Friendship Marketing: Quick Way to Business

We all see those posts on chat boards about, “My phone doesn’t ring, I’m desperate, what should I do?” Even those of you who have been in business for a few years have those dry spells, don’t you? So, what do you do? You don’t throw a gazillion dollars into SEO marketing, get a new website, or get a new Facebook page. All that doesn’t help because you run out of money before it can start to work. Statistics say that you have to see an ad seven to 35 times before you call for the product or service. That’s why you see the same commercials over and over on TV. But who can afford that?

Marketing and advertising are good, of course. You need your name out there. So how do you get business fast? You must understand that we are in a very different situation today than many of us grew up with. Here’s what’s different now:

  1. Customers in most of the USA only want to know three things:
  2. Will you answer the phone?
  3. Will you show up?
  4. Will you actually do the work if I say yes?

    It’s so hard to get a contractor to do even one of those things when 30 years ago, it was a given that all three would take place. It’s not about money anymore; it’s about finding someone to do the work. As long as your price isn’t crazy, you should get the job.

 

  1. The number of actual companies with call takers, dispatchers, managers, and service techs is closer to 10% now, compared with 80% that was the norm 30 years ago. But Facebook advertising makes the one-truck guy often look like the big company. That means the technician is trying to fix your equipment while taking calls for three more service jobs. Not only is that not professional, it means your equipment is not getting his full attention. He is going to do a quick fix and likely still charge you as if he actually tested it completely before closing it up.

 

  1. The companies that do have management staff are often only concerned with sales numbers. This means they are pushing the techs to sell, sell, sell, and get done fast. This has been the worst thing for the service industry, and it is a big reason the manufacturers are going full steam into DIY equipment, like mini-splits.

 

  1. And here is one of the toughest changes. When you don’t have a part for your customer, whose fault is it? Today, it’s the fault of a system that has some holes in it. Here’s an example. Yesterday I got a hankering for a peach iced tea, so I stopped into one of those gas stations with the huge convenience store. Their choices were massive, but there was no Snapple Peach Tea. I finally chose some other brand of tea, but not peach. When the only cashier in this huge store finally showed up, I asked her if they normally carry Snapple products. She pointed to a cooler that was mostly empty. “That’s the Snapple area, but the distributor can’t find any drivers, so we have to wait.” Imagine that! A distributor who can’t get products delivered to them because somewhere out there, a bunch of people just don’t want to work. These are really different times.

So how do you get work today when your phones won’t ring?

In this economy, the customers are desperate, waiting days and sometimes weeks to find a skilled tradesman. They are tired of unanswered phones, broken promises, and time wasted waiting for someone to show up. So, here’s the fastest way to get business when you need it today. Get on the telephone – pole. Yes, staple your message on telephone poles in neighborhoods you want to work in. Place yard signs on corners going into neighborhoods you want to work in. Your message should be simple because it is for the frustrated people who can’t get an HVAC guy or plumber to call them back.

“We Fix Air Conditioning”

Call (number)

Simple as that.

Your yard sign can be prettier with your logo, but make sure the phone number is big. Why does it work? Because they see it seven to 35 times. And they see it when they need someone right now. So, they call.

The beginning of friendship marketing is “Get business IN the neighborhood that you want to work in!”

Now, once you start getting work and you like the neighborhood, then get something you can set on the driveway on the driver’s side. When they come home, they see it. Why is that so special? Because what do people look for when they come home today that they didn’t 30 years ago? Packages from Amazon. They are already looking for a package, so make one for them.

About the package:

  • It doesn’t have to actually look like an Amazon package. Be creative.
  • If you are a plumber, set out a plunger with your name and phone number laminated to the handle.
  • If you are not a plumber, you can still use the plunger because it’s an excellent place to zip-tie a zip lock bag with your stickers, coupons, gifts, nice stuff. Who doesn’t like gifts?
  • Inside the bag should be a magnet that says, “My Personal Cell Phone Number,” then your number.
  • Do NOT put candy in the bag because pets will think it’s for them.
  • Don’t be salesy or give out coupons like every other company. It is time for someone different. The goal is to be the neighborhood’s friend. Make a “Get out of the heat-free!” card for AC, with a line under it that says, “Free service call with repair.” That last phrase has worked for 30 years and still does.
  • If you don’t use a plunger, you can use a 2’ long pole of some kind. But if you are going to stick something in someone’s yard, you better put something nice in it.
  • You can test ads, test yard signs, test phone pole signs, test driveway gifts. Test, test, test. You will be the only one doing it.

When you have selected particular neighborhoods, your marketing can be targeted and directed to that neighborhood. This skyrockets the efficiency of your marketing dollar. Why is that so important? Because efficient marketing can be sustained, and you don’t run out of money. What else do you need to know? Getting the customers you want is spelled w-o-r-k. Here’s the good news: it’s pretty easy work, easier than crawling through attics. Ask me, I know.

 

Rodney Koop is the Founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.

Battling Inventory Shortages in the Trades

Three Ways to Combat Extended Lead Times and Back-Ordered Equipment

 

For decades, manufacturers and developers in various industries have adopted and thrived on lean or “Just-in-Time” inventory systems. The Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing philosophy is defined as “the production of goods to meet customer demand exactly, in time, quality and quantity, whether the ‘customer’ is the final purchaser of the product or another process further along the production line.” The goal of this form of inventory management is to keep inventories thin and lean, allowing distributors and retailers to quickly pivot based on market demands.

This system of inventory management has been adopted by numerous industries spanning from automobiles to retail to HVAC and kitchen equipment – just to name a few. These industries have thrived for almost half a century using lean inventory systems but have recently struggled due to the impact and constraints of the ongoing pandemic.

Taking a look specifically at the field service industry, pandemic travel, labor, and shipping restrictions have caused inventory shortages across the board.

  • 94% of companies on the Fortune 1000 list have seen supply chain disruptions
  • Last February’s winter storms in TX caused a 30-50% shortage in many commonly used materials, including PVC pipe, plumbing supplies, vinyl siding, vapor barriers, geotextiles, paints, coatings, and packaging materials
  • In kitchen equipment, dealers reported doubled lead times on several products, increasing from 4 to 6 weeks lead time to 10 to 12 weeks

So, what can we do to help cope with increased lead times and back-ordered equipment and materials?

As a growing number of restaurants and facilities continue to reopen and temperatures rise going into the summer, increased demand will cause additional stress on already depleted inventories. As the industry as a whole continues to struggle and adapt to shortages in both inventory and labor, there are a few steps service providers can take to help alleviate stress and continue to serve their customers.

Increase Focus on Preventative Maintenance

With inventories scarce, replacement equipment for a specific unit may not be available for quite some time. Because of the lack of availability, service providers should increase their focus on planning and performing routine scheduled maintenance on existing units for their customers.

While maintaining and extending the lifetime of a specific piece of equipment should always be a focus, during a shortage, the importance of ensuring a unit doesn’t break down prematurely due to preventable issues increases exponentially.

Additionally, the benefits of regularly scheduled preventative maintenance plans will continue to benefit your business and your customers even after inventories level out.

Help Your Techs Make Do With What’s Available

Nothing is more frustrating to a service technician than needing a specific replacement part or unit entirely and the item(s) not being available. After all, a technician’s main goal is to complete each job correctly, ensuring that their customer is happy and satisfied with the work performed. Unfortunately, indefinite inventory shortages can throw a major wrench in a technician’s hopes of completing a job in a timely manner.

With limited resources, technicians may be forced to be flexible in the specific equipment they are required to use to complete the job at hand. As a result, the technician may have to work with a piece of equipment that they are unfamiliar with simply because it was the only thing available at the time.

Because your technicians may not have experience working with the equipment that is in stock and available, it is highly recommended to arm them with additional resources and tools to help them troubleshoot any issues they may encounter while working with an unfamiliar unit – including access to equipment manuals, diagrams, training videos, or even real-time remote virtual assistance for trickier situations.

Combat Extended Lead Times with Remote Diagnostics

When it comes to serving your customers, time is a valuable resource. With lead times for receiving specific parts and materials at an all-time high, the faster you can identify and order the parts needed to complete a job, the better.

One of the best ways to save time and complete a job faster is to perform remote diagnostics before a technician makes a trip on site. Utilizing a remote video communication tool can help counteract extended lead times by allowing you to survey a site ahead of time, diagnose any issue(s), and order the necessary part(s) and equipment sooner.

In Conclusion…

The field service industry isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to navigating the effects of the pandemic. With inventory shortages affecting various resources throughout the trades, service providers need to take proactive measures to ensure they are able to serve their customers as efficiently and effectively as possible.

 

Cydney Myers is the Marketing Manager for XOi Technologies.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.

Making a Difference in Your Community: How to Build a Corporate Responsibility Strategy for Your Business

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You can measure the success of your business in numerous ways. Of course, there’s the obvious and tangible measurement: profit. But the bottom line isn’t just about making money anymore. You can also measure success by your business’s impact on your community, your employee’s happiness, the environment, and beyond.

A corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy is a comprehensive plan you can create to analyze your impact on your community and measure the success of your business in a different, meaningful way. Not sure about the fundamentals behind CSR or why it’s just important for your business? Grab a pen and a piece of paper. We’ll help you learn how to expand your definition of what success can be.

What Are Corporate Social Responsibility Strategies?

The Stanford Graduate School of Business defines Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as:

“an organization’s obligation to consider the interests of their customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the ecology and to consider the social and environmental consequences of their business activities.”

Okay, let’s put aside the structured definition and all of its big, fancy words. CSR is your company’s responsibility to be a vessel for goodwill. Try thinking of it like this:

Your company has a brand, right? And that brand has a list of characteristics. You may consider your brand loyal to its customers, knowledgeable about its trade(s), or maybe even have a sense of humor. These are all characteristics that bring your company’s brand to life, making it a lot like a person.

Now, think of a person—it can even be yourself. Would you describe that person as caring, altruistic, passionate, or supportive of others? Many people are. So, your brand can, and should, be too.

That’s what CSR is all about. It’s about giving your brand the chance to be caring, altruistic, passionate, or supportive of others, the same way people are. You can do so through various strategies.

A few common CSR strategies include:

●    Impact on People: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Strategies for Business

Your CSR strategy should impact and guide the way you recruit and hire talent. Centering your employees’ diverse values and perspectives can serve as an effective vehicle for advancing your overall company by contributing different points of view, reducing your biases, and connecting your organization with diverse communities and new customers.

Questions you can ask yourself to help guide your CSR strategy and its impact on people include:

  • Do you consider diversity and inclusion in your people operations strategy?
  • Do you give back to your industry by investing in growth and development opportunities for potential or current employees?
  • How do you foster an open, communicative environment for your employees?

●    Impact on Economy: Community Give-Back Programs

Your CSR strategy should impact and guide how you interact with other businesses, your local economy, and your community as a whole. Investing in ethical business partner agreements, prioritizing local suppliers, and giving back to your community can benefit your company in the long run with lower operating costs, increased sales, customer loyalty, employee retention, and more.

Questions you can ask yourself to help guide your CSR strategy and its impact on your local economy include:

  • Do you conduct your business in a morally sound and ethical way?
  • Do you give back to your community?
  • Do you support local businesses in your supply chain?

●    Impact on Environment: Environmental Sustainability Strategies for Business

Your CSR strategy should impact and guide how your line of business works to minimize its effects on the environment. You can encourage your customers to be environmentally friendly by promoting and selling sustainable products and services, but you need to walk the walk as a company, too. Investing in eco-conscious business practices like reducing energy consumption, lowering your impact on climate change, and managing your waste management is more important than ever before.

Questions you can ask yourself to help guide your CSR strategy and its impact on the environment include:

  • Do you track and seek to improve your company’s carbon footprint?
  • Do you track and seek to improve your company’s water or energy consumption levels?
  • Do you invest in eco-friendly materials and seek to dispose of them sustainably?

The list certainly doesn’t stop there. There are numerous ways your company can make a difference in your community. Focus on your brand’s intentions, cater to the things your people care about, and build out a strategy that makes sense to you and your overall business goals.

Impact of Social Responsibility on Business

Being proactive and thoughtful in developing your corporate responsibility strategy takes time and effort. You’re a busy enough person as it is, so why should you put in all that extra work?

Well, with the integration of Schedule Engine’s suite of services, you’ll have a whole lot more time on your hands—time to dedicate to your CSR strategy. Plus, not only is acting on your CSR the right thing to do (morally speaking), but it also has numerous tangible benefits that come along with it.

Positive Impact of CSR

In a recent effort called Project ROI, IOSustainability and Babson College teamed up to aggregate, analyze, and report on the results of a portfolio of research projects and case studies examining the returns on investment for Corporate Social Responsibility strategies. Among the findings, the benefits of CSR that can have a positive impact on your business include:

  • Giving your brand depth and personality, therefore generating brand love, a positive brand reputation, an increase in positive press/buzz, customer loyalty, and satisfied reviews. Project ROI reports that CSR efforts can impact a potential CSR brand and reputation value of up to 11% of total company value.
  • Representing what your employees care about, therefore building a strong company culture, increasing employee satisfaction and employee retention. Project ROI reports a potential increase in worker productivity up to 13% and potential reduced turnover rate of up to 50%.
  • Impacting your financial success. Project ROI reports a possible increase in revenue and/or price premium of up to 20%.

These two benefits can then work together to bring in more business, impacting other forms of success, like your profit.

Corporate Responsibility Strategy Development Action Plan

Try not to get overwhelmed by CSR. Begin thinking long-term and view CSR as a journey, not a destination. Here is an action plan to help you get started today on making a world of difference with your business initiatives:

 

Define your values

What matters most to you and your business? How do you rank your values and what your company stands for? What causes and community issues keep you up at night? Go further than just thinking about it—talk about it! Schedule time to brainstorm with your teams and listen to your employees share their passionate causes. The areas that come out of these discussions can be the foundation of your corporate social responsibility strategy.

 

Think of ways in which your values can turn into actions

Now’s your chance to get creative! At this point, you should know what you and your employees truly care about, so how can you turn these company values into actionable initiatives? How do you include your customers in this journey?

According to a Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of customers would purchase a product or service based on the company supporting a social or environmental issue. To figure out what your customers care about, you can look to peer groups, similar organizations, and trade associations that inspire you. (Shoutouts to a few that inspire me: ACCA, WHVACR, Tools and Tiaras, and so many others!)

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your customers directly, whether through a survey, focus group, social media engagement, or the timeless face-to-face interaction with new customers waiting to be convinced to become loyal customers.

Actionable ideas can include fundraising, social events, launching volunteer initiatives, nonprofit partnerships, and more.

Here are a few specific examples:

  • Set a target goal to lower your water or energy consumption by 2025. Incentivize your clients to do the same by offering to donate to a predefined charity on their behalf if they hit the target goals.
  • Promise to partner with an X amount of local businesses each year and allocate your budget to support smaller partners.
  • Heatwave during the summer? Have your team spend a day installing AC units for free in areas of need. Or do the same with heating units during the winter.
  • Pledge to plant a certain number of trees in the next five years
    Plan your values-to-action approach

Planning a CSR strategy takes time, effort, and buy-in from your team. Lead with empathy when pursuing your CSR strategy and think about all the moving pieces involved sooner rather than later.

Many companies opt to create a foundation linked directly to their organization, or they sign up to partner with one or more 5013c charities to support their CSR strategy. Whether you are creating a foundation, partnering with a charity, or just linking up with a local business or volunteer program, you can make a difference.

When developing action items as a part of your CSR strategy, be authentic, realistic, and follow through. According to Charities.org, 65% of Americans say when a company takes a stand on an issue, they will research to see if it is authentic. That number increases to 76% when it comes to Millennials. So, did you promise to donate a percentage of your profits to a nonprofit last month? People want to see follow-through.

 

Execute and maintain

Once you know what you want to do and how you’re going to do it, you need to execute. Encourage teammates to take part in the strategy you have designed. As an employee, being a part of a company’s corporate social responsibility strategy should never feel like an obligation; it should feel like a reward.

Nobody likes burnout, so remind your employees of the positive impact they are creating but emphasize the importance of work-life balance: allow them to take part in CSR efforts during business hours or offer them PTO back if you ask for their personal time.

Taking these small steps will drastically improve your CSR strategy execution, help your people build an emotional attachment to the great work they’re doing, and will maintain their dedicated involvement over time.

 

Share your success!

Incorporating a CSR strategy into your overall business strategy helps you build brand love, improve your reputation, increase your positive press, and more. Don’t wait for your local newspaper to help you reap those benefits.

After doing some goodwill in your community, go ahead and share it with the world by posting it on your social media channels, sending out a press release, writing a blog post, or mentioning it in your email marketing campaigns.

Doing good is good for the soul AND good for business. Why wouldn’t you do it? Start planning your CSR strategy today.

 

Strickland Tudor is the Vice President of Schedule Engine.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.

 

Technician Accountability and Your Bottom Line

How To Utilize Technology To Improve Employee Engagement and Move Your Business Forward

No matter the industry, perhaps the most common trait of great leaders and employees is accountability. Why? Accountable workers can truly make a difference to a company by directly driving positive results.

The value add of accountable individuals can’t be denied. They take responsibility and pride in their actions and behaviors, providing full transparency into their work, strategies, successes, and any changes, challenges, or roadblocks they may encounter along the way. This openness and effective communication help create healthy team dynamics, increase collaboration, and build trust internally and externally.

In a nutshell, accountability is a key component of successful teams and businesses.

Technology Adoption in Field Service

For many field service providers, increasing technician accountability may not be the leading factor for adopting a new technology platform. The most common goals and reasons we’ve heard from service providers looking to incorporate a modern technology solution into their day-to-day service often include:

● Streamlining and improving business operations

● Improving transparency and communication with customers

● Improving technician training and troubleshooting

● Increasing customer satisfaction and trust

● Achieving market differentiation

By enabling process standardization through streamlined on-the-job checklists, modern technology solutions like XOi’s Vision app can help commercial and residential service providers achieve the goals listed above. 

The Vision app allows techs to easily and safely capture critical job site information, launch on-the-job remote support, access relevant equipment documentation, and provide customers and managers photo and video documentation of all recommended and completed work.

The result – improved and guaranteed quality of service and complete transparency into each step a technician completes while on site.

Why is improving technician accountability important?

Studies show that 82% of employees feel their leadership team had “limited to no” ability to hold employees accountable. That same study found that 91% of respondents believed “improving the ability to hold others accountable in an effective way” was one of their business’s top leadership development needs.

In addition, research has found that improved accountability not only bolsters individual employee engagement but also positively impacts your overall bottom line. According to Gallup, highly engaged workforces significantly outperform competitors, resulting in 21% higher profitability.

Instilling a sense of accountability into your business’s culture gives employees a sense of autonomy and ownership over their work. For field service providers, it’s important for technicians to feel trusted by their employers. A system of accountability, transparency, and documentation will also help give you and your customers peace of mind that their work meets certain quality standards.

 

Cydney Myers is the Marketing Manager for XOi Technologies.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.

How to Compete and Win in the Home Services Industry: Your Plan of Attack

It’s no secret that home service contractors have it tough. Between trying to deal with changing customer service preferences and rival businesses undercutting prices, it’s not easy to stay competitive.

As someone with decades of experience in the home services industry, working on both the manufacturer and the contractor sides, and as a founding team member of a tech company focused on customer experience, I’ve been an open ear to hundreds of contractors over the years. I know the problems you face and how to solve them. 

Bear with me while we play Freaky Friday for a minute. If roles were reversed, and I was in your shoes as a contractor, here’s my plan of attack. I’d compete on three fronts — customer convenience, technological integration, and recruitment. Let me break it down for you. 

Attack 1: Providing Radical Convenience 

Let’s face it—consumers aren’t living quite the same lives that they used to. With all of the new technology out there, consumer expectations have changed, and speed and convenience are the name of the game. Nowadays, contractors who make it easy to do business with customers will win the job. There are a few hard facts to keep in mind if you want to keep up with customers:

● Consumers are more concerned about the quality of their experience than the price. 

● Consumers are used to radical convenience from online commerce giants like Amazon and having the ability to track purchases and groceries and pizza to their front doors in real-time. 

● Consumers seek instant gratification and need you to be there when they need you. 

So, what do you need to do? 

 

Reinvent your customer service experience. 

Provide easy, convenient scheduling and contact options that allow your customers to communicate with your business how and when they want. This is crucial because, at the end of the day, if you don’t provide the experience that your customer wants, someone else will. It can be easy to think that when offering this level of customer experience, you may lose control. Yet, it is on the contrary! By configuring your website to qualify and schedule appointments, you’ll be able to mimic your top-performing CSR. 

Look for new ways to exceed expectations. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the adoption of digital technologies. More customers are more willing to turn to tech. Plus, many people are still reluctant to allow anyone in their homes due to COVID-19, so if you were able to have a third-party technician remotely view and diagnose issues through a virtual visit, it would be a game-changer. For example, there is no better time for remote service support than after hours. Contractors can use the services to screen out minor problems remotely. Homeowners save time, and on-call techs can stay at home. In other words, it’s a win-win! 

Attack 2: Leverage Technology to Reorganizing Roles 

Part of the reason you’re swamped is that you don’t have time to deal with the many responsibilities that come with running a contracting business. Meanwhile, you have CSRs sitting in call centers, unable to stay above water during the ebbs and flows of the seasons. They’re doing monotonous work and too much of it. 

If you can relieve some of that burden, you’ll be better equipped to serve your customers the right way. So, what do you need to do? 

Leverage technology to perform and eliminate monotonous tasks. Advances in technology have provided opportunities to automate some of your CSRs’ more monotonous tasks. Technology can be integrated to handle scheduling, booking, customer communications, and more. 

Reposition your existing team members.

With technology taking on some of their load, your existing CSRs can be moved into more thought-based roles, where they can prioritize higher-value interactions. This reorganization will give your employees more time to be proactive on the job and follow up on open quotes. 

And I promise this will be great for business and your team! A client of ours in Pennsylvania said:

“Wow, this is amazing! I don’t want to turn my existing employees into robots answering the phone, but into more managerial roles.”

They pushed more of their business through online channels, which empowered them to convert their CSR employees into channel managers to oversee appointment flows—a more fulfilling job and better use of skilled work. 

Attack 3: Reimagining Recruitment

Recruitment is consistently one of the biggest challenges in the home services industry. The fact of the matter is, there is too much work and not enough skilled labor.

The only way to reconcile that is to produce more skilled labor. So, how can you capture talent? 

Modernize your brand.

Nowadays, prospective employees favor businesses that are perceived positively. The best way to attract and capture this younger generation of technicians is to build a brand that personifies convenience, great customer experience, cutting-edge technology use, healthy social media presence, fulfilling career opportunities, and more. 

Show prospective employees what experience your company can provide. 

The new generation of talent wants to work for businesses where they can get behind the mission and be treated the way that they think they should. It’s no longer just about salary—it’s about the experience. 

 

Ray Clark is the Head of Sales at Schedule Engine.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.