ET32- Beating the Competition With Service

Attention to Detail Is How You Win With Service

ScreenShot011Lots of small business seem the same and are more or less the same- until it comes to service.

If you can deliver amazing service to your clients you are going to stand out, be able to charge more, get more referrals and generally do a lot better than your ho-hum competitors.

In my chat with Vance Morris he gives some very specific examples and tactics of how business owners can use amazing service and a wow experience to make their businesses stand out from the crowd and leave the competition in the dust.

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Matt: Well, welcome to today’s episode of Entrepreneur Talk. I am pleased to welcome Mr. Tyler Croker to the show of Budget Heating, Cooling and Plumbing in St. Peter’s Missouri. They got a website that is just called Thanks so much for being on the show. I definitely appreciate it. Why don’t we start with just a little background kind of how did you get hooked up with the company? How did the company get started and what’s the company kind of about?

Tyler: Yeah. Definitely. Daniel and Amy, owner and co-owner, they formed the company in 2009. They got some family ties. I know they’ve been working together for at least 2 decades. Basically, he’s kinda got to the point where they saw a way to do it better. That’s what they decided to do. They set out on their own on 2009. Fast forward to 2015, I joined the team in June of 2015. I brought a lot of graphic designs, web, social media, and IT experience and so, I’m helping kinda solidify the brand. I’m helping them go mobile, go digital and just innovating how we interact and communicate with our customers online.

Matt: Awesome! It is similar to our business. It’s somewhat perceived as a commodity. There’s a ton of people out there doing each rack or pieces of that work – everything from one guy with a truck to very big multi-city, multi-state companies. What are you guys doing to stand out, to differentiate yourselves from the crowd and to win business when there’s all that other competition out there?

Tyler: One big thing that makes us different from our competition is the people we have working here. We’re very close, family-oriented group. It’s a little bit different from other places where people might work – I can call any of my co-workers at any time of the day or night. Nine out of ten times, everybody will drop what they’re doing to come and help each other out. that being said, we are currently – as a direct example – employee-engagement videos where we are capturing everybody’s personality, their likes, the things they like to do and put them on up on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and really making a point that we’re not going out to hide pressure sales people or condemn equipment just to sell them a furnace. We go out with intent of trying to repair their equipment before selling them something they don’t want or don’t need. We’re really trying to take that friendly, family approach between how we interact here with ourselves and really apply that to our customer base and show them that we do care and we’re not out just to make a quick buck.

Matt: So, kind of a difference in culture right off the bat from the owner’s down in how you approach each customer interaction?

Tyler: Yeah. Exactly. From the moment they are on the phone with our CSRs all the way back to the CSR at the very end of the process and everything in between in interacting with out technicians and whatnot, we make a point to really send out a lot of content to give them idea who’s coming to their house. when the technician is coming out, they’ll get an email with a picture of the technician, who they are, and a link to that employee engagement video so they can actually know what the technician looks like, they know what they sound like, they know some of the things that they are interested in. they know who’s showing up so they don’t have to worry about getting scammed or not having any idea of who’s about to show up at their door and entering their home.

Matt: Wow! That’s a unique approach. I definitely had lots of service people out to my house over the years. I’ve never had anybody go to that level of introduction. That’s important because sometimes the people show up and you feel like there’s nobody behind this guy so whatever he’s promising, he’ll be gone and I’ll never see him again no matter what guarantees or promises he’s made. For that matter, I don’t know if he’s been in business for a week or year or whatever. I have no feel for his qualification. By adding all that background information, you got to make your customer feel a lot more comfortable with who’s coming in.

Tyler: It makes everybody working here a lot more personable. We build rapport without even being in front of the customer or physically talking to them on the phone. We’re already taking every opportunity we can to build some trust and some confidence in who we are so it’s just not a blind stranger showing up at the door.

Matt: What do you do in terms of getting those calls to come in in the first place? How do you kind of prime the pump or get the funnel filled on the front end before people can actually see that level of differentiation? Well, I guess that’s kinda going back to your original question. It’s another thing that sets us apart. We have so many moving parts and so many different things that we’ve kind of involved. Just besides the typical marketing and advertising, we do [inaudible 0:10:26.7] for a lot of people who are here in the St. Louis Area. I think we are one of the biggest warranty contractors here. We talked residential. We talked commercial on plumbing and [inaudible 0:10:41.7] side as well. But, we make a point to join networking groups. I’m constantly building relationships on Twitter. That’s another big one. There’s not so many – we have consumers on Twitter but there are a lot of other businesses that are on Twitter. So, I spend part of my time building relationships. If we see that they are doing a charity event, we’ll try and get involved especially if we think it’s a good cost. We will hit up local delies or local food policies we’ll order from them. We love the area that we live in. we love what we do here. So, we just make a point to connect and communicate with people whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, anywhere online, talking to people, just going out and about. But then, a lot of warranty work we do and being on the commercial and residential side, we just have so many avenues that one isn’t necessarily bigger and greater than another but we have so many little ones constantly pulling on that we keep all our guys busy 24/7 – oh, not 24/7, all year round that’s what I meant to say.

Matt: No 3 am air conditioning installs?

Tyler: I wouldn’t say that. We have a few stories of some extremely late night work but generally no, we’re not AC work in the middle of the night.

Matt: Got you. Do you focus on reviews and managing all the different review site? Is that something that’s big for you, guys? I know in the service industry reviews are something that a lot of people look at first.

Tyler: That’s actually one of the key components of this brand digital venture that we’ve got going on. We actually have someone – it’s kind of what I startup doing but now that I’m pulling over to other areas, I have somebody else working underneath me now. But, she’s dedicated to our reputation management 100%. That’s all she does. To kind of give you an idea, throughout the week, she spends a lot of her day calling back every single one of our customers no matter how the job went, no matter what the job was, just to follow up and see were they happy with what we did for them. If they were dissatisfied, what we can do to rectify our mistakes? We’re all about resolutions not excuses. So, anytime a review comes on and hits us online, no matter good or bad, no matter whether it’s Facebook, Google, Yelp, we’ll respond to every single one of them. We want to paint a picture out there that’s like “Yes. We are listening. And yes, we do care.” But then, as I kind of mentioned earlier with the sending the email of the technician in a video, we also have some additional software that we use to get reviews from customers when were at the house. Sometimes, that doesn’t always work or they’re not necessarily ready to leave a review. So, we have follow up e-mails that will get a hold of them. Well, after the fact, just to make sure everything went smoothly and we’ll ask them for review at that point as well. So, the short answer to your question is yes. We spend a lot of time and effort, very meticulously bandaging our online reviews and reputations because they are critical to our success.

Matt: Yeah. That’s interesting. That’s probably a take away that we could use in our business. We do make a point of following up and asking for reviews but we don’t go to the step of personally calling back each client’s partially because generally, the clients that sign up with us stay with us for years and years. But that said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to follow up at the 30-day mark or the 60-day mark and just checking and say “Is there anything else we could be doing for you? Are you happy with everything you got so far? If so, would you mind taking a minute to leave us a review?” that would probably increase review rate overall. We certainly jump on any problems, any questions but were not as pro-active as we could be and that’s just one more kinda take away that I think a lot of businesses would benefit from doing to find out “Are you happy? If so, great. If not, what can we do better?” Continuous improvement is sort of the key to the whole thing.

Tyler: Yeah. Definitely.

Matt: So, where do you guys go from here? Is it just continuing to do graphically expand or add more services? What else are you planning for the future?

Tyler: That’s funny you say that. Daniel and I, we’re similarly minded in certain ways but we’re both idea guys. Were both motivated and get excited about ideas super easy. We have a giant notebook full of so many ideas that we even begin to touch, probably 1/10 of them. But right now, the way it stands, we have a lot of little websites that were building. We want to take some of our knowledge and services and products, take them online, find new and better ways to connect with customers, especially millenials because a lot of times they don’t want to talk us. They don’t want to be on the phone. They want get this thing, the information they need to be a website or something else. Once we have our core HQ here at budget, 100% streamlined and efficient, then were gonna start planting other shops around the city, maybe around the state and however far we can push it. So, we know were onto something a little bit different from the rest of our competition. So, once we get this machine 100% streamlined, and who knows maybe we end up franchising out to other places or helping other [inaudible 0:17:27.1] and plumbing businesses do what we’re doing –replicate it. Build the resources and sell them out to them. So, that’s kind of the spot we’re in now. I don’t know. That does kind of answer your question?

Matt: Well, yeah. It sounds like the answer is there are a million opportunities. That’s the case of once you kinda built something that really works well and is heads and shoulders above what anyone else is doing, you’ve got a lot of options. You could expand the same model yourself. You could expand it through franchising. You could productize or create tools out of the things that you are doing differently and sell those tools and products to the people in the same industry or in related industries to allow them to achieve the same kind of success without infringing on the area where you sort of planted your flags or any of your surrounding states or whatever that wouldn’t be competitive with you but could benefit from your same system of doing it. Once you’ve figured out how to beat the system, there’s a lot of ways to then capitalize on that. The sky is the limit. It’s really the time and opportunity cost to pursue one over the other that limits you.

Tyler: Yeah. You’re exactly right. Like I say, we go a lot of little coils and the fire but the most logical next step, the best next step is once we get this one 100% streamlined, then we’ll replicate it somewhere else whether it’s by ourselves, for ourselves or for somebody else.

Matt: What are the bottlenecks that you’ve got in growth now? Is it just finding good qualified people? What are the challenges to growth?

Tyler: yeah. That is the number one bottleneck. Number one challenge is finding qualified help. Maybe I shouldn’t even say qualified help. For us, we’ve tried hiring before in the past, just getting a warm body into the booths and get them going, get them working. Having somebody working we thought was better than having nobody working but what we really realized is a big key to our success is hiring the right people. Like I said, we are very close, family-oriented group. We’re all little silly and rum bunches in our own ways but we all get together really well. So, our biggest challenge is finding qualified help that fits well with our group and wants to be a part of this team. But, when we find those people, it makes a world of difference. But that is, by far, our biggest challenge is – getting the right people on the right shoes.

Matt: Well, the bigger you get, the harder that becomes to kinda keep that culture tight and consistent and flowing down through all the people that come on board. There are definitely ways to make a process out of that and have training and on-boarding and all that stuff but for sure, the bigger the head count, the harder that challenge becomes.

Tyler: Yeah. That is the truth.

Matt: So, what’s interesting about this conversation to me and I’ve heard the same thing in other conversations is everything that you guys are doing is making you stand out significantly different than your competition. You’re winning on all different funds and yet, nothing you’ve told me am I like “Oh! Wow! That’s a completely new revelation. That’s a secret I’ve never heard before. Let me know if you disagree but its all straight forward steps. It’s just that the vast majority of the competition in your industry, in my industry and lots of others just don’t take the time to do it. But, trying to have awesome customer service, following up will all your customers, doing the relationship building, doing the online marketing, none of those are things that nobody has heard of before. It’s just that the vast majority of the people just don’t take the time to do it or do it poorly. And you guys are doing it right. You’re executing on it. And as a result, you’re seeing tremendous success. Would you say that’s pretty much it? There’s no real secret here. It’s just doing the good job consistently and across all those fronts.

Tyler: Yes and no. For the most part, you pretty much nailed that on the head. That is correct. For a while, I think we were really looking for the one big thing that would set us apart and change how the industry operated. I think what we’ve realize is it really boils down to – it’s a combination – the product of us – some product of everything were doing is what it really boils down to. What I mean by that is we have tons of little tiny things that are slightly different but when you add all in together, I think that what’s really builds this overall product. For example on our mobile site, we’ve set it up now that when somebody goes to our mobile site, they can click to call us or now, they can text message us as well. I personally haven’t seen very many people, hardly anyone, do that type of form of communication. It’s almost always call only but were implementing a ton of these tiny little things that individually they don’t mean much but when you combine them all together, I think that’s kind of what makes a big difference. Were continually finding those tiny little gems amongst the rough. We’re implementing a little bit of text messaging not just sending an email with a picture of technician but also a video of kinda talking about who they are. By enlarge; you are correct in what you said before. We do have a ton of tiny little changes. Were kinda changing how our industry operates.

Matt: I think the tiny changes are keys too, though. They make a difference. I’ll give you just sort of a funny example. The other day I was online trying to find somebody to clean our gutters and there’s only a few guys that look reasonably professional for gutter cleaning or whatever. So, I’m on the guy’s website and he’s got a submit a thing for free estimate form right. So, I put my name in. I put our address in. I put some description of our gutters in. and then, these other fields, I have to put in the state. You know like “I’m gonna be 4 states away trying to get a guy to clean the gutters.” And then I have to put in country. It doesn’t even default the United States. There’s a list that scrolls through every country in the world starting from Afghanistan. I have to scroll all the way down and not accidently click Uzbekistan and get the United States. The gutter cleaner you know I’m gonna be requesting your crew from Turkey or something. That’s a small thing, right. It’s stupid. It only took me extra 30 seconds or whatever to fill up the form. But if the guy stop to think about it, do you really need to ask what state or what country I’m from? Wouldn’t zip code be enough? Its little things like that that are just those little irritants in life that if you can constantly improve those little things, you make the experience better for the customer. In turn, the customer has a good experience and refers you out. You get more business. It’s a nice virtual cycle. But, by not taking the time to think that little thing through, it has made it a little more irritating for me. Now, I’m talking about it on a podcast. I definitely think those tiny incremental improvements all do add up to a significantly better experience.

Tyler: Yeah. We works actually – well, I say we. I mean me – I’m currently rebuilding our website. I think as it stands right now, we kind of how our brand is set up – we have 4 colors that kinda represent each branch. On our new website, each section, whether you’re in the cooling section, heating section, indoor air quality section or finally the plumbing section, each one of those sections revolves around that particular color. At a glance, you can look at our website and know which section of the website you’re in but kinda going back to your – the contact form – the gutter guy – I think as it stands right now we have 24 different contact forms that we’ve built on our site with the idea that depending on where they are really changes what they are thinking about or how they are thinking about it and so we are trying to make a point to expatiate as much of that process as possible and really fill-in because obviously if they are in the indoor air quality section, they are not gonna be requesting a quote on the water heater.

Matt: Right. And you don’t want them fill out –

Tyler: [crossover 0:27:03.0] or indoor air quality. Uh-oh! I think I lost you, Matt!

Matt: You were cut out there but I can hear you now.

Tyler: Yeah. There you are.

Matt: Okay. You good?

Tyler: Can you hear me?

Matt: Yeah. I can hear you. Can you hear me now?

Tyler: Yeah. I’m getting maybe every other sentence.

Matt: Oh.

Tyler: Now you’re coming through loud and clear.

Matt: Okay. So you can hear me okay now?

Tyler: Yup! You’re good.

Matt: Yeah. So, you were making the point that you got 24 different contact forms depending on what people are looking for. I think that’s smart because you could do it with one and then you force people to check off “No” in all these boxes. “No, I don’t want this.” “No, I don’t care about that.” So, why not focus on the thing that they really care about and make their life easier and a better flow for them and a better flow for you?

Tyler: Yeah. That’s exactly right. Most online marketers know that the longer contact form, the less likely they are to fill it out. so, by finding 2 on each one of those and being very selective on what goes on of those forms based on where they are on the website, we can keep those contact forms as short and concise as possible which for us leads to better conversion. So, it’s another one of the little new ones that we picked up on. We are just trying to go more than the extra mile to really communicate and be available and transparent with our costumers online.

Matt: Definitely. Well, like we said, I think it’s those little things that add up to a big difference. So, let me kinda call it there. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today. For people in the area, what’s the best way for them to find out more about your service?

Tyler: The best to find out about is literally you can just call budget or budget heating, cooling and plumbing in the Google or anywhere online. Were on all the major social networks. They can email us at Lastly, they can call us at 636-887-2800. We answer the phones 24/7. We have an answering service. So, there’s so many ways to get a hold of us that it’s almost impossible not to get a hold of us at this point.

Matt: That’s one of those other things. So many especially in the contractor and trade businesses, you call, no one picks up. You leave a message. No one calls you back. Just answering the phone is literally putting you heads and shoulders above 75% of the people out there that don’t answer the phone. You get all that trouble to get customers to call and then one calls and you don’t pick up the phone. It’s just mind blowing that people haven’t picked up on this. People that answer the phone right off the bath; I’m much more likely to do business with them.

Tyler: Yeah. We try to be accessible and transparent. So, I mean, I’ve answered customer emails at 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night because my phone will ring and I’m usually awake. So, you’ve got to be available or they are not gonna follow up with you.

Matt: Definitely. Well, thanks again. I appreciate you taking the time. Have a great rest of your day!

Tyler: Yeah. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on, Matt. It was good to talk with you. Have a great rest of your day!

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