For your customers, every disaster mitigation job is an emergency. Most customers will expect you to arrive with sirens blaring like the fire department just minutes after they call. While this is obviously unrealistic, there are steps you can take to set realistic expectations for your response time.
The difference between landing the job and your customer calling a competitor usually comes down to effective communication. While you deal with water damage every day, this is likely the only time your customer will encounter this situation. Their home or business has been devastated and they are likely stressed out, frustrated, and emotional.
Even after landing the job, your customers will have their own expectations on how long the job will take. Managing your customers expectations throughout the job will reassure them that their lives will return to normal soon. It will also lead to more return customers, positive reviews, and referrals.
Be Careful When Advertising Your Response Time
“20 Minute Rapid Response Time Guaranteed!” may look great on your advertisements, but if it takes 45 minutes to arrive because of traffic, you’ve already let your customer down.
While general “Rapid Response Guaranteed” messaging may seem less sexy, it sets more realistic expectations. If you choose to list an exact time, make sure it’s reasonable for all hours of the day and across your entire service area.
Setting Response Time Expectations on the Phone
Part of your call strategy should be confirming that you’re talking to the homeowner and getting an overview of the situation. Asking for their address should be the next step so you can start formulating an estimated response time. If possible, use a map or traffic app to predict accurate travel time.
Remember to account for time to get dressed, pack your vehicle, and for unanticipated traffic or delays on the way. When you give them an estimated arrival time, talk them through the situation. Always give yourself a little extra padding for unforeseen delays.
Depending on the situation and the customer’s disposition, you may consider giving them something to do. This will keep them occupied and prevent them from checking the clock. It will also prevent them from calling someone else.
I will be leaving in five minutes and expect it to take no more than twenty minutes to reach you. I’ll call or text you if I get delayed. In the meantime, please roundup any pets and clear a path to damage.
Obviously, use caution when directing your customer to take action before you arrive. While cleaning off the basement stairs can be helpful, be wary of any task that may be hazardous or risky. Take extra care when water and electricity are involved.
Setting a Schedule for the Job
Once you arrive and assess the situation, you will most likely prepare your estimate. One of the most common questions your customer will ask when they get your estimate is how long will the job take.
You can save yourself a little time and look good to your customer by including a realistic schedule with your estimate. Factor in time for mitigation, dry out, rebuild, restoration, travel time to the hardware store, traffic, lunch, breaks, etc. Don’t forget to consider your other jobs and the availability of your employees.
While you may be tempted to lowball your time estimate, overpromising and under delivering is the number one way to disappoint your customer. Give your customer a realistic schedule and explain why it will take as long as you indicated.
If you’re okay with my estimate, I expect the entire job to take no more than five days. I’m ready to start work right now and can set up my blowers in less than an hour. They will need to run for a full twenty-four hours, then I’ll need a day to tear out the damaged material and clean the area.
For the restoration, my team and I will be able to work from 8 am to 4 pm with a one hour break for lunch. Replacing the drywall will take two days, including mudding, sanding, and painting. The fifth day is for cleanup and to account for unanticipated delays.
You should also include the times you are available to work with your estimate. This way if the customer is unavailable on a specific day or time, you have already set the expectation that the job will take longer to complete. Adding an extra day will give you extra padding when working several jobs at once.
Good communication is the key to building a strong relationship with your customer. Setting a realistic response time and job schedule helps to manage your customer’s expectations and limits the potential for them to get angry with you. Plus, satisfied customers are happy to call you again, refer you to friends, and leave positive reviews.
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