a great use case for the 80/20 rule. 20% of the make/models that you service probably account for 80% of the volume and revenue. So, let’s start with an export of all equipment data from your system. Don’t have or can’t access that data?  You can with ServiceTrade.

Next, in your favorite spreadsheet application, create a pivot table from the data that summarizes the count of each make/model pair in your database. Unfamiliar with pivot tables? Oh boy, you’re missing out. Just Google “how to pivot table” and be prepared to have your mind blown! Here’s a real example, with fake model names, from a ServiceTrade account:

Model Count in database
ANS-3214 4,065
LEN547 156
HOB2 102
CHILL-625 99


Now that you’ve determined the most common assets under management, let’s step through the quick analysis to be performed on each one.

Deficiency frequency

How often do you find deficiencies for ANS-3214 units? Well, with a quick export of deficiencies reported filtered down to this asset model, we found that 1,748 assets had deficiencies reported against them. That means that there is a 43% chance that you will find a problem with a given ANS-3214 unit.

Average repair price

Easy! Export your repair quote data, remove all quotes that include more than one asset (to avoid skewing data with repairs of different asset models), and filter down to all quotes for ANS-3214 units. In this case, the average repair quote came in at $1,136.83.

Obviously, there are caveats to this data analysis. First, the results are only as good as the data! Garbage in equals garbage out. Also, you are much more likely to find issues with equipment on your first inspection/maintenance visit. Any given asset may deteriorate differently depending on its environment and usage. Variations in a particular model may make a significant difference in the reliability of the equipment. With all that said, this type of data can make a compelling argument that you are a transparent, data-driven vendor that is more valuable than you low-price competition.

Data-driven sales enablement is just a small piece of selling the program. To learn more, check out our webinar “Don’t sell on price. Sell a premium program.”  and read our book, The Digital Wrap.

Real Deal Customer Service Saves the Day After a Flat on I-95

A flat tire on my boat trailer on Interstate 95 ranks high on my list of things that suck most in life.  Of course, it has to be on the traffic side of the trailer to really suck.  It sucked on Saturday morning at 8:50 when I heard the blowout and looked in the driver’s side mirror and saw rubber spewing out from the wheel well.  The rear tire on the left side had blown, and I needed to get onto the shoulder quickly before the other tire on that side also fell victim to the load from my Grady White fishing rig.

I was en route to West Palm Beach in preparation for a run to the Bahamas and a week of fishing and diving. Not going to get there with this flat tire, so might as well suck it up and get out in the South Carolina heat and mosquitos and change the tire and get back underway.  Fortunately, I planned for this problem because it has happened before and ruined my day.  I pack a ramp in the back of the F250 that allows me to avoid the hassle of a jack.  Just pull forward (or back up as the case may be) with the ramp in front of the good tire, and presto, the back tire that just blew outcomes off the ground to be changed out.  I also packed a bicycle pump because I did not take the time to get the spare filled to 65 lbs of pressure.  After 15 minutes on the changeout (most of which was spent detaching the spare from the trailer) plus a 10-minute workout with the pump, I am ready to roll again – sweaty and greasy but happy with my ingenuity.

Now the problem is that the spare is a different brand tire and it is 9 years old.  I still have 550 miles of road to travel, and I do not like the idea of being without a spare.  I buy all my tires from Discount Tire, and now I am going to put them to the test.  Will I have a good customer service outcome?  Fortunately, the story has a happy ending because Discount Tire is the real deal when it comes to great customer service.  How do they do it?  

Let’s look at the lessons service contractors can learn from my experience.

First, Discount Tire offers a premium program.  If you buy tires from them, they will rotate and change all the tires in your household for no extra charge.  Why?  Because they want to see you in the shop as often as possible so they stay top of mind with you. They also provide air pressure reminders via email – again to stay top of mind.  I can never forget who takes care of my tires even if I only buy tires every 3 to 4 years.  I know who to go to with tire problems.  Do your customers know what brand they rely upon for servicing their critical equipment?  Are you constantly in their inbox with valuable information and reminders?

Second, I opened Google Maps on my iPhone and zoomed in on Jacksonville, Florida – the next big city I was going to hit.  A search for Discount Tire yielded six hits.  Sure enough, one of them was right off the highway.  One more tap on the iPhone and I am speaking with Jeff.  Can they take care of me today?  “Absolutely. We will figure it out. When will you be here?”  Are your locations registered with Google?  Do you have reviews to push you up the listings?  Can they tap to call?

When I pulled into the store, Mike took care of me (not certain where Jeff went, but it didn’t matter).  He pulls up my record on their system and stares hard at the screen for about 4 minutes as he reviews my history relative to his capability at this store.  “Look, you have a warranty on that tire that blew, but the spare is 10 years old.  Also, someone in our shop made a mistake and mixed a 10-ply tire in with 3 other 8-ply tires when you had your last change.  We need to make that right.  I suggest we warranty replace 2 of your tires, have you buy 2 new ones, and put the best current tire as your spare.  It will be $289 and I can have you rolling in 90 minutes.”  SOLD!  Now I have 4 new matching tires, and I am writing about Discount Tire (and giving them backlinks on this post).  Do your people have access to the customer information they need to help the customer buy more from you and become so happy that he/she writes about you online?  If not, why not?

You cannot deliver good customer service without great information that is accessible and easy to use by everyone in your organization.  You cannot deliver good customer service if the customer cannot find you easily (i.e. online, not in the phone book).  You also need a premium program that puts your brand in front of the customer over and over again as part of your service cycle (read The Digital Wrap).  Do you have one?  Is it branded?  Do your customers rave about your service?  Do you have a digital wrap?

A blowout on Interstate 95 became a very good thing for Discount Tire.  Do your customer’s challenges (or lack thereof) regularly become good things for you and your company?

The Digital Wrap

 

Learn how a Digital Wrap makes your happy customers evangelists for your brand like Billy is for Discount Tire. Go to digitalwrapbook.com.

Good Enough is not Good Enough for Commercial Services

There’s a new article on forbes.com by customer service consultant Micah Solomon that’s worth every commercial service contractor’s time.

Read Is ‘Good Enough’ Customer Service Good Enough For Your Business?  I’m sorry to steal Micah’s thunder, but anyone who wants a profitable, growing service business already knows that the answer is no.

Micah Solomon’s five elements of extraordinary customer service are:

  1. A perfect product or service
  2. Caring delivery
  3. Timely delivery
  4. An effective problem resolution process
  5. Anticipating and serving unexpressed wishes and needs

They’re especially relevant for companies like yours that are competing for commercial service contracts. What would these look like for a service company?

#1 – A perfect product or service. Perfection in services means predictability – providing predictable outcomes for a predictable price. Reacting to unexpected breakdowns, system failures, or emergencies is bad for everyone and can be minimized by proactive maintenance and early warnings about potentials problems.

#2 – Caring delivery. We don’t often use the word caring in the rough-and-tumble world of facility services. Your customers will know you care when they have visibility into what’s going on in their facility. Sharing photos or videos online where the customer can refer to them anytime is part of #5 below. Not every vendor does this, and the ones who do stand out.

#3 – Timely delivery. Ensuring that business operating systems are in place to keep you on schedule is a job for technology. Timely delivery is dependent on a web-based application that is available to people who need it in your office and in the field.

There’s another element of timely delivery where service companies often fall short, and that’s setting the customer’s expectation. Do your applications inform customers about scheduled appointments or when they can expect you’ll be performing future inspections or contract service calls? You may be focused on an operational scheduling system, but be sure that it puts customers in the know, too.

#4 – An effective problem resolution process. We don’t talk about this one with you much, but Micah is right that things will inevitably go wrong. After an apology and making the situation right, take the time to analyze the source of the issue. You’ll probably find it fitting into one of the three buckets: Work not done to standards, operational inefficiencies, or human error. Solutions might be training or revamping business processes or updating your application infrastructure. What’s most important is recognizing when you have an issue that requires a solution.

#5 – Anticipating and serving unexpressed wishes and needs. Micah says this is the one that moves your service beyond good enough to exemplary. We think this is where you earn distinction as a leader in your space and can command prices above the lowest labor rate.

What conveniences do your customers enjoy from online retailers or banks, but don’t think about getting from you? Maybe the convenience of getting online reports, an online quote with a picture of the problem for repair, or a self-service online account where they can access all their records and service history.

Be sure that you make #5 an everyday part of how you work with your customers when #1-4 might pass for good enough. Here’s another link to the Forbes article.

WannaCry? Servers will make you.

WannaCry? You will after this so-named ransomware takes over your Windows computer, encrypts all your important files, and charges you $300 to decrypt them, if you’re lucky. This virus is sweeping the globe and making headlines because of its widespread impact. Before you read any further, make sure you have run the latest Windows update if you are using a version older than Windows 10.

Losing your family photos and personal files on a PC to ransomware is unfortunate. Losing the critical infrastructure that runs your business because you’re still using local servers is catastrophic. That’s right, these viruses are indiscriminate and business servers are not exempt from these attacks. Local servers are especially risky because they represent a single point of failure if they aren’t backed up. And how confident are you in your backup systems? Do me a quick favor and go unplug your servers. Are you 100% sure they are going to start up where they left off? If you’re at all hesitant, then ransomware is only one of a host of concerns that you should have:

Disgruntled employees – Is there any way for you to prevent an unhappy employee from stealing your data or wreaking havoc on your company’s servers?

Natural disaster – Fire, flood or tornado. Enough said.

Disk failure – Computers degrade over time and will eventually break down.

Failed updates – If you didn’t update your servers with the latest Windows patch, you are susceptible to WannaCry. On the other hand, every update has the potential to introduce compatibility issues.

Other viruses – WannaCry is just the latest example in a growing trend of PC and local server hacks. And, while it’s possible to recover your files from a ransomware attack, other viruses are less forgiving and will destroy files outright or render your machines completely useless.

How do you avoid these risks? Dump the servers and adopt cloud-based applications like ServiceTrade. Why are they less risky? Without going into detail about the advanced technology they use for security and backup, the easiest way to understand how they work is to compare them to banks. Is your money safer under your bed, or in the bank? If your home is robbed or burns down, you lose your money. If the bank is robbed or burns down, your savings are insured (backed up) and your checks and debit cards still work. It’s that simple.

Don’t keep your business data under the bed. Dump the servers and move to the cloud.


In case you’re curious how WannaCry works, here’s a video of it in action:

Announcing the 2017 Digital Wrap Conference

Registration is now open for the 2017 Digital Wrap Conference. Last year’s inaugural conference made it clear that commercial service contractors need a forum to exchange ideas for how to run their business, and that’s what we’ll do at DWC17.

Conference details:

  • Sunday, November 5 – Tuesday, November 7
  • Wild Dunes Resort
  • Isle of Palms, SC near Charleston
  • Visit digitalwrapconference.com for more information

This year, there will be two full days of Digital Wrap content for you to absorb in sales, customer service, dealing with the skilled labor shortage, clobbering the competition, and the other fun challenges that come with running a service business.

Hosted by ServiceTrade, the event is sponsored by companies that offer products and services that are an integral part of a Digital Wrap and efficiently running a service business. These are folks you’ll want to talk with:

  • BuildingReports
  • LeadsNearby
  • Leap the Pond
  • Nuvo Solutions

We’ll convene in the evening of Sunday, November 5th. You’ll be welcomed with a decadent low country feast.

On Monday, November 6th, everyone will join a general session including keynotes, presentations, demonstrations, and panel discussions. Every one of last year’s attendees reported leaving the conference with ideas to implement back at the office – and this is when your new ideas will be born. Lunch is included – and as long as the weather cooperates – a seaside dinner on Monday are included with your registration.

The final day, Tuesday, November 7th will be a full day as well. By popular request, we’ll schedule more time for you to get together with other attendees to talk about your common challenges and to share ideas. This will be a multi-track day so you can pick the topics that you’re most interested in.

Our agenda will conclude around 4 pm on Tuesday. If you can stick around for Tuesday night, we’ll provide transportation to downtown Charleston so you can enjoy the city and its dozens of amazing restaurants on your own. Oh, and we’ll also arrange your transportation back to Wild Dunes at the end of the evening!

Registration is $750 per person. The conference is ideal for owners, leaders, managers and other decision makers in commercial service companies. Check the website for the early bird discount rate and multi-ticket packs.

Any questions? Go to digitalwrapconference.com or contact Event Manager Shelley Bainter at 919-825-1562.

Money for Nothing

In 1985, Marc Knopfler, the front man for the band Dire Straits, overheard a guy in an appliance store grudgingly admiring the MTV rockers performing on the store display TVs. Knopfler memorialized the reflections he overheard in the grammy winning, number one hit song “Money for Nothing” later that year. The song opens with the lyrics:

Now look at them yo-yos that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free

He goes on to declare “them guys ain’t dumb” and that the rocker “is a millionaire” while lamenting that he has to “install microwave ovens, custom kitchens” and make “deliveries” to get paid his meager wage. Now the truth of the matter is that not every rocker gets paid like a rock star, and those that do are paid handsomely for delivering hits that their fans love. If you are a service contractor, how can you get paid for delivering hits instead of delivering labor? How can you get paid “money for nothing” by becoming a rock star for your customers?

If the only time you get paid is when your customer needs your techs to show up and install, repair, or deliver something, you are destined to get paid like the guy in front of the TV instead of the guy on the TV. The graphs below illustrate the dilemma you face in a business model that requires skilled labor to drive revenue.

Customer demand is always lumpy. If you staff at a level that matches peak demand, you will deliver great customer service, but you will be losing money during the periods when your crews are idle.

Graph of lost profit to maximized customer service
If you staff to optimize for profit, you will certainly lose customers (and revenue opportunities) during peak demand when you cannot deliver the repair.

Maximize profit and lose customers
The ideal situation is one where you can shape the customer demand curve in a manner that allows you to staff for great customer service while also maximizing profit.


So how do you do this? How can you shape the demand curve? How do you get customers to pay for “hits” instead of paying for “performances?”

For your customers, your “hits” are actually not “hits” at all, but instead just plain old boring outcomes where nothing ever breaks and all the labor you deliver is for planned maintenance instead of emergencies. Never an emergency. Never a disruption. Never an outage. Money for nothing.

Customers want predictable outcomes for predictable fees, and you can get paid “money for nothing” (i.e. no breakdowns) if you can deliver on a “no drama, just results” program. It is unlikely that you can be perfect in this scenario (i.e. nothing ever breaks), but you can certainly adopt an approach that minimizes the breakage while maximizing the profit and the customer service. Here are the elements to consider:

Offer a preferred customer service plan. Preferred customers “subscribe” to your proactive maintenance plan (for an annual fee) in exchange for lower, preferred rates and guaranteed response on “demand” work. To do this program well, you need to have a very strong understanding of their existing equipment and its condition, a periodic inspection and preventative maintenance routine, and a waiver for any equipment that represents a high risk to the plan. Generate a good, strong contract from the equipment records you collect in the survey of the customer’s facility (with exactly what you service and what is excluded) and collect the annual fee up front as a fair trade for the lower rates.

During your routine inspections and maintenance, any deficiencies you note that represent risks need to be immediately turned around to the customer with a preferred rate quote for remediation. If the customer declines the quote, the equipment is automatically excluded from the preferred rate plan, and higher rates for future remediation now apply.

Develop a monitoring and early warning system for high-risk situations. Certain equipment you maintain may be prone to expensive failure modes. Look for solutions to generate early warnings and preclude expensive and dramatic failures with low drama, scheduled repair and replacement. These solutions do not necessarily need to be extremely high tech. For example, if you know that a sprinkler section may be prone to freeze in very cold weather, just tag that location with a freeze warning that automatically sends the customer an email reminder to engage auxiliary heating. When the pipes burst at your competitor’s locations, you buy Google ad words that night and use the high drama to add your competitor’s customers to your preferred maintenance plan.

Consider offering warranties for important equipment. This further extends the concept of preferred rates with a “pay in advance” mentality for a “guaranteed hit.” In this case, the preferred rate is “zero” in exchange for the “pay up front” warranty fee. Aggressively monitor and maintain the important equipment to be certain you avoid warranty losses. You will not win on all of them, but a data driven approach with strong maintenance discipline will usually result in “money for nothing” for you along with a happy customer.

Being a rock star requires talent and hard work, just not necessarily the hard work of skilled labor installing “microwave ovens, customer kitchens [and] deliveries.” Instead, it is the hard work of selling a program that pays “money for nothing” when you get paid up front to deliver boring outcomes with no drama instead of relying on high-risk demand work where great customer service and high profit present a difficult, if not impossible, balancing act.