Add value to your service agreements
Evaluation can add value and reduce stress on your company
We need to put some deep thought into our partner plans. You might call them something else, such as service agreements, comfort plans, gold members, etc. Whatever they are called, you should take a hard look at the program.
First, you need to evaluate what you are promising when you sell the plan to the consumer. Then ask yourself if you are delivering on all of those promises. For example, do you promise priority service then turn around and reschedule multiple system checks when things get busy? If so, you are confusing your membership. They think every call will get priority treatment and are re-evaluating your agreement when they get rescheduled.
A better way to handle that particular issue would be to change the language on your sales material to read, “Priority Emergency Service.” Tell the consumer if they are ever without service, even if things are busy, they move to the head of the line. This still brings value to your agreement without sacrificing your ability to service demand calls when the weather gets extreme. A small change to your program could mean rescheduling a prepaid system check doesn’t hurt as much for the consumer and the employee making the call.
An added benefit of examining and improving your club will be employee confidence. The people on the front lines of your business will be the first to lose faith in your system if they are forced to treat special customers poorly. I visit a large number of businesses every year and a disturbing trend I see is partner plans that have become a joke to the people paid to support them. It doesn’t take much for a consumer to hear the hesitation or disappointment in your customer service representative’s voice while talking about their agreement. If the employees see no benefit to the plans, a customer identifying themselves as a member will bring up feelings of anxiety, and that never leads to a great experience on either end of the phone.
Next, take a look at your overall program. Go through these questions and answer honestly:
- How many total plan customers do you have?
- How many visits have you promised each one?
- How many work days do you have to complete all of those calls?
- How many technicians do you have to run those calls?
- How many calls will you have to run each day to handle your plan obligations?
I have worked with a number of companies which, after looking at these questions, realized they could not possibly complete all that work.
Rethink your program
If your company truly cannot keep up with the extra service your partner plan requires, it might be time to rethink your program. You could do this by reducing the number of visits included or consolidating into a single system check that could be performed when it works best for your business. These plans were initially designed to provide work when the phones weren’t ringing. As an industry, we need to get back to that. If you are running plan calls when demand calls are high, you need to take a hard look at your scheduling.
Our customers are smarter and more understanding than we give them credit for. If the weather is extreme, do not be afraid to call their attention to that fact. It is going to be all over the media and they are probably out in it, so do not be scared to remind them that during extreme weather events you are going to get busy. A quick example would sound something like this: “Mrs. Jones, due to this crazy weather pattern we are extremely busy helping customers without service or in danger of property damage. Because of this situation we are calling all of our nonemergency customers and asking them to reschedule their appointments for a future date when the weather has passed.”
Just make sure your reschedules fall well outside of the predicted weather pattern. It will be easier to move someone up than delay their appointment for a second time. Most consumers will tolerate one reschedule if they feel like the reason is justifiable, but if you reschedule them again, you are pushing them toward your competition. Someone in your business should have a constant eye on the weather so you can make intelligent decisions as situations arise.
Finally, how do you treat these people that have paid you to be a part of your made-up club? I am constantly surprised by the number of people who join a service company’s preferred customer programs. We need to treat them like the precious commodity they are. All too often, once they sign up for the plan, their treatment begins to decline. There is no special greeting or even a thank you for being part of the group every time they call in. Make your customers happy to be a part of your plan every time they call your shop.
What did you envision when you started your partner program? Was it something that people would be proud to be a part of, or were you just putting one in place because everyone else was? If you had some kind of vision, what have you done to make it a reality? Take a look at how your plan members are treated during every interaction with your company, and ask yourself if you would find value as a member. If the answer is no, then get to work.