All contractors typically only get one chance to make a good first impression, but far too often residential contractors fail to make the most of this opportunity.
Teaching technicians to make a great first impression is important. Yes, technicians get tired. Yes, technicians are busy. Yes, they sometimes have a lot of work. Yet, technicians are still professionals and most truly want to do their job well and care deeply about their work.
When a technician knocks on the door, he or she needs to be ready to do three simple things to make a good first impression. One, be ready to smile with their eyes and mouth; two, shake hands with the customer which immediately lowers the customer’s defenses and creates a positive exchange; and three, introduce themselves and the company. This is how technicians, contractors and even owners can make a good first impression.
Then, once a positive first impression is made, technicians should thank the customer for calling their company for service. Without the customer’s call, a technician does not have a job.
And finally, and most importantly, technicians need to engage their customers with good questions. Here are some questions that can help technicians better engage customers—and change the dynamics of the service call from “trying to sell” to “meeting a need.”
Is my truck parked okay?
A good technician knows never to park in the customer’s driveway, nor block their mail box or fire hydrant. What if the truck leaks oil or radiator fluid on their driveway? What if the homeowner needs to leave suddenly? Conscientious technicians don’t create unnecessary obstacles for their customers. It’s courteous to ask the homeowner if the tech is parked in an acceptable location, but more importantly it gets the homeowner involved in a conversation with the technician right away.
An introductory question is important, and technicians should not be afraid to start conversation with simple openers about things like the weather:
- Isn’t this a beautiful day?
- What about this cold weather? Isn’t it something?
- Don’t you find this summer heat unbearable?
- We sure need this rain, don’t we?
- We sure could use a break in the rain, couldn’t we?
It seems over-simplified, but the goal of the introductory question is simple—to engage the customer in conversation. The technician wants to get the customer to say “yes” and be agreeable. The technician is starting to build rapport and trust. Once a customer is agreeing with the technician, it is less likely the customer will begin to disagree. The key is for the technician to be genuine and ask questions that help the customer engage with them. If he or she can get the customer to laugh, studies show the customer’s trust immediately increases.
Start building customer engagement with a few simple questions, and your techs will make a lasting first impression. Contractors can get their teams to do the things that work with most people and they will have greater success on their service calls.
Editor’s Note: This article is by Dr. Kerry Webb, a business and success coach with Service Excellence Training who works with residential contractors to grow stronger, profit-driven companies.
Members can also learn more about how to identify and evaluate customer types, see sample scripts for customer interaction, and learn strategies to keep a customer for life by downloading a free copy of the SMACNA manual, Successful Customer Service Practices for HVAC Service and Retrofit Contractors (right click on the link to download), by Ruth King in the SMACNA Bookstore.