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Nope, it’s a Tide ad.

The Eagles didn’t win the Super Bowl. Nope, Tide won it with their amazing ad campaign. Everybody is still talking about the Tide ad campaign. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could generate that kind of buzz with your customers and prospects without spending anywhere near the estimated $15M Tide spent on their ads? It’s possible. Take a page from Tide’s book: impress customers, steal the spotlight, and reinforce your value to make your brand memorable:

Make an Impression

That ad is impressive. Instead of exceeding our expectations, it transforms them. For that, it will leave a lasting impression on us, increase Tide’s sales, and improve their brand loyalty. Not bad for a laundry detergent. How are you going to leave an impression on your customers? With an invoice and a bunch of text describing the services they are paying for? The last time you bought laundry detergent, did the receipt leave an impression on you?

Of course, you’re not going to spend $15M to impress your customers. Fortunately, your customers don’t expect much from service contractors. With the right technology, you can transform your customers’ expectations and leave an impression without spending millions. Building your company’s Digital Wrap will change the way your customers think about working with you. Instead of a relationship built on invoices and emergencies, you can transform the conversation to one about the great work you do and the value you provide.

Steal the Spotlight

After that Tide ad, every other ad became a Tide ad. No matter what the ad was about, viewers were looking at the actors’ clothes and thinking about Tide. They convinced viewers to dissociate the actors and their clothing from brands and logos. What if every time your customers looked at an invoice from another service company and thought about your brand?

Start by challenging them to dissociate the valuable services you provide from the cost of those services. Impress them with online summaries of the work you perform that include pictures, videos, and information that helps them make the best decisions about their equipment. Don’t rely on invoices to convey your value.

Do this, and your customers will think about your company every time they look at an invoice from another service contractor. They’ll wish the other contractors could offer the experience you provide. You can steal the spotlight when you transform their expectations and leave an impression.

Reinforce your Value

Tide didn’t stop with that one ad. No, they played 3 more!

These marketing impressions reinforced Tide’s message in order to keep viewers thinking about their brand and wanting more. We call these MIPS: Marketing Impressions Per Service (or Super Bowl, in Tide’s case). Instead of one impression (a single ad or an invoice), shower your customer with useful MIPS to reinforce your value. A month before they are due for service, send them a reminder. Send them an en route notification that shows them what the tech looks like and when he or she will arrive. Send them an online summary of each appointment with pictures and videos. Your customers will eat up the information and ask for more.

Is Tide better than other laundry detergent brands? Online reviews suggest they are comparable to other detergents. Is Tide cheaper than its competitors? Not by a long shot. They are 3-4 times more expensive than other options on Amazon. Do you think they are selling more product than their low-cost competitors? After their Super Bowl ad campaign, you can bet your ass they will. Tide shows that a premium brand can easily overcome price concerns when it brings something new and unexpected to its customers.

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Build a Services Brand that is Worth Something

ServiceTrade talks a lot about using technology and great customer service to increase the value of a service contractor’s brand. It is worth exploring what we mean when we talk about a brand.

What do we mean when we say brand?

As your personality makes you different from everyone around you, your company’s brand is a collection of characteristics that make it unique. Your brand is the truth about your company and what makes it special. 

ServiceTrade’s mission

I used to work at a branding and marketing agency that helped companies define and communicate their brand. Brands are the fabric of the business – what it does, what it values, and how it engages with the world around it. A genuine brand should reflect what’s happening in the business during normal operations —  not the aspirations of what anyone thinks should be happening now or in the future.

At the agency, we used an employee survey to help discover the truth of a company’s brand. One of the questions is “If <your company> was a car, what kind of car would it be?” I know it sounds like a silly question but it revealed so much. It wasn’t uncommon for owners and executives to claim high-end, high-cost luxury vehicles while people in the trenches in the lower reaches of the organizational chart identified with affordable, four-door family sedans. It was one of the strongest indicators of consensus or uncertainty across the company about the brand. For a fun exercise, ask this question of your employees and look at the range of responses.

Why is branding important?

A clear, engaging brand is as important as a person’s winning personality. Your brand sets expectations for what it’s like to work with you. Your brand is your reputation. It is what you are known as or known for. Your brand reputation should be protected as a valuable asset.

Besides establishing who you are, your brand defines what makes you different from your competition when someone cares to compare. Your brand helps people feel a connection to your company by understanding what it stands for and how it can help them. Your brand’s mission also directs your company’s initiatives and your employees in their work.  The next time you face a tough decision or a rough patch, take a look at your brand promises and see where they direct you.

Elements of your brand.

Hopefully, it’s clear that your brand is more than marketing, it is how you work every day. But there are some tools in your marketing toolbox that help you communicate your brand:

  • Logo
    • There are countless logo styles. Putting your brand into words can help a talented designer create a logo that reflects your brand.
  • Color palette
    • Choose a suite of colors to use on all of your materials and use them consistently. Creation of a brand color palette is usually part of a logo design project.
  • Imagery
    • Here we’re mainly talking about the style of photos, videos, or illustrations that you use on your website and in your sales and marketing. Do you have a cartoon character or set of iconography that you rely on? Do you prefer photos of environments over photos of people? Give this some thought, and use these elements consistently.
  • Tone of voice
    • If you were in a law firm instead of a services company your tone would be formal business language. But in services, you can be more casual and talk in direct, simple language to your audience. Be thoughtful about how you write on your website and in your proposals. If you’re easy to talk to (or read), maybe they’ll also think you are easy to work with.
  • Mission statement
    • Mission statements are usually for internal use to make sure that everyone agrees with what kind of car the company is (going back to my favorite branding survey question.) Craft a short mission statement. Share it. Repeat it. Let your mission drive everything you do. ServiceTrade’s mission is in the image at the top of this post.
  • Elevator message and key messages
    • Your elevator message is used externally when someone asks “What does your company do?” If you ask any employee in the company, you should get a similar response that could be delivered in the short amount of time of an elevator ride.

Who cares about your brand?

Everyone who has a relationship with your company.

  • Employees – Employees know what is expected of them as they deliver on your brand promises in their work.
  • Customers – Customers reap the benefits of your brand promise in every interaction with you.
  • Prospects – Your brand tells prospects if the things that matter to them matter to you.
  • Community – The communities where you do your work should also see you living your values in visible ways.

Live your brand.

I have four tips for you for living your brand to keep your company focused on the things that matter.

  1. Be genuine about your brand and your mission.
  2. Use your mission as a touchstone for your daily decisions.
  3. Talk with your customers to learn if their perception of your brand matches yours.
  4. Don’t stop building up your brand. It should evolve as your business grows and moves forward.

Increase the value of your brand.

Let’s be clear – adding to the value of your brand means adding to your bottom line. Here are three things you can do to increase the value of your service contracting brand:

  1. Stop competing on price and sell a premium program that provides better outcomes to customers.
  2. Give your customers a modern, online customer service experience that reduces their risk and aggravation and makes them want to work with you forever.
  3. Enable and encourage your employees to make decisions that support the mission and the brand so they can embody it fully.

Here are some resources that can help you increase the value of your service contracting brand.

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Fill the Stadium for Your Customer Service Features

So now what?

You’ve completed a big project to add new capabilities or value for your customers – something like implementing ServiceTrade or adding the Service Portal to your website. How do you get the word out so your customers start using and appreciating it?

If you have asked those questions, you aren’t alone. I’ve heard them half a dozen times so far this year.  While you’re basking in a successful implementation, it doesn’t take long to realize that implementation was just the beginning. So what’s next? Driving adoption is the next project – and you’ll want to jump on it fast.

Feed Adoption with Customer Marketing

Every time we talk about marketing with service contractors, I feel like the response is something like “I got 99 problems and marketing is #99.” But marketing communications will help your customers understand and use your great customer service features.

Billy said this in chapter 7 of The Digital Wrap: “The strongest benefit of the digital wrap approach to marketing is that your marketing and sales impressions are actually valuable to the customer instead of being an aggravation or interruption.”  He was writing about the marketing impressions that should be built into your service cycle, but it’s a pretty good rule for every marketing impression.

Marketing outreach is a good way to educate your customers about what you’re offering and why it’s good for them. You don’t want to send your first Service Link (online after-service report) and get a call from the customer asking, “What is this and why did I get it?” But your marketing must be seen as helpful, not annoying.  Here’s how.

Invite Your Customers to Play Ball

Since a few people have asked for our advice for bringing awareness to their new customer service features, we have assembled examples, templates, and first-draft copy that you can use. Some of the materials available in our marketing resource center are:

  • Example websites from our customers
  • Bannerstand for trade shows or conferences that you can borrow
  • Powerpoint slides
  • Example email, invoice insert letter, and handout or postcard
  • Screenshots of customer service features, and more.

Take a look at those marketing resources and use them as a starting point for your own programs. You can run a marketing communications program without dedicating a ton of time or financial resources – doing a little is more effective than doing nothing at all.

Bring Them on Home

With a little bit of thoughtful outreach and follow up, you can:

  • Get your customers to adopt all your customer service features.
  • Help your customers understand how the program they bought from you continues to be good for them.
  • Keep the stream of communication open and ongoing.

Your account managers could do this work 1-to-1, but marketing can do the same 1-to-many. Make marketing communications do the heavy lifting, and have account managers follow up with their accounts.

There was a quote in the movie A Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Why that may be true for lost baseball legends on a farm in Iowa, it is most decidedly not true for service contractors who want customers to take advantage of their new, modern, online customer experience. Like with modern baseball, you’ve got to do some work to get butts in the seats.

The Digital Wrap

 

 

Read Chapter 7 of the Digital Wrap for free!  You’ll gain an understanding of how many valuable marketing impressions you can earn with your customers (and sometimes with prospects) during your service cycle.

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Bust Customer Service Data Out of the Silo

Integration is a popular topic at ServiceTrade. More people are coming up with ways to integrate their customer service data with other operational programs – their website, CRM, accounting, or marketing programs. Once shared across applications, data becomes information that can be used by people throughout the company. Are you thinking about all the ways that your customer service data can be used in different departments?

If these groups don’t have access to your customer service data, give it to them and see what they can do.  These ideas should be just a beginning.

Sales

  • Create demo accounts to use in sales presentations. You’ll win new customers when you show them a demonstration of your great customer service in action.
  • Convert deficiencies into jobs and revenue. Make sure that the deficiencies and repairs your techs find on the job are turning into quotes for your customers.
  • Monitor your quote approval rate and experiment with ways to improve it. Try new patterns and methods of following up on quotes to boost your approval rate. Experiment with the number of photos or try including video. Test a few new methods to build, send, and follow-up on quotes that convert.

Account Management

  • Ensure contract SLAs are being met. Wouldn’t you rather proactively know the reality of SLA performance than wait for an unhappy call from a customer?
  • Use service history to inform renewal contracts. Studying the service history for a location can help you build a preventive maintenance contract for the following year that is based on the reality in that facility.
  • Continually share useful information with customers. Whenever the customer calls with a question on a past job, send them an online report where they can get all the information they need.

Accounting

  • Get more information about the services that were offered on a job to create complete and accurate invoices.
  • Make answering questions about invoices a whole lot easier when you simply look up the job’s details in the customer service application.
  • Speed up the time to bill when information about a completed job syncs into your accounting platform as soon as it’s complete.

Marketing

  • Email customers based on shared criteria like a particular type of asset or their location. One of our favorite examples is when there are changes in weather in a region and you want to issue some advice for heading off problems from changing conditions.
  • Email customers based on their service schedule. How about sending an email to your customers who are due for a regular inspection or service call next month and ask them to start making a list of things that they might need you to look at or take care of while you’re there?
  • Send letters or mailers to customers based on criteria in their service data: Geography, business type, asset types, services you provide, etc.
  • Publish and promote the review content that comes in from happy customers. Post this prominently on your website to entice prospects and use them as excerpts or quotes in all of your marketing communications.

Service Managers

  • Tech report cards. There are a few ways that you can measure the performance of technicians across the board – how much billable time they tracked to jobs, how many of their jobs include media (photos, videos, documentation, audio), how many customer reviews they collect. Monitor the metrics that matter most in your company.
  • Monitor completeness of job records. Techs are on the front line of that great customer experience you want to provide, and that includes building complete job records of what they do on-site.
  • Create contests or reward programs for techs based on happy customer reviews. Take advantage of their natural competitiveness to drive them to collect more reviews from happy customers.
  • Advanced scheduling allows you to better plan the use of your fleet and predict its maintenance requirements.

Owners and Senior Leaders

As an owner or leader in the company, the best thing you can do is give people access to data and encourage them to use it. Heck, if you’re a ServiceTrade customer, office users are free, so there’s no reason not to open accounts for these users today. You might be amazed by the ways they can turn data into useful information for your company and its customers.

Also read:

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It Actually is Rocket Science

Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places. Like space and a government agency.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is shrewdly launching (pun intended) the GOES-16 satellite and sharing their excitement with the public.

Service contractors can learn from two things that NOAA did exceptionally well:

  1. They engaged their audience throughout the process of adding new technology
  2. The way they shared data made it meaningful to their audience

NOAA has been building awareness of GOES-16 for months. The communication picked up when the new weather imaging satellite was nearing launch in Nov 2016. Now that GOES-16 is in orbit, NOAA shared the first images from the new satellite.  

Follow the GOES-16 Launch Sequence

You can build a lot of goodwill and interest in new customer service technology you’re putting in place if you include customers early in the process.

  1. Tell customers it’s coming
  2. Give them updates throughout the launch
  3. Once you’re up and running, share information and give it context
  4. Give examples how the new technology will help you do better work for them
  5. Repeat #3 and #4 liberally

Then answer their question: What’s in it for me?

Like NOAA’s shiny new toy, great customer service technology can help your company provide customers with rich information, like photos, to help them make informed decisions. However, like the images collected by the GOES-16, the pictures you can collect in the field require technical expertise to understand. Fortunately, NOAA has provided another great example of customer education to overcome this technical hurdle.

NOAA smartly used photo captions to explain their new technology: How it’s better, what it tells us that it didn’t before, and what they’ll do with this information. They did a great job of this in just a few simple words. Click through to their website for the full article, or here are some examples that you can click to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from your service calls are critically important, but a lot of times they aren’t enough to tell your customers exactly what you want them to know.

  • Don’t just share raw data, tell people what they’re seeing
  • Don’t let them draw incorrect conclusions, apply your expertise to explain the current situation and how it could impact their future
  • Tell them why it’s better than what you gave them in the past
  • Share your enthusiasm and excitement! 

Also read:

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5 Things that Service Companies can Learn from Google Analytics

Business owners and managers need reports to monitor the health of their business; to measure what works and what doesn’t, to see how they fit in the world around them, to find the best methods for gaining new customers. Part of that information can be gleaned from Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is free, robust and it can tell a service contractor a lot about their business today and trends over time.  Things like:

  1. Who is coming to your website and how they got there
  2. What people are looking for when they come to your site
  3. If your conversion goals are being met
  4. What’s working to drive high-value visitors to your site
  5. If your content meets their needs

1. Who is coming to your site and how they got there.

The Audience section of Google Analytics can tell you a lot about your web visitors. Three of the most important and interesting to monitor are geography, network, and new vs. returning.

Geography will show you where your visitors are located. This is a good way to monitor your local SEO and ensure that you are reaching the people in locations where you work. Once you segment your web visitors by location, you can study them by other metrics, like source and goal conversions (more on that in a minute.)  

For example, I can see that the majority of ServiceTrade’s visitors in the past month in Raleigh come to us direct, but most of our visitors in Greensboro are referred by our email outreach with the source info.servicetrade.com. Knowing that, I might be interested in browsing my recent email list for prospects located in Greensboro, and can start to cobble together an understanding of where those prospect(s) are interested in our web and email content.

Network is one of my favorites! It lists the internet service providers for your web visitors. For a lot of smaller companies and home users, this will be the name of their provider (like AT&T, Time Warner, or dozens of others), but for a lot of businesses, their network name will display as their company name. When you see a company name, you know immediately what customers and prospects have been on your site. It is fantastic for sales outreach.  

Once I pick one of my prospects out of the Network list, I can see how many visitors came to the site and when. I can see their city and state. I can see their landing page. Their exit page. And I can see if they converted on any of my site’s goals.

Network data in Analytics can be used for sales optimization. And that’s why it’s my favorite.

New or Returning Visitors  Keep track of how many new visitors come to your site in a time period and track it over the long term. Cross-reference your new user data against how they came to your site, and where they’re located. All of this information will help you understand where your customer acquisition programs are the most effective – and it’s one of the most important long term trends you can monitor.

 

2. What people are looking for when they come to your site.

There are a couple of ways to uncover what people are looking for when they come to your site.

By the pages they visit.  Rank your content pages by number of page views. For ServiceTrade, the most visited page after our home page is pricing so we make it easy to find in our navigation. After pricing, we look at what feature pages are most visited to understand what problems our web visitors most want to solve. For service contractor websites, those pages will be the services you offer. Giving each service its own web page or section of your website will make it easier for you to later measure site engagement to see where your audience is interested.

By the keywords they search for. Visitors’ keyword search terms also tell you what people were looking for when they came to your site. Unfortunately, the keyword list is partially obscured in Google Analytics. Instead, search traffic and keyword performance data is shown in Google Search Console

 

3. If your conversion goals are being met.

Analytics makes it easy to establish multiple goals for user behavior. You can get a total number of conversions for all of your traffic, and also segment it by any number of factors like network, geography, source, etc.

Set up a goal for your web forms and monitor what sources they come from. If you find a strong goal conversion through your listing on the local trade association website, you know that it’s a good place to invest your time and your money. On the other hand, if you’re investing in a program but not seeing goal conversions, you have a red flag.

 

4. What’s working to drive high-value visitors to your site.

Which of your programs, online profiles, emails or whatever else you do is working? You can come at this information two ways:

  1. Look at where you are having success, i.e. goal conversions, and back track those visitors to their source
  2. Look at your traffic sources, then rank them by key performance indicators, i.e. goal conversions, time on site, new visitors, etc.

 

 

5. How your content is performing.

Did you see our post that ranked our top 10 blog posts of 2016? That ranking came directly from Analytics when we organized blog posts by the most visitors.

The Behavior section of Analytics measures how people engage with the different parts of your site. Valuable points to observe are your most visited pages, pages with the longest time on site metrics, top landing pages, top exit pages, and how visitors flow through your site.  Once you’ve crunched this data, where are you surprised? Where are visitors spending more or less time than you expect? Does your site’s user experience make it easy for them to get to the most valuable information?

 

Schedule a Weekly Date with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is absolutely worth your time to study and uncover insights that aren’t just about your website, but about your audience that you can use to:

  • Learn if your site is optimized for the right content and geography.
  • Make decisions about where to invest your marketing dollars.
  • Find those golden needles in the haystack that inform sales about which prospects and customers are actively engaged with your content.
  • Monitor trends over time.

Your competition and Google’s ever-evolving algorithms make SEO a dynamic environment littered with factors that you can’t control. Analytics reporting is one way to see when things might be changing – whether it’s a temporary blip in the quiet weeks around the holidays – or the sign of trouble that needs to be researched and resolved.

My final parting advice is to have Evernote or your project management application open as soon as you delve into Analytics. You’ll think of a ton of data-driven ideas you’ll want to record and act on.

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Best of 2016

As 2017 kicks 2016 to the curb, take a minute to revisit our most-loved blog posts of the year.

Whether they’re new to you, or you need a review, check out these blog posts for inspiration to start the new year.

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How Service Companies Send Appointment Reminders

Everybody sends upcoming appointment reminders: Your doctor, your hair stylist, the vet. Are you sending them to your customers? If so, is it a phone call or an email? How informational is it? Is it boosting your brand image?

calendar-phone

 

Why Service Contractors Should Send Appointment Reminders

Whether for your business or for your vet, lost appointments are lost money. Confusion happens, appointments fall off of schedules, and people get flakey and forget. So it makes a ton of sense to remind customers about appointments. In case you need convincing:

  • You don’t want to show up when the customer isn’t expecting you and not be able to do the work. Even if you can do the work, they won’t be happy about the surprise.
  • You’ll remind people of what you plan to do, and give them time to think about what else they might need your help with while you’re on-site.
  • You’ll keep your brand at the top of their minds as a helpful, responsible partner.
  • You’ll be seen as easy to work with. Email is a great way to deliver a reminder because they are not an interruption, they can be referred back to, easily shared, and contain more info than you can share in a brief phone call.
  • You’ll save labor from not sending techs on wild goose chases.

There is a good back-story about how ServiceTrade appointment reminders came to be.

The Story

When Service Link was created, we only thought of it as an after-service online report. A few months after it launched, we started to hear from customers who were sending Service Link before the appointment, too.  

It was a brilliant idea! Service Link included the list of services that were scheduled. It arrived in their customer’s inbox in a nice, mobile-friendly, branded email.  So we supported their innovation with a few small changes to make it explicitly clear that what the customer received was about an upcoming appointment.

Using Service Link in this way was one of the most eye-opening ideas that was shared at the Digital Wrap Conference. More than half of attendees surveyed said they’ll start using Service Link in new ways.

How it Works in ServiceTrade

My quick Google search today returned dozens of appointment reminder software vendors. Lucky for ServiceTrade users, they don’t need to integrate with another solution, they can use what’s already built into the application.

James Jordan covered Service Link appointment reminders in the last Bearded Briefing. Here’s how it works.

 

Innovation is Part of a Digital Wrap

Innovation was a big message at the Digital Wrap Conference. Shawn Mims explained that innovations come at all sizes to fix small to large problems. It’s hard to imagine a more simple innovation than using an existing feature in a new way.

An appointment reminder is one of the MIPS (Marketing Impressions per Service (read post)) that are part of your Digital Wrap. This simple alert:

  • Is a branded marketing impression, so you look professional
  • Makes customer happy about working with you
  • Keeps you from wasting your limited skilled labor resources

ServiceTrade customers are innovators who use technology in unexpected ways. Those customers solved a problem by looking to the software they were already using. There’s a good lesson here that if you find yourself with a problem, take a look at what you already have in place for how it might be part of a solution.

And if you’re using ServiceTrade to solve a problem, let us know about it!  Our customers constantly surprise us with their innovative problem solving.

Also read:

 

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What’s your MIPS (Marketing Impressions per Service) Number? Try 8.

All too often, service contractors divide marketing from service delivery operations under the assumption that the two are unrelated. Aside from truck wraps and uniforms, the two are not viewed as complementary. Aligning these business efforts is one of the core tenets of building an effective Digital Wrap. In this post, I want to focus on one particular union of service delivery and digital marketing: Marketing Impressions per Service (MIPS).

dominoes pizza tracker is a great example of Marketing Impressions per Service

The concept is simple. For each service delivered, there are a series of useful, electronic communications your company should send to every customer that will build trust, customer loyalty, sales, and brand value. From pizza to your pantry, there are many great examples of this practice in other markets. From prep to arrival time notifications, Domino’s is dominating the pizza-buying experience thanks to their app that provide real-time updates about your pizza’s delivery status. On the other hand, Amazon has mastered the art of MIPS with order confirmation, delivery updates, and personalized product recommendations.

Below is a list of eight MIPS every service contractor should implement. Each communication serves a different purpose for the customer, however, each should contain the following:

  • Branding: You should always include your logo and company name in every communication
  • Contact information: Provide the most relevant point of contact for each type of communication.
  • Link to service details: Much like the notifications sent by Domino’s, your MIPS communications should contain a link to additional details about the service(s) you are providing. Domino’s links users to their real-time pizza tracker. Similarly, you should send users to a job summary updated in real time like ServiceTrade’s Service Link.

1) Due for service reminder

Especially when providing relatively infrequent recurring services such as preventative/planned maintenance, inspections, and cleanings that occur on a less than monthly frequency, a reminder that the customer is due for a service should be sent about a month before the service is actually due. Between services, this reminder will help you retain your position as the vendor of choice. Without this reminder, the customer may turn to one of your competitors when they need service and your brand was not there to help. In addition to the bullets listed above, this message should include:

  • When the service is due.
  • What to expect next. For example, they will receive a call or email to schedule the service.

 

2) Appointment reminder 

Every appointment for a service should be preceded by an appointment reminder 1-7 days in advance. Like the text reminder your dentist likely sends you before your teeth cleaning, this type of reminder is very helpful for the customer. This communication, like many others in this series, reinforces that your brand is helpful, easy to work with, and technologically savvy. Include the following in this message:

  • All upcoming appointment dates and times.
  • The technician’s name, picture, and contact information.
  • Information about how to change appointment dates or times.

 

3) Tech on the way

Much like Amazon’s out-for-delivery notification, your techs should have the capability to let your customer know that they are on the way and when to expect them. Your customers will appreciate the heads up so they can prepare for the tech’s arrival. This message should include:

  • Expected arrival time.
  • The technician’s name, picture, and contact information.

 

4) Appointment complete

After the work is complete, the customer should receive a brief summary that provides access to pictures, videos, and other data that the technician collected during the appointment. Visibility to the great work your company provides will build trust and customer loyalty. The following should be included in this message:

  • The time that the appointment was completed.
  • The technician’s name, picture, and contact information.
  • Any problems found.
  • Any recommendations for additional work.
  • A signed acknowledgment of work completed.

 

5) Satisfaction survey and/or review request

Checking the pulse of your customer satisfaction is critical to building a dominant brand. If your customer satisfaction is high, take advantage of it by requesting an online review that can help grow inbound lead generation. There are a couple ways to skin this particular cat. One approach is to request a review from customers who respond positively to a dynamic survey via a platform like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. For example, if a customer indicates that they are satisfied, you could request a review on your Google My Business Page. Another option would be to use something like ServiceTrade’s Service Reviews feature to generate reviews on your website that drive local search engine optimization. Note that you will likely receive better reviews before you send an invoice to the customer, but you should always keep an eye on the impact your prices have on your overall customer satisfaction.

 

6) Job summary

After the job is complete and the office has a chance to review and collate all of the data gathered on every appointment, a message should be sent to the customer summarizing what happened. Like the appointment complete MIPS, this message should provide the customer with visibility to the service(s) you provided with rich media like pictures, videos, and other data in order to build trust and loyalty. Include the following:

  • The date and time that all appointments were completed.
  • The technician’s name, picture, and contact information.
  • Information about problems found.
  • Any recommendations for additional work.
  • A signed acknowledgment of work completed.

 

7) Invoice with job summary

In order to keep the primary focus on payment, this message should be limited to the most important details, but still provide access to all of the important job information. Simplifying the payment process will further reinforce your brand as being easy to work with. This message should include:

  • An invoice file with details for payment or, preferably, a link to view and pay the invoice online.
  • Invoice due date.

8) Personalized recommendations

This often takes the form of a quote for additional work or repair of issues found by the technician. When a quote is sent within 48 hours of the initial service, the likelihood that a customer will approve new work increases dramatically. This message can be sent prior to the invoice if it is ready. It should include:

  • Details of the new services with access to general information such as a web page or video.
  • A link to an electronic quote with pictures that can be approved at the click of a button. For a great example, check out ServiceTrade’s quoting feature.

Though many of these communications may not seem like marketing in the traditional sense, they represent the future of brand building via digital marketing for service contractors. They are not blatant, in-your-face promotions. Instead, they are seamlessly integrated into your service experience in a way that provides value to your customer and, therefore, builds the value of your company’s brand.

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Angie’s in Your Wallet Again – Take Advantage of It

Earlier this year, Angie’s List announced that they were blowing away the paywall for its members. The goal is to gain more users and recoup the lost revenue by charging more to service providers.

These changes became a reality in the past few weeks, and the last part — about service providers paying more — made a lot of service companies very sad.

The changes mean that service companies pay for an advertising program in order for their reviews to appear to potential customers. Paying the customer toll for advertising on Angie’s List is a reasonable program, so long as you use it as a resource for new leads that you convert to your customer, where you maintain the relationship with them forever — not Angie.

Don’t mistake their mission, Angie’s List is a publicly traded company with new investors and senior leadership whose mission is the profitability of their company. And they’ve done a good job of inserting themselves in a valuable spot between service companies and their customers. Google and Yelp have done the same, and it’s reasonable to expect that all of them will work to own customer relationships and reach deeper into your pockets when you want the privilege of doing business with their customers.

In the press this week before the company’s earnings announcement, Angie’s List CEO Scott Durchslag said, “Where I really want to go is where we become the first dedicated, purpose-built home services marketplace that just automatically knows what needs to be done around your home and schedules that and dispatches that. It keeps track of it entirely for you.”

Where do you think you fit in that scenario?  How much will you have to pay to be the provider that Angie’s List chooses to dispatch?  How much negotiation power do you expect to have in setting your labor rate or gross margin on parts? Using Angie’s List as a medium to collect new customers is one thing, but being dispatched by them for hourly labor is another.

If you don’t like these changes today, then you need a strategy for how to use Angie’s List before bigger, more painful changes come in the future.

Your BFF Angie

Search Engine Land is a good resource for explaining how to respond to changes from the internet giants.  In this SEL article, they break down what the changes mean:

  1. Angie’s List ranks high for company names.
    This is an area where you can’t beat them, so you might as well join them. Think about how you can use Angie’s List winning search results as part of your online reputation. You can do that by ensuring that your profile is complete and contains good reviews. And now, by carefully investing in advertising to ensure that your ranking shows for all users.
  2. Angie’s List reviews are kept exclusive.
    Angie’s List hasn’t opened their APIs so that you can post Angie’s List reviews to your company website the way that you can with ServiceTrade’s Service Review feature. In order to take advantage of the SEO power of having reviews on your company’s site, collect reviews through review services from Google or Service Review.

Don’t Become a Puppet

A service company retains its control over its profitability, and long-term customer relationships when it uses Angie’s List and Google on its own terms. Invest wisely on these sites to ensure visibility of your company, but make sure that you’re getting a strong ROI.

Regardless of any investment you make with Angie’s List or Google to use their platforms, don’t let any entity become a middleman between you and your customer.  Keep the giants out when you:

  • Earn new customers on your own. Build and maintain a modern, mobile-friendly website that explains the services you provide and the areas you serve.
  • Provide customers with a great online experience for doing business with you. Make it easy for them to find you, engage with you, and see the value of the work you do at their facility.
  • Manage your online reputation. Collect and share online reviews from your happy customers on your website. They influence prospective customers and help with your SEO.
  • Be visible and accessible through self-service account features on your website that makes it hard for customers to consider leaving you for another provider.

Guest author Bob Misita of LeadsNearby talked about Angie’s List in the Digital Wrap. Here are a couple of excerpts from the book that are even more relevant in today’s landscape.

An Excerpt from The Digital Wrap: Get Out of the Truck and Go Online to Own Your Customers

Chapter 5: Digital Tolls: The Only Rule Is There Are No Rules

As a service contractor, what do you own? Your trucks? Equipment? Maybe your building? You likely own or control most of those pieces, but who owns your customer relationships? What about your online brand and reputation? Do you own and control these?

Your online brand and reputation, as well as your customer relationships, are very real and important elements of your business value that you can manage and optimize. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to maximize the value of your online brand and reputation if you understand the game. Play the game correctly and you will increase your Internet traffic without large expenses from Internet advertising tolls.

You’ve probably driven on a toll road or bridge. That’s a helpful metaphor for understanding the business model of online advertisers like Porch, Yelp, Angie’s List, and others. These sites collect Internet user traffic through the creation and curation of Internet content. Then they charge you, the business owner, tolls to direct some of that traffic to your website or phone number. As the quote at the beginning of this chapter indicates, the user traffic on these sites is the product that is being sold to you, the advertiser.

However, this toll road metaphor is actually backward, because it is usually the traveler who pays a toll to use a road instead of the road owner paying a toll to receive the traveler. On the Internet, you, the business owner, pay the toll to the website that directs the traffic to your company. The important part to remember is that the toll collector needs both traffic and destinations for the model to work. Understanding how they generate traffic and how to make your destination (that is, your website) attractive helps you minimize the tolls you pay for receiving travelers. The most attractive websites pay the smallest tolls for traffic. Make sense?

Let’s review the rules that these digital advertising properties follow. But wait… there are no rules! Each of these websites has total control over how information is displayed on their site and apps. The only real rule they have is to maximize the size and quantity of the tolls that you, the advertiser, pay to them. To do this they focus on increasing traffic and maintaining trust with consumers who visit their sites. High traffic and high trust yield higher toll volume and higher toll prices for you to pay.

These toll collectors use business profiles along with customer reviews for those profiles to attract Internet travelers. Business profiles are descriptions of businesses like yours. The profile reviews provide helpful information that potential customers use to make purchasing decisions. A profile for your business, along with reviews and other information, can exist on each of these online platforms WHETHER OR NOT YOU CREATED IT OR MANAGE IT. This is an important point because you want to at least be certain your profile is accurate and you want to be responsive to bad reviews. Just because you are ignoring your profile and reviews on these sites doesn’t mean that your customers and prospects are ignoring them.

[…]

Angie’s List

Just like Yelp, you are likely to have an Angie’s List profile regardless of whether you create and maintain it. Be proactive, claim your profile, and make it consistent with all others. But even owning your Angie’s List profile may not be enough to get Angie’s List users to your profile page. Angie’s List’s big claim is that no contractor can pay to be on Angie’s List; you simply set up a free profile for your business and people will find you. For a few select categories of service providers that might be true, because there are so few that all must be displayed for Angie’s List to have any value whatsoever to the Internet traveler. For less populated areas of the country where there are very few service providers, this statement also holds true. But what if you are an air conditioning repair company in Atlanta, Georgia? It’s a safe bet that you will be paying Angie if you expect her to display your profile to potential customers.

It may be a wise move to advertise your business on Angie’s List so long as the advertising provides value – meaning paying customers – and you can afford the cost. But it’s important to know the terms. The bottom line is that when you sign a contract with Angie’s List, make sure you can afford the expense, especially if the faucet of leads that they promise never turns on.

[…]

 

Get your copy of the Digital Wrap at amazon.com for Kindle or in paperback.

Further reading: