Productivity: Take Control of the Conversation

“One of the biggest mistakes I see new entrepreneurs make is to think customer service and productivity are mutually exclusive. The opposite is true. They both need to be present for a successful business to thrive. Good customer service will help retain customers but productivity produces the profit needed to run your business.

I believe that a formula for a successful business is that good marketing brings in the customers, while customer service keeps the customers coming back. Productivity drives the profit so a company can stay in business.

Here is the scenario that I see all too often. A new business owner starts a mobile auto glass service company. He takes an order and then immediately goes out to do it. He drives 30 minutes to do one job and then drives 30 minutes back to await another call. This is not necessarily wrong, especially as you are building your business. A business must start somewhere and immediate customer service is how it is built.

However, all too often as the business grows, the shop owner continues to operate the same way. Every time the phone rings he is out driving to the job no matter in what direction he must go and no matter how much distance he travels between jobs. He justifies this by saying that service comes first. “Hey, I got to do what the customer wants or my competition takes them away.”

I agree that customer service is important, but so is food on the table and a roof over the heads of your family. Without profit, a business cannot survive, and to survive, an owner/operator must be productive. And, yes, it is tough out there. Competition is everywhere and every new glass shop needs to keep their customers happy. But, good customer service can be given in a productive way. The company that provides good customer service and does it productively will be the company that survives.

Here are some tips for good customer service that can help drive respectable productivity:

—Take control of the conversation.

—Don’t promise something you can’t deliver.

—Go prepared.

—Schedule logically.

—Utilize technology.

—Think economically.

Let’s take an example. If you ask a question like, “When do you want us to schedule this for you?” you have already lost control of the conversation. The vast majority of the time, the customer will say first thing in the morning. You may be able to install it then, but what about the next customer that also wants it first thing in the morning and lives on the other side of town? How can you do them both and make a profit. Do you see the dilemma here?

Your customer may legitimately need a “first job,” but frequently, you will find that the vehicle will be at work all day. A much better question is “Where is the vehicle located during the day, and at what times?”

If it is a busy week, you may use the questions like, “Can we do this Tuesday or is Wednesday better for you?” or “We will have a technician in your neighborhood on Tuesday, will that work for you? Or, would you like to bring it in where we can guarantee a time slot?”

When Tuesday starts to fill up on the North side of town then Wednesday becomes the South run. The customer does not care about “now” as much as you think. They only want an appointment they can count on. They already decided on your company so “when” is less important than “how” the work gets done. Let the calls determine the where and when.

Some of you may be saying that, “Wow, that would be great if that was real life but what about the backlite or door glass replacement that must be done right away?”

There are going to be exceptions to the rule. However, you can leave a space (or two) in a run for an emergency. The goal should be to strive for better productive scheduling where you can and deal with the exceptions when they occur. You will find that being more productive gives you more time during the day to do those few special requests or unusual demands.

Next week we will discuss some of the other points of better productivity.