By Steve Marsh
It has been said that you have only one chance to make a first impression. Success in booking the job will come easiest to those whose impression makes the biggest impact. For most consumers, this first live impression takes place during their initial call to schedule work.
Many companies treat this vital sales step casually and with little strategy and training. Poor management of this call results in potential customers feeling needlessly that they must seek a second opinion and pricing from competing companies; whereas when a phone conversation is well managed, callers will generally schedule the job right then and there.
Often customers have researched on social media, review sites, or referrals to find the company they initially call. They are hoping to schedule the work on their first try. Rarely do consumers want to make multiple calls to other companies. They are hoping the person they talk with will confirm their initial business impressions.
In my August Cleanfax article, I covered the basic strategies for making effective scheduling calls. Here we will look at specific examples of the application of those strategies during actual phone calls. Of course every company is unique, so make the adjustments necessary to meet your needs.
Whenever possible, try to position yourself in a quiet environment so that you can hear the caller and have few distractions. Take a calming breath and clearly answer the phone with an introductory phrase such as, “Joe’s Carpet Cleaning. This is Joe. How may I help you?” Consumers like to confirm that they have called the correct phone number and like to know the name of the person they are speaking to.
As we discussed in the previous article, the person who asks the questions controls the call. By asking how you may help them, you are taking charge of the conversation and helping to move the customer along in the process. This also helps confirm that you have a potential customer as opposed to a salesperson or other type of caller.
Be sure to carefully listen to their complete answer. Consumers will often include important details, which you must respond to for them to choose your service.
As soon as you have a clear understanding of what service they are looking for, clearly confirm that you provide that service and that you can help them with their situation. Remember, your primary goal is to confirm the assumptions they made when choosing to call your company.
At this point you want to ask permission to gather more information about their specific job. You might say, “Would it be all right if I ask a few questions to better understand your situation?” Then wait for their confirming response.
A good leading question to ask next is: “Do you have a particular day that this work must be completed by?” The answer to this question will help indicate if this is an event-motivated consumer and determine if your schedule will accommodate their need.
I like to follow this by asking: “May I ask how you heard about us?” In addition to helping you track your marketing, knowing the source of the call helps to give you ideas on how to communicate better with the consumer. This will also let you know if the consumer will be using a discount coupon.
Next ask: “Which rooms are you interested in having cleaned?” We are now getting into the nitty-gritty of what the customer wants you to do for them.
A good follow-up to this question is: “Are there any special concerns that I should be aware of?” Here you are looking to find out if there were any unusual spills, pet accidents, or carpet damage.
For cases of spills or pet issues, ask, “What have you done to treat the problem?” The consumer has normally applied multiple solutions to spots, so the next question is, “When that didn’t work, what did you do next?” You might then repeat this question until the customer acknowledges all the things they have attempted to use. Never scold them for using the wrong products. The objective here is to discover what else you will be facing when attempting to clean the spot. You can educate them later on how to properly treat spots in the future.
The next question might be, “How long has it been since the carpet was last cleaned? The answer to this question starts to give you an indication of how soiled the carpet will be. If more than two to three years have passed, this is a good indication that you are speaking to an event-motivated caller.
As was mentioned in the previous article, event-motivated consumers are focused on your ability to clean soiled carpet within the limited time they have to get the job done. In contrast, full-service consumers want to know that their total experience with your company will be professional and irritation free.
At this point, it’s a good idea to find out how much furniture the customer is going to want moved during the cleaning process. Here you can ask, “Will you be able to move the small items prior to our arrival?” There is money to be made in moving furniture. Indicate your additional charges for this service.
If you do not care to move furniture, you can always mention, “I can safely clean right up to the edge furniture,” adding, “If no one has been walking where the furniture is, it’s often not necessary to clean that area. If you should ever rearrange your furniture, a vacuuming should make the areas blend together.”
Now, take the time to summarize the work that has been agreed upon to this point. Ask if there are any other services you might be able to provide, and then ask if they have questions. Hopefully by now you have been able to determine if the caller is an event-motivated or full-service/ maintenance consumer. If the caller is event motivated, you want to remind them that you’ll be able to do a very deep and thorough cleaning and confirm that the carpet will be ready for visitors well before the deadline. If they are looking for full-service, assure them that you understand that providing outstanding service is just as important as doing a great cleaning job.
In the next article we will discuss the pros and cons of going out on location to give quotes, along with ideas on how to price over the phone and confirm scheduled appointments.
Booking the job requires preparation. Having a good plan for talking with consumers over the phone will speed up the sales process, build consumers’ confidence, and increase the number of jobs you close. Review the questions discussed here until you are comfortable using them with every call. Adapt as needed for your company, and you will see your business grow.
Steve Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor, and a Senior Carpet Inspector. He helps home-service companies quickly establish profitable clienteles and then progress to serving higher-quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals, Marsh created the step-by-step programs Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free. For more information, visit www.professional-carpet-cleaning-service.com.