Driving Customers Away Part 1

April 4, 2005

How to avoid the common irritating habits that drive customers away.

By: Adams Hudson

Have you wondered why the most irritated people in the world always call you? Actually it could have less to do with you than it does with the kind of contracting business you’re in. (Plus, there’s actually good news in the call which we’ll cover in a moment.)

Let’s get simple here: HVAC contractors get irritable phone calls because the customer on the other end is usually: a) very hot or b) very cold. Usually, an untimely breakdown has happened within the heating and cooling system, and the caller’s panic button is on full alert.

From this point, the service you provide can either soothe – or increase – these feelings of panic and irritation. That’s why a better understanding of common complaints from customers about contractors can help you a lot. But more bad news first.

Human nature reveals that a customer whose expectation was “met” gives zero word-of-mouth. Those who “exceed” give on average 4 mentions in 30 days. (It falls off dramatically after that, which is why you should stay in touch.)

Yet for those who’s expectations are dashed, an alarming 22 “negative” mentions about you filter into the marketplace. Just imagine the damage this could silently be causing you every month.

Here are the top reasons customers do not like or recommend contractors to others.

1. Not scheduling the appointment fast enough.
Think about it. You’re hot or cold. And your HVAC contractor has just said he’d be glad to come out and take a look at your system a week from Tuesday. The fact is, if you can’t provide quick relief, your customer will provide a quick hang up.

Sure, you may have real scheduling issues in the middle of a busy season. But you’ve got to explain the scheduling to your customer and offer assurance that you’ll get there as soon as you can. Give a specific time, and keep it.

Powerful Technique: Through our marketing packages, contractors get great results with “temporary heating and cooling”. This settles and “locks in” the customer quickly. Then you can either properly assess the problem later or even wait on parts if necessary. (We recommend you paint your temporary units in a garish, company-logoed scheme.) This technique helps, but you may not get to solve anyone’s problem if you commit this next error…

2. Not showing up on time or at all.
Chances are, you’ve got a customer who just left work in the middle of a busy day to sit in his hot or cold house and wait for you to get there. The longer he waits, the more irritated he gets.

So, if you’re late, he’s not going to be happy. But if you don’t show up at all, he’s going to be really, really steamed. I’d go so far as to say that’s the last call you’ll get from him, but his friends and neighbors will get all the updates they can stand.

Your time is valuable, and so is your customer’s. When you make an appointment, keep it.

Powerful Technique: The confirmation call. It takes about 2 minutes to confirm the appointment and/or reschedule if running behind. No one expects you to be 100% punctual, but this technique is a dramatic improvement beyond the currently lowly expectations.

Be a standout, be prompt and be quick.

Check the next article for the two other habits to avoid.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink “Creative Marketing that Works.” His company creates a full line of marketing tools for contractors including Customer Retention newsletters, Yellow Page ads, “turn-key” Marketing PowerPacks and custom copywriting. You can get a free subscription to his “Sales & Marketing Insider” by faxing your letterhead to 334-262-1115 with the request. Also check out www.hudsonink.com on the web for free marketing tips or call 1-800-489-9099 for more info.

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