John-Paul Joseph Henry / Unplash
Start Turning Phone Calls Into Jobs
In the highly competitive plumbing industry, there is an emphasis on availability that cannot be overstated.
The way that you answer the phone matters, and the way that you handle calls when you can’t answer the phone also matters.
The way that your business handles phone calls can directly impact your local reputation and success.
After all, when people have a plumbing emergency, they are not going to want to deal with a plumbing company that doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing.
Here are some tips and tricks that you can add to your toolbox that will help you keep potential customers interested:
- Decide Who Answers the Phone – The trick here is knowing who is good on the phone and who isn’t.
Your best plumber may not be the best person to answer the phone, and that goes double for the owner of the company, and sometimes even your scheduling guru. In an ideal world, you will be able to hire someone specifically to handle phone calls.
If this is not an option, there are some things you can do to minimize issues.
- Choose Wisely – If hiring someone isn’t an option, try calling your employees to see how they sound on the other end. Do they answer quickly? Do they sound professional? Decide who you want representing your company, and give them a good script to work with (more on this later). The training will benefit them and also give them an idea about what your expectations are.
- Have a Script – It always helps to have a script. This script should be short and to the point, conveying necessary information and prompting the caller to do the same. This is true both for live answering and voicemail. An example script is:
“This is (name), thank you for calling XYZ Company. Can you please give me your name and phone number, and describe the nature of your problem?”
This may seem like asking for a lot up front, but having the customer’s name and number is invaluable if your call gets dropped. You can hear all the details later.
- Rehearse – It’s not enough just to have a script, make certain that your employees have practiced it until it sounds natural.
- Hire an Answering Service – An answering service can be the compromise between hiring someone exclusively to answer the phones and using someone who might not be the best person for the job. Answering services can provide a middle-ground, but don’t settle for the cheapest one.
All services are not created equal! Do yourself a favor and shop around, find a service that fits your needs and budget. There are plenty to choose from, and it is in your best interest to take the time to shop.
- Avoid Voicemail (if Possible) – Most people don’t call a plumber unless it is an emergency situation. When you’re dealing with a plumbing emergency, the last thing you’ll want is to reach a recorded message. At this point, no matter how good your voicemail message is, most people will hang up and call someone else. If it is at all possible, have someone available to take calls 24 hours a day. Again, this is where a service can be invaluable. Consider a hybrid approach, if hiring a full-time service is out of your price range, and only hire them during the off-hours. A high-quality and professional voicemail can mean the difference between a customer who gives up and calls your competition, and one who stays on the line to leave their information for a callback.
- No Judgment Here – Our last tip, and possibly the most important, is to make sure that whoever is answering the phone does so without judgment. It’s one thing to make your potential customer aware that there is a trip charge for the estimate, but don’t ask them whether they can afford it. That is just insulting. Instead, mention that with the cost of gas and the time it will take one of your plumbers to assess the problem, there will be a service fee for them to come out and make an estimate. Explaining the reasoning behind the charges will set your customer at ease in a way that asking if they can afford that will not. Make certain that the person answering your phones is professional, polite, and above all, a good listener.
Your strategy for answering the phone, both for emergency and non-emergency calls, should reflect a sense of competence, availability, and professionalism that will set their mind at ease. Obviously, having an actual person available to answer any incoming calls is ideal, but that isn’t always possible.
However you choose to handle this situation, make certain that you have a strategy in place for receiving calls—your business may depend on it!