My six-year-old has enjoyed…or hated, and I’m not sure…a summer filled with ‘summer camps.’ She’s too young to be working with mom every day, not that I wouldn’t have her answer the phone, but she doesn’t read yet, so typing articles and sending emails…well…let’s give her a few years. I couldn’t stomach the idea of her laying on a couch at her grandma’s watching TV all summer long, so lo and behold, I signed her up for everything I could find: art camp, “Singing in the Rain” camp, “Beauty and the Beast” camp, Bible camp, swimming lessons, and finally, this week, the grand finale of them all…MUD CAMP! She’s waited all summer long for mud camp at the Tennessee Aquarium; meeting new animals, discovering the ecosystems in mud puddles, exploring through the Chattanooga Nature Center, riding a school bus for the very first time! All of these things have been much anticipated…all summer.
So, I’m sure you can imagine with me my surprise when each day this week as I picked her up from mud camp and eagerly awaited the download of her day…silence. Nada. That’s right, a big fat nothing. Too tired to communicate, she climbed into my SUV each day, buckled herself in, and zoned into the abyss on the 45-minute car ride home. I couldn’t believe it!!! I mean, come on, at least tell me all this crazy schedule rearranging, and my co-working from a different office has been worth it!! At least tell me you’re having fun!
Until yesterday, remember, she’s six. The first words she uttered on the way home yesterday? “I’m in love. His name is Owen; we shared popcorn today.” *Insert her giggles here.*
And just like that, she’s in love. Definitely not the moment I’d been waiting for.
You know, something else that isn’t the moment we’ve all been waiting for? That moment your customers call you in the heat of summer to complain about something your guys did that wasn’t even in the original scope of work! And now your week is backed up triple calls thick, fixing problems created by your team instead of responding to profitable repair and replacement calls.
That’s right, left-field curveball coming at you – it’s time to get to the meat of what I’m really excited to share with you today.
The number one relationship killer is unrealistic expectations.
Something that’s been inspiring me lately is the Inc. Best Book for Business Owners, Built to Sell. In Built to Sell, they make a recurring point, “You must have a sales engine that will produce predictable recurring revenue.” The word recurring can be taken in many ways, and I’m not talking about ‘recurring’ incoming from service agreement billings. I’m talking about recurring predictable service calls, even if they’re with a multitude of customers.
Stay with me here. It’s summer, the phones are ringing off the hook, and you have the opportunities right in front of your nose to make back the money you lost in the spring, or last fall, during the slow times. Watch out, don’t get busy with the wrong calls. We’ve said this before in our YouTube video, ‘Creative Call Taking,’ but this is an entirely different angle. What I mean is, watch out for the specialty calls. Don’t get stuck in the “super-specialty” scenarios right now that drain the energy out of your team and have possible room for error. Save the specialties for the fall when you’re open to diversifying. Otherwise, you risk doing those calls halfway or at less than your top quality, which could mean losing those customers in the future.
Right now, focus on the bare-bones basic relevancy of what you do. For example, you’re a plumbing company, and you do plumbing really well. This isn’t to say that you should be doing “drive-thru,” low-quality service. That should never happen. And it doesn’t mean only doing basic repairs either. But what it does mean is that right now, it’s not the time to be extending beyond your wheelhouse. It’s the time to do what you’re best at over and over so you can maximize the efficiency of your team.
Standardize your priority services now so you can charge upfront, and always do charge upfront. In the busy season, productize your services and cherry-pick the dispatch board for the calls you know your team does really well with and will be profitable for your company. Not only that but on those calls, track the leads for those that you could offer more diverse services to in the slow season.
Because in the slow season, that’s the time when you can afford to branch out into more specialty and add-on services; that’s when you diversify simply because it’s business, and it’s the job of the CEO to find the money and opportunities for the business.
This is when you take the time to develop even greater expertise in those specialty jobs and new types of jobs so you can hone the craft while the demand is low…and then you’re able to carry your improvements and your new skills into upcoming seasons.
Eventually, those might become part of your basic services, too, but the busy season is not the time to try your hand at the next obscure skill. Is this way of thinking too inconsistent for our customers? What’s wrong with scheduling ‘specialty’ services in the fall? Custom services don’t scale, and when you’re busy, you need to be scalable.
Call me crazy, but not for my focused ideas. Call me crazy cause I’m a mother trying to figure out how to get her six-year-old out of love and talking about alligators and river otters again!
Danielle Putnam is the President of The New Flat Rate and on the Advisory Board of Women in HVACR.
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