Editor's Note: The first and second parts of this feature appeared in the November 2006 Fall Literature Showcase supplement and in the February 2007 issue.
By Alan Mercurio
Talking With The Customer On A Personal Level
This is a little different then talking to them for information regarding their heating system. Do you care about your customer? Do you really know your customer? If you would like a long term, business relationship with this customer the answer to those questions should have been “Yes.” Let me explain. First of all don’t look at this as a trick to keeping a customer it’s not. It’s just sincere concern and respect for a fellow human. Yep, it’s that simple.
Here’s my example, I try my best to get to know each customer in a more personal way (without prying into their life). If they offer something they felt the need to share with me I look at that as an honor. I do my best to remember what it is they have told me. The next time I see that customer on a service call or even in a store I ask them about what they told me and ask them if things are going ok with that. This tells your customer two very important things about you. 1) That you really listen to them when they are talking to you! 2) You really care about them as a person, not just an account number that generates revenue. You and I know we’re in business to make a profit and generating revenue is how we do that. But without that customer that revenue wouldn’t be there would it? Stay focused. Stay positive.
Here’s another way you can show your customer a lot of respect, that I promise you they’ll appreciate. If your customer is elderly, or even if not, but getting up out of their chair is difficult for them. Don’t stand there talking down to them. Take a moment to stoop down on your knee so you’re at eye level with them while speaking with them or better yet you may now be possibly looking up to them. This does their heart good and once again you have shown your customer you really care about them as a person. Isn’t this how you would want someone to treat your Mom or Dad? Or even you when you get older. Of course it is.
How about doing that little something extra. I can remember doing this many times and it was not always something that took a whole lot of time but when you give even just a few extra minutes to anyone it really brightens their day. I remember once I noticed a ceiling tile out of place above the furnace I was working on. So I grabbed a step ladder and put it back in place then I noticed a few more in that room so I put them back in place. When the customer came in the room he noticed what I had done right away and he thought it was the cats meow that anyone would take the time to straighten them out without being asked. He then went on to say Alan, If you don’t mind there are a couple more in the other room out of place would please fix them for me? Naturally I did and this guy talked about that and our company for years to come. That’s the kind of talk you want going around. And the total time I had invested could not have amounted to more than 10 minutes. I’d say that was a good investment, wouldn’t you?
Explaining Things To Your Customer
You find a system has been installed top drawn fuel line and the burner on this furnace is in the attic? Yep, 25 vertical feet in the air! So do you say, the trouble is your fuel pump has a vacuum that is exceeding the manufactures recommendation. And is way above its lift capacity. This is causing the fuel to cavitate?
You think they get the picture? I don’t think so. Sometimes they might but that’s a rare occasion. Remember they don’t do this for a living. But how about trying to paint a picture for them? A picture they can relate to. If they were a couple with a small child, for instance, I might say, think of it this way — if you were on a landing five feet above your living room and reach over and took your child by the hands to pull the child up to you from the floor, your child would seem heavier than normal, right? Now if your husband picked up your child and raised him/her as high as he could until you could reach your child, your child would not seem as heavy to lift now from the higher point of contact? This is where the customer starts to smile because they understand what you’re saying, after all they lift their child pretty regularly every day. Didn’t you?
I go on to say to them: “You see, Mrs. Williams, you’re the fuel pump and the greater the distance (height) between you and your child the harder it was for you to lift. At some point you may not have been able to lift your child at all just like your fuel pump cannot lift the fuel right now!
Ok, so now we need a solution in this case it may be a transfer/lift pump that will assist the fuel in getting up the line to the burners fuel pump. Remember how easy it was to lift your child when your husband helped you by lifting your child closer to you? He was being the transfer/lift pump.
By this point your customers feels like a full-fledged technician and now they feel a lot more comfortable with their decision for you to proceed. Why? Because now they have a better understanding of the importance of what you’re telling them. This was an extreme example, but I’m sure you see what I’m talking about.
Now I’m not saying this needs to be done with every customer. We might build a relationship with our customers that at some point they may say, what ever you think it needs just take care of it I trust you. For the customer that needed it explained the way I just talked about above. They will gain that same trust in you because you have not tried to speak over their head. That’s putting more of that positive energy to work for you, pretty cool, eh?
In Part 4, we’ll talk about communication regarding our fellow technician. You have been telling your customers great things about your fellow technicians right? Stay safe and keep your customers warm.
Alan Mercurio is the founder of Oil Tech Talk’s Web site www.oiltechtalk.com. He can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.