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The customer factor

Follow up, or I should say proper follow up, is the life-blood of any business, especially a service business. Customers lead busy lives and they need reminding that you’re still around. And of course when your first present a quote or estimate to a prospect, they don’t all say yes right away, so you need some sort of method to follow up with ‘em and turn them into customers.

Back when I was in the window cleaning business I would handle this process manually by rifling through index cards every day looking for prospects and customers to call. It was a tedious, time consuming process, but it worked. There’s nothing quite like following up with a customer with the end result being another job scheduled.

So although follow up is the key ingredient to a business that is really active, not many service business owners do it. Just from the standpoint of myself as a consumer and the number of businesses who have provided services to my home such as carpet cleaner, upholstery cleaner, pressure-cleaner, window cleaner, etc, not a single service business has followed up with me. No phone calls, no emails, no text messages, nothing. There is gold to be had in following up but yet it seems most business are out there chasing after new customers. Crazy.

Due to the importance of follow up and the fact that I saw very few service businesses do it, I set out to create an automated follow up system that would streamline the process. This was back in 2004. Since then it’s grown into a full scale Customer Relashionship Management (CRM) program called The Customer Factor, but at the very beginning all I wanted to do was make it easier for service businesses to follow up. I figured maybe the manual process was holding them back so if I could automate it, problem solved.

So the thought process behind the first version of The Customer Factor was to take a “frequency period” and assign it to a job when you schedule that job. This allows The Customer Factor to know when the customer is tentatively due for another service later on. For example, you provide a service on April 1. The customer tells you that they want to get serviced every 6 months, so you assign a semiannual frequency period to that job. And voila! 6 months later on Oct 1, the so ware will know the customer is ready for another service and present this customer and other customers ready to be serviced to you in a single link. Click on the link to view all customers and proceed to call, email, and/or send a text. Even be er than that is you can set up a drip campaign where automatically customers can receive a series of emails beginning on the date they’re tentatively due for another service. Completely hands on. It really can’t get much easier than that. No more shuffling papers or index cards around or looking in spreadsheets trying to figure out who to call.

Using technology such as The Customer Factor is important to staying ahead of your competition. Many service businesses insist on old school techniques when running their business and although it sounds good, it’ll eventually end in disaster. Old school takes too much me, creates confusion, and adds stress to the running of your business, not to men on the fact that it’s destructive to your income. A much better alternative is to add some technology to your business and simplify the many tasks that all of us as business owners handle day to day. For example, taking 2 minutes to click on a link and getting a list of customers needing your services who you can then call, email, or text is way be er than spending an hour going back in history looking at your calendars and invoices figuring which customers are ready to be serviced again.

The service business is a relationship business and if you don’t work on strengthening those relationships then it’s a business that’s built on quicksand where your business becomes a commodity and it’s too easy for customers to hire someone else if they’re $5 cheaper. I would gladly pay more to any service business who I knew had my back where they contacted me regularly with reminders, sent thank you emails, and of course did a good job.

So the trick is to make it really hard for a customer to ever look elsewhere. Sending a simple broadcast email asking how your customers are doing (it doesn’t always have to be about asking for the sale) can do wonders for your bottom line. For example, a user recently commented that he sent out an email that took him a grand total of 5 minutes to put together. The result? Over 5k in revenue. From a single email. I’m including the email here with his permission:

Happy Thanksgiving!

May the good things in life be yours in abundance, not only this Thanksgiving but throughout the year. Wishing you a very special Thanksgiving, a me to remember all of the truly important people in your life!

From Our Family to Yours,

Ed, Joshua, Ma hew, Kyle

As you can see not a single word about his business, his services, or how great they are. Just a simple email wishing their customers a happy thanksgiving. He was on his way out to dinner and whipped this out in 5 minutes which included creating it and sending it to 400+ customers. Not a bad ROI for 5 minutes of “work”. The email prompted some customers to call and other customers were reminded they needed some extra work done.

So not all communication has to be about a sale or special offer or new service you’re providing. There’s nothing wrong with it but some mes customers just need to know that you’re out there and that you’re thinking about ‘em. Sending a news-letter via email every 4 weeks for example is one of the best things you can do. Discuss a couple of local issues and provide a few ps/helpful information they can really use. It will pay off in spades. Within The Customer Factor you can set this up within a few minutes. So let technology do its job. It’ll make you really stand head and shoulders over your competition when it’s used correctly.

Another example of the importance of communication can be seen in a recent email sent to us. The user wrote in reply to us asking him how his broadcast text message worked out. He wrote:

I have never had this good of a response from any- thing. I have been on the phone nonstop for about 3 hours and now I have to go run some quotes. Can you do the same thing for prospects? There are 42 residen al in there. I can’t wait un l you add the feature to do batch text. Thank You.

The text message went out to 234 residential customers. It was short and sweet (under 160 characters) announcing a limited me special. So again, communication is what separates the average service person from the super star. And with the proper tool by your side (ie: The Customer Factor) it’s so easy to do.

I’ve seen service businesses completely get turned around from doing hardly any business to having the phone ring off the hook just by opening up the lines of communication and doing proper follow up with their existing customer base.

And let’s not forget about prospects. Prospects by definition are those who have not used your service yet. They did express an interest at one point so it’s important to follow up with them. If the phone isn’t your thing then email ‘em every week or two to let them know that you want their business. We have sample follow ups within The Customer Factor specifically for prospects. The ultimate goal obviously is to convert that prospect to a customer and although following up with prospects may be slightly different than following up with existing customers (ie: different emails), the overall process is the same. Set up automated emails, send broadcast emails/text messages, rinse, repeat until you turn them into customers.

As mentioned earlier on in this article our focus when first creating The Customer Factor was in automating the follow up processes. But over the years we’ve continually added new features so that now it’s a full blown Customer Relationship Management software program that can schedule, invoice, sync with quickbooks, sync with google, create estimates, automate all your emailing and texting, and do many other tasks that service business owners and managers have to handle every day. And with our iOS and Android app available it makes things even easier. Schedule when you’re on the go, send customers “I’m on the way” messages, take photos, email invoices, me in/time out of jobs, and much more.

It all circles right back around to using technology to make your business more pro table and more efficient day to day. Be willing to invest a few bucks in the technology you need to better manage and grow your business. And don’t forget to follow up!

Steve Wright, a former window cleaner, founded The Customer Factor in 2004. Over the years hundreds of new features have been added to the so ware along with the introduction of a mobile app for iOS and Android users, so it’s a CRM program that will take your service business to a whole ‘nother level.

Check out: http://www.thecustomerfactor.com or call 850-476-0904 for more information.

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