Time for Plumbing Management to Up its Game Part 2
People Will Pay for Quality
You’ll remember last month’s article was about my experience with a dentist by the name of Dr. Wilson. He is expensive but once I experienced the quality of work he provided I would never think of looking for options. If you have a few minutes you might want to read last month’s article. The focus of that article, and this one, is that people will pay for quality work once they have experienced it. No, not everyone will pay the premium price but again that is one of the points of the article. Not everyone is your customer.
This month I want to draw some parallels between my experience with Dr. Wilson and the trades industry. Here are 10 big tips for upping your game:
• Everyone is not your customer — Dr. Wilson was not interested in serving the general public, nor should you be. Every company needs to determine who they want to be their customer and then design their strategy and marketing to attract that customer. I might add Dr. Wilson does not currently advertise his services. His practice totally depends on repeat and referral customers. If your company is marketing to the right customers your future will also depend on repeat and referral work. That saves a huge amount of marketing dollars.
• Customer service— It’s not so much what you do, but how you do it. You will remember Dr. Wilson and his staff made me feel like I was their only customer. It’s the overall customer experience that people remember. What are you doing that produces customer cheerleaders for your company? How do you convey you do quality work that justifies the higher price? Does your marketing say it? What about the quality of your presentation book? What does your website say to the customer?
• Find out what the customer needs, not what they think they want— Dr. Wilson didn’t just start capping my tooth. He took time to be sure the tooth was healthily enough for a cap and then he offered his recommendation. As a contractor you are aware of many high-end products that provide additional comfort, health, safety and service to the customer. Most customers are totally unaware of these products. Many customers would purchase a lot more of our high-end products if someone would take the time to explain the features and benefits. Dr. Wilson took the time to explain the quality of material he offered, which again helped justify his pricing.
• Work around the customers’ schedules— Dr. Wilson asked when I wanted to have the work done. He didn’t tell me to go to the front desk so I could make an appointment that fit into his schedule. He gave me the option of setting an appointment in the future or I could have him create and install the new cap that day. The choice was mine. He gave me scheduling options and you should do the same for your customers.
• Invest in new technology — No one here is able to replace a tooth in one visit, nor do they offer the quality of materials and craftsmanship that Dr. Wilson provides. That makes him unique which demands a higher price than anyone else in the area. Are you investing in the newest technology when it comes to serving your customer? If you are, be sure to explain what you offer to the customer. How does your investment provide a better customer experience? Don’t assume they know, tell them.
• Invest in quality employees and training— Dr. Wilson has an outstanding staff that is both skilled and highly trained in customer service. Remember, to your customers your employees are the company. Do you pay top wages and offer outstanding benefits to attract the best employees? What kind of technical and customer service training do you provide? Do you trust your employees to carry your message to the customer or do you need more training and/or role playing? Investing in top quality employees is an investment that will yield many dividends as time goes on.
• Confirm scheduling— The number one complaint from customers, in every trade, is that contractors don’t show up when they say they are going to be there. What systems and/or technology can you take advantage of to better communicate with your customer? Let’s assume for a moment that it will be three weeks before you are scheduled to begin the job. Can you imagine the positive impact of calling the customer once a week to confirm the start date?
• Offer financing— Dr. Wilson is very good at what he does and he charges accordingly. Never did Dr. Wilson, or his office staff, ever offer to lower the price. Instead they offered affordable options. The point here is pretty clear. Don’t lower the price but rather present financing options that will meet the customer’s needs. When necessary, be flexible if cash flow allows it.
• Discounts for prompt payment— Offer discounts as an incentive to pay upon completion of the work. Dr. Wilson offered a 3 percent discount for immediate payment with a credit or debit card. He also offered a 5 percent discount if the payment was paid in full with a check. The key to offering these kinds of incentives is to include 5 percent of your gross sales as part of your overhead cost so it’s covered in your pricing.
• Let support staff handle routine tasks — Dr. Wilson is a perfectionist but his support staff carries much of the load. He had a three-year intern actually make my tooth. That allowed Dr. Wilson to apply his expertise to another patient in an adjoining cubicle instead of making my tooth himself. Bottom line, he maximized the use of his time, avoiding tasks that could easily be done (after proper training) by support staff. Get the point?
To summarize, everyone will not use Dr. Wilson. Not everyone wants, or desires, his level of expertise. Additionally, not everyone can afford his services. The same principles apply to us as contractors. We all know we will never grow and prosper by attracting and working for the price-shopper. Therefore, the question is to whom do you wish to offer your services? What kind of customer are you looking for and how are you positioned to attract them. Take some time to determine who you want to work for and then develop your marketing and customer service to attract the customer you want.
Remember, customers will pay for quality if they understand what real quality is at least once. Your job is to convey the message.