Caution Ahead: Getting Through Tricky Customer Interactions

BY: Joe Crisara

Let me start by saying I LOVE sports. I believe anybody who is a competitor, is drawn in by those who strive to reach the highest level of a sport they are passionate about.  When playing a professional sport, an athlete would never neglect practice. They would never choose the easiest, low-pressure scenarios as preparation for actual games. They push their bodies beyond the limit and that’s why they are the best. If they only took slow, steady grounders in the infield, they probably wouldn’t win a game or have a job for much longer.

The same scenario applies to contractors in the service business. It’s not the easy, friendly customers that you need to worry about. It’s how you respond to the ones who throw difficult curve balls that separates you from your competition.

Using the strategies below, you can anticipate conversation-stoppers or deal-killers, and break on through to create productive and profitable working relationships with your clients.

They Come By Many Different Names & Games

You will start to notice patterns in the types of frustrating answers that potential clients throw back at you. You can name them and tape those labels to the wall (where no customer would ever see them!) if that helps motivate you and your team. I have certainly noticed these repeat types of objections or challenges you hear from customers on a service call, and I’ve applied my own set of labels to them. I’ll share some of them here:

– The Gatekeeper wants you to tell him all your prices upfront and then he’ll go talk to his wife and get back to you.

– The Apple Buyer got a full proposal from another company and just wants to know your price.

– Mr. Stuck in the Past tells you he had it fixed during the Nixon years for $187 and asks if that’s still the price.

– The Broke Ass just spent a load of money on his gold-lined Jacuzzi and now has nothing left for the house electrical.

– Mystification Man tells you everything’s working fine right now but he just wants to get it checked out.

– The Know-It-All informs you that he’s already figured out exactly what the problem is and that’s all he wants done.

There’s a lot more of these colorful characters but they all really have more in common than not. The good news is that you only have to stick with a small set of simple, strong principles in order to take back control of the interaction and create outcomes worthy of the professional, pure motive service that you and your company are providing.

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How to Stand Strong with Pushy Customers

BY: Julie Crisara

In the home contracting field, you will experience what I like to to call “service terrorists”. Yes, it sounds harsh, but these folks are extremely disgruntled customers- for whatever reason- who can disrupt your day, get in your face, and make experience a temporary loss of self esteem.

You don’t have to let this happen, there are ways of maintaining a sense of control and balance during even the most trying and emotionally reactive customer service call. Unfortunately, it can be the one bad customer interaction, especially where you feel that you dropped the ball, that you’ll remember and will bother you, after you’ve had 1,000 good ones. That’s why I am presenting to you this list of 7 tools which will aid you greatly in keeping your heading and a sense of control when dealing with highly emotional, angry, out of control customers.

Use Pure Listening

Often, as a home contracting professional, we want to jump in and fix the problem before we’ve even heard the customer’s whole speech. Maybe we assume something about a customer’s issue and jump to a conclusion. Or we decide that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Or, we say to ourselves “I’ve heard this one before.” Let them speak first and listen completely. Have no filters in your listening. Offer no resistance. Actively listen but don’t say a word, except the briefest acknowledgment that you’re actually on the line. Let them say everything they want to get off their chest, and then create a time buffer between them speaking and you speaking, so it doesn’t feel like you had your answer anxiously waiting to go.

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10 Excuses Your Clients Can’t Stand to Hear

BY: Julie Crisara

Excuses are like emergency vehicle sirens. They grate against our ears and if we hear them, there better be a damn good reason they’re being used. Sure there are some excuses that are completely warranted – your car really did get a flat tire, your doctor truly gave you a signed medical note, or your dog actually ate your computer flash drive. But a great deal of the time, excuses are just made up stories meant to buy time and goodwill from our clients, and to avoid taking head-on responsibility for the shortcoming or misstep. In the home contracting industry, if you use the following excuses on a regular basis you will find angry clients followed by a severe drop in your company’s profitability. It’s not too late to avoid these pitfalls- read on!

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How to Use Texting to Grow Your Contracting Business

BY: Julie Crisara

In the contracting industry, you use the latest tools to make your efforts the most effective. It’s all about taking advantage of the best technology. Why should marketing your company be any different? The basic principles of marketing may remain constant but the platforms we use change over time, and sometimes rapidly. It wasn’t all that many years ago, that Internet advertising seemed like a wild new frontier. Many folks in our industry questioned this weird, far out “World wide web,” saying that they would stick with the old tried and true methods like newspaper advertising in the Yellow Pages. Nowadays, what contractor working today doesn’t have a website, and how many established contracting businesses only spend their advertising budget online?

We’re in the same kind of evolutionary period right now with another cutting-edge technology- texting. That’s right, the same text messaging you use to send notes to friends and family from your phone can be used to significantly improve your contracting business!

The first thing you need to know about text messaging (technically known as SMS) communication is that you need to make sure that those receiving your messages have subscribed to your marketing list. They need to have “opted in”. Don’t just blast text messages to any and everybody because besides being highly frowned upon, there are actually laws against this.

To start building your text message marketing list, include a brief opt-in code, or “Text ‘Start’ to this number” on all your existing marketing and customer communications- flyers, print ads, business cards, invoices, receipts, coupons, in-house signage, vehicle signage, website, emails, social media, etc.   Continue reading “How to Use Texting to Grow Your Contracting Business”

Dead Man Walking: 5 Ways to Become an Ex-Employee

BY: Julie Crisara

Everybody has a dream, and some people’s dream is getting fired. Ya know- canned, pink-slipped, see ya later alligator! Okay, I don’t know positively for sure that being let go is their dream, but observing some sales managers in the home contracting industry, it sure seems like it. I mean, if these guys weren’t trying to get cut loose then they just coincidentally happened to be doing the very same things that’ll send you out the door and down to the Unemployment office faster than you can say “Invoice attached.”

I don’t want anyone to get fired, especially if they actually like and want to keep their job. I have a special soft spot for people in the contracting industry, because I’ve spent decades actually working in that field and also as a consultant helping other contractors improve their business, using the things I have learned and observed over the years. But I realized that it’s so easy and so common for seemingly bright and well-intentioned contracting sales managers to make decisions that were really detrimental- and self-destructive- in the long run without even knowing it. It turns out, a lot of this stuff is NOT just common sense!

Instead of telling you- a current or aspiring sales manager or other supervisory position in the home plumbing, HVAC or electrical contracting field- what to do to keep your job, I’m going to tell you what to do to get fired. If you don’t want to get fired, just use reverse engineering. Continue reading “Dead Man Walking: 5 Ways to Become an Ex-Employee”

The Power of the Introvert – Go From Shy to Shine

BY: Julie Crisara

The word “shy” seems to be a rather easy, catch-all term, all too often applied in sweeping statements to justify or at least explain away various potentially problematic behaviors. That child who freezes up and runs away when spoken to by a safe and friendly stranger? “Shy.” That friend you go to parties with who seemingly won’t initiate or act on any social situation, no matter how potentially beneficial? “Shy.” That person you try to network with in a professional manner who leaves you hanging with awkward, icy near-silence? Also, just “shy.”

But what does the word even mean? What is shyness? When does it come out in a person’s behavior? What causes it and what can be done to change it? If you think shyness is an issue in one’s regular private life, imagine how large an impact it can have in business, especially sales.

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