There is a HUGE labor shortage in the trades! We need to celebrate the trades more effectively, and offer a more diverse workforce as well…
My Recent Experience Looking for a Service Company
Most of the work I do since I started my company has been working with service contractors nationwide. So when it comes to knowing the local contractors: who to call when I need service on my home, I do not always know who to call. I will rely on the Internet and pray I can find a good company I can trust. Read More
Update: November 2018: Base has joined with Zendesk Support. Their new name is Zendesk Sell. Their pricing structure has changed as well. It spans from $19, $49, $99 and $199 per user. I use the words Base CRM in the article below, written in 2013.
Using a CRM
If your business is not using a CRM to track leads, customers, and sales, you need to start this now. It is one of the most crucial things your small business needs to run a successful business. I’ve written on a lot of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs over the years. You have a lot of choices. For those who want simple, clean, easy to use yet has one of the best features ever for a CRM, I recommend Base CRM. Here is why Base just got 10x better the past few weeks (this week for iOS). Read More
My dad told me this story years ago: He drove to one of his job sites to check on his painters. They were doing a beautiful renovation project on an old craftsmen-style home. However, a competitor was doing a similar job next door. He smiled as he thought, “Boy! I’ve got some great employees. They are so clean, efficient and talented! They are nothing like my competitors doing the work next door.” The competition was not in any uniform, and the painters looked scary. My dad then took a really good look at his painters and the vehicles they were driving. He realized that they didn’t look much better. He knew something had to change and that image and appearance is vitally important. It was after this one job that he went back and began developing company lettering for his vehicles, better looking shirts, yard signs and so on. Did it pay off? Absolutely. He is considered one of the most recognized painting companies in the San Diego area and known for quality and his professional and clean staff!
What type of dress standard do you have for your staff? It’s the little things that matter most, especially in the information age we live in now. Your painters, carpenters, or field employees should definitely have a uniform, even down to company approved boots. Yes boots! My dad’s painters had a dress code for the company hats, pants, hair length and shirts, but they did not have a shoe policy. We even had a policy that said how the pants had to be worn! So as I drove around checking on his staff, I noticed the painter’s shoes (most of them) were sloppy looking. Many of them had the tennis shoes or boots without laces. It just looked unprofessional. I went back and told my dad we had to add boots to the dress code standards. We wrote up a list of approved boots and gave he employee $20 towards the purchase of better looking boots. A few bought the $20 boots from Walmart where others went out and bought Red Wings. I must say, the staff was excited to dress more professionally. I think it gave them a sense of pride that they were different and better.
One final thought. My dad often quotes this phrase, “You get what you inspect, not what you expect!” So now as he drives to job sites, he inspects his company standards and dress codes. He inspects to make sure the yard signs are up and clean. He checks to make sure the vehicles are in good shape, the job stations are organized and that his staff are dressed for success.
What are your thoughts on Company Dress Codes? How do you handle this with your staff? Do you follow up and inspect rather than expect your employees to always abide by your standards? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Last weekend, I took three of my kids to Denny’s for breakfast. I have not been to Denny’s in over a year, but do remember one thing about my experience: the General Manager’s involvement. The GM serves coffee to his patrons. I watched as he walked around filling cups of coffee with a smile on his face. He was incredibly nice to my children when he served my table. It was amazing to see how other people responded to him. This is also not something he does from time to time. He makes it a regular point to spend time with his customers: at DENNY’S!
So how do you avoid customer complaints once and for all in your service business? As the CEO, President or General Manager of your business, make it a point to serve your customers. Spend time visiting your job sites, writing personal thank you notes, calling and thanking clients for working with you, and __________ (fill in the blank of what you can do). When the owner or senior management is more active in the company, customers are less prone to complain and be a pain.
One more thing, it isn’t just showing up and smiling either. It is making customers feel important. If they know you are there to serve, things almost always go well.*
*almost always go well…sometimes, you’ll get a bad apple
I was looking up carpet companies on my iPhone a week or two ago and came across the photo on this blog post (Click to enlarge). I was looking for a carpet company by my home and clicked on this one companies’ only review they had on Google Places. It was a 1 star review. I’ve only showed you a sample of the review. You can tell that it is not pretty! The customer was anything but happy. I feel sorry for this carpet business but not sorry enough to try him out. He probably isn’t as bad as the reviewer said. So why did I not use him? Because he has a pretty bad review and he never did anything about it. I was in a hurry to find a reputable company I can trust, and not babysit. Because of that 1 star review and my situation, I went elsewhere. So, what could this owner do about this review and those in the future, and what can you do to protect your online reputation?
The New Web Has Changed Everything
Marketers today are calling all these social media sites, blogs, videos and so on, “The New Web.” The New Web (TNW) can be a win win for both the consumer and the business owner. The consumer loves TNW because he (or she) can express himself. He can rant. He can rave. He can tell the world whether he likes something or hates it with a vengeance. It takes only seconds to post things online. It takes only milliseconds now to do web searches. It takes no time at all before a user’s friends and the rest of the web to discover the pros and cons of a consumer’s experience. The New Web is hear to stay and businesses can make this a win for them too. It takes very little time to do one simple thing: Engage.
Engage with Your Customers On and Offline
The quality contractors I know tend to respect their customers privacy, which is a good thing. However, I think many of them tend to be a little intimidated by their clients and don’t feel they can engage with them during and after the job. I think it should be the opposite. I’ve grown up my whole life in the trades, watching my dad run his awesome painting business. I know many of his clients on a first name basis. I’ve been to their house, been invited to parties, even gone out to lunch with some of them. Now that I’m on the east coast, I still have contact with some of my dad’s clients. These folks are wealthy and busy people, yet they still have time to talk with their contractor. Why? Because I was not afraid of them. I stay connected to them, and my dad has done that with them for years. Once you get to know your clients, and serve them well, they should be a customer for life. If you have a bump in the road during the job, do the right thing and fix it. In the end, engage with your customers and make sure they will give you a big “hug” when you leave the job. By engaging with clients on a personal level, you will avoid most nasty online reviews. BUT what happens when you do get a bad one? Respond
Respond To The Review
When a customer or prospect is upset about something, and they know how to use The New Web comfortably, they’ll probably vent by writing a bad review. Don’t sweat this all too much. Most websites like Angie’s List, Kudzu, Yelp and Google allow business owners to respond publicly to reviews, especially negative ones. This is your opportunity to write a nice and simple, not confrontational, response. If you respond and act professional, most web users that will stumble upon your review will make note that you, the business owner, responded well to the review/complaint. That goes a long way. The bigger, more well-known companies, will usually get hit the hardest: plumber, roofers and HVAC companies. These trades live by their online reputation and have to respond to the reviews.
Responding online means you need to budget time each week to take a peek online about what people are saying about you. One way is to sign up for Google Alerts. You can be notified when your name appears online by email or text message.
Maybe this post was nothing new to you. If it was, go out and protect your online reputation and start engaging with your customers. They love you…and make them a customer for life. Do you currently respond to reviews online? How do you engage with your clients? Love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Isn’t this New Media world we live in exciting! LOL I know what my contractor audience is thinking, “David I can’t take it anymore! To many new toys, gadgets, sites, likes, followers…ahhh!” Well, I’m hear to tell you about another one! Actually, many of you have already heard of it. It’s called Foursquare. It is a GPS mobile app where an individual checks-in at a local business, shopping center, park, government building and so on. It is a mini social networking program where the individual can have friends connected to his or her check-ins and can comment, share, become the mayor of a business and even offer tips about the place they are visiting. Foursquare is unique in that it offers users specials based on where they check in at. The local business of course has to sign up to offer these specials. How it works: A user looks at his device, finds the name of the place he is at, clicks “Check in Here” and if there is a special, he’ll get a coupon that a business can type in a code or scan the device. Foursquare keeps track of the person’s check ins at each location and can earn points as well as become the mayor (person who has checked in the most/recent).
Now that you know the basics of Foursquare, should you 1) Use it yourself and 2) Have your business listed?
Pros of Foursquare for a Business
- It can create customer loyalty: i.e. Some restaurants offer the “mayor” of their location a better deal than anyone else. Why not! The person shows up the most and orders from them. Reward your top clients and they’ll keep coming back. Also those who are not mayors can also get special deals for multiple check ins. So this too creates customers fighting for mayorship or to receive a free meal, drink, percentage off or something special now and then.
- Good brand awareness: It doesn’t cost to list your business and it just gives more people opportunity to see your name.
- Most of your competitors are not using it (yet)
- It is growing in popularity
- You can learn what people think of your business: people can offer tips about the businesses they visit
- It can be addicting and fun competing with friends for points, specials and mayorships!
Cons of Foursquare for Business
- Privacy issues: people can know where you are. This definitely bothers a lot of people!
- It is just another thing to do…and it probably won’t bring you tons and tons of business if you are a contractor. A restaurant on the hand should definitely do it.
- It is addicting if you use Foursquare, and most of the time, a waste of time. So if you get hooked, you might need to go to a Foursquare recovery program someday!
- Learn what people think about your business can be depressing! Yes…and the bad you can’t delete! The more you expose your business online, the more you really have to watch and protect your reputation. This does help companies provide better customer service.
- Check-ins don’t do much for you: For a service company that works at the consumer’s home or business, your customers won’t be checking in at your office very often. In this case, Foursquare will be primarily for brand awareness only.
- Offering deals and specials won’t work well: Can it work? Yes. But again, most service companies won’t have customers checking in.
So are you using Foursquare now? Do you like it? Hate it or have no clue what it is!? I use Foursquare and a hundred other tools, because I’m testing out gadgets, apps, programs, for my clients. I must admit, I thought Foursquare was dumb for the longest time. I decided to swallow my pride and try it out. Well, after 6+ months of steady use…it is kind of fun. I am competitive, so I’m competing with my office manager for first place and mayorships in our city! Oh, and my business is on Foursquare. If you happen to be in my area and check in, I’ll treat you to lunch!
Wegmans is a very popular grocery store chain. It is actually more than a grocery store, but I’ve yet to experience how good Wegmans really is based on folks around me. Wegmans is known for being one of the best food stores in Northern Virginia. I’ve heard nothing but raving reviews about it. If you are familiar with Whole Foods, Wegmans can be labeled as a mixture of Whole Foods for quality food products and Nordstrom for customer care. I also hear that their prices are reasonable too! I finally get a chance in June to see Wegmans in action. They are opening a store in Frederick Maryland, about 20 mins from my home.
I’ll have more to report on this fine grocery story once I visit, but in the mean time, a few thoughts on what I know. First, it is amazing to see how Wegmans has dived into Social Media and made their website interactive and useful to their audience. They are engaging with new, existing and soon to be customers. Wegmans isn’t as big as CVS or Safeway, but it is popular and growing. By engaging in Social Media, they are planting seeds for when they open up a new location. People eagerly await not only the new stores but all the marketing pieces they receive from them. They’ve gotten the permission of their propsects because of their excellent reputation. Folks, this is a food place. They sell food! They prepare food. They serve food! Yet they’ve made the experience something to remember.
So takeaway #1 for service businesses, No matter what business you are in, make your customer experience the best it can be.
Wegmans not only has excellent customer care, they have employees who love their jobs. When employees love their job, the customer experience will be amazing. When employees hate their job…well…I don’t have to explain what that experience is like. Takeaway #2, to build a quality business, spend as much time nurturing, encouraging and rewarding your employees as you do your customers.
Finally, Wegman’s marketing is awesome. They are coming to one of the biggest cities in Maryland, Frederick, yet they are making the marketing personal. How are they doing it? They are using their store manager, Phil, to start things off. They mailed out an attractive flyer to the surrounding communities in Frederick County. The mailer was telling homeowners when the Frederick store would open, what to expect and was all written by the store manager (at least we are to believe it was from him). Then on the local radio stations, Phil, had the spotlight, encouraging people to come to Wegmans on June 5th and he and his staff will be there to serve them. Their tagline is simple, “food shopping will never be the same.” Doesn’t that trigger you to want to take a peak in a Wegman’s store? Takeaway #3, Make your marketing unique, consistent and targeted. Finally, the timing of your marketing is key. Wegman’s hit the radio, Internet and the mailbox all at the same time.
What’s your experience with Wegmans? I’m all ears and would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email. I’ll report back after June 5th on my other takeaways.
Since this blog is about contractor videos, I thought I better practice what I preach! So take a few minutes and watch my informal video blog on the importance of contractors having a video.
Also, in the video I mention the awesome example of River Pools & Spas latest video, “Can A FIberglass Pool Be Completely Installed in One Day Video“. Watch this video next.
I’ve been using Twitter quite a bit more the past year. I preferred Facebook because it was not so fast pace as Twitter, but Facebook just was not very business friendly. For example, if I commented on a business page, it would always leave my comment as my name, not my business. On Twitter, I could post as my business! This was a nice feature as I could have employees do the same thing. Well, my frustrations with Facebook lacking good business tools may have changed starting today! Why? Facebook just released a brand new business page profile view and features. Everything that frustrated me seems to have been addressed and changed for the good. I can now switch between business and personal just by clicking a button on the navigation bar. I can now “like” and “comment” as my company, A David Creation, not ME. At times, I’ll still want to comment and share as ME, so I can click a button and comment as ME!
Why is this a good thing? It makes growing your fan base a lot easier. When you comment as YOU, not a business, people can click on your profile and become a friend. Maybe you don’t want to be friends with them on a personal level. Maybe you only want to be a “business acquaintance.” That is why commenting as your business name is so much better (keep business and personal separate). Now a company will see your comment as a business, click on your “profile” and be taking to your Facebook Business Page, not your personal friend page. I am friends with most of my clients on a “personal” level already and will continue to be! BUT these new Facebook features basically makes it a piece of cake to get your name out there to more prospects.
Assuming the new changes are bug free and are here to stay, I’ll be spending less time on Twitter and more on Facebook, because it is so much less intense for me. It is clean and organized. Twitter can make your head spin!
I am in the beginning stages of testing all the features out, but so far, I’m very happy with this update! What do you think? Are you happy with the new look and features? Do you think Twitter will suffer because of these new updates?