Home Services Guide to Customer Communication
How to use the latest customer service tools to attract and retain today’s customers
Table of Contents
- Communication Matters More Now
- Good Customer Service Improves Your Revenue
- Automated Communications Technology is Easier to Use Than You Think
- CRM Software: A New Tool to Make Customer Service Easier
- How Better Communication Will Make You Stand Out From the Competition
- Work With a Trusted Home Service Software Partner
- Every Home Service Business Can Communicate With Its Customers Better
Download a PDF version of this guide by filling out this form, or keep scrolling to read.
Communication Matters More Now
In the crowded market of home service providers, good communication with your customers can often be the one thing that sets you apart from the competition. While that has always been the case, it matters more today than perhaps in any previous decade.
Home and field service providers have always had to cater to many residential and commercial customers with varying communication habits. Those habits have changed over the years, as have customers’ expectations of how they can interact with service providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has even further disrupted those old habits. And some preferences customers adopted during lockdown for online communication will remain in place permanently.
Today, many customers don’t necessarily want a long phone or in-person meeting before they book a job. Often these preferences split along generational lines. For example, home service customers deciding in their twenties and thirties have very different habits from those in their fifties and sixties.
Younger prospects often have already done all the research they needed online. They don’t want to be wooed on a sales call. They want questions answered and to schedule an appointment in a click. You need tools to close that sale right away because they will not wait around if you’re not available. Providing that immediate service requires some new business communication tools.
So what can you do to communicate better with all of your customers?
Develop the habit of responding immediately
No matter whether it’s the first call from a prospective customer or a concern from a seasonal regular, to stay competitive today, you need to get in the habit of responding immediately to any new communication. That doesn’t necessarily mean seeing the issue through to completion right away, though.
Quality over quantity
What is essential today is acknowledging any new communication request, no matter how it comes into your business. Let the customer know you’ve received it, clarify what you can, and then let them know when they can expect an answer if it’s not a question you can answer on the spot. Keeping them engaged makes it more likely for your communication to result in new work.
Offer more modes of communication
You need to be available through all of your customers’ preferred modes of communication. Today that includes:
- Text messaging
- Social media
Make it easy for new customers to contact you using the communication tools they already prefer. Responsive home service providers will be more likely to book new work and keep their current customers happy.
Good Customer Service Improves Your Revenue
Good communication and customer service have clear financial benefits for home service businesses. Customer decision-making is about more than just price points. In a survey conducted across all industries by Microsoft, over 90 percent of Americans cite customer service as a significant consideration when deciding on a service provider.
Forgetting to return a single call or text may not seem like a significant issue, but even a single follow-up can have a considerable impact on an SMB home service provider. Good customer service can improve customer retention, land you positive reviews, and benefit your bottom line in several other ways:
Good customer service encourages repeat business
Happy customers will come back to you again and again. This repeat business is important because many studies have shown that it costs anywhere from six to seven times more to attract new customers through marketing and sales than it does to generate repeat business from current or former customers.
Keeping customers happy requires more than just getting the job done. Good communication before, during, and after you do a job will make them happy enough to spread the word about your business.
- Promptly give them the information they need beforehand to make them choose your service.
- Keep them up to date on work and ask any follow-up questions necessary to meet all of their requirements.
- Sorting out billing with them afterward makes it easier for you to get paid and for them to feel good about how they’ve spent their money.
Not only will happy customers come back to you again and again, but they’ll also share their experiences with friends and family. Good word of mouth in your local market is essentially free advertising.
And increases your chances to upsell
Cross-selling and upselling increase the revenue you generate per customer. Upselling to new customers is possible but difficult. It’s much easier to demonstrate the value of your core service to a customer and then use the strong relationship you’ve developed through positive communication to suggest other complementary services you know they might want.
It might seem like keeping track of each customer’s interests just to look for opportunities to upsell would be challenging. But that is where home service management software can help out.
Automated Communications Technology is Easier to Use Than You Think
Today, better customer service means communicating with your customers the way they prefer. Unfortunately, the range of consumer communication methods is wider today than ever before. And as we’ve discussed, different age demographics have very different communication preferences.
It makes sense for you to focus on the communication methods—marketers call these “channels”—that matter most to your key customer demographics. But that means first understanding how all of them fit together.
Connecting with customers directly on the phone is still one of the best ways to provide a human touch. But be aware that phone support is losing popularity, with 59 percent of customers preferring not to use voice when contacting service providers. Along with in-person meetings, phone calls remain the best choice for complex, detailed conversations.
Email is still a popular and efficient way to communicate with your customers, but only for specific needs. By design, email tracks conversation histories, so you can always go back and find older comments. It is well-suited to direct exchanges of information. The trade-off is that you lose that human touch, and it is not ideal for live back-and-forth conversations.
Text messaging shares many of the benefits of email. But because it is designed for sending short messages, you can often use texting for live, or close-to-live, communication. For example, it is an excellent service on which to tell a customer, “I’m on my way, ETA 20 minutes.”
However, texting shares many of the drawbacks of email. It’s not the right choice when your customer wants a human touch. And it’s not well-suited to complex discussions, as you can lose the nuance in your message.
Live chat is one of the most powerful communication channels. Today, 79 percent of businesses say that live chat conversations have resulted in increased revenue. However, just like text messaging, it’s not the most appropriate channel for longer or complicated conversations.
Social media, like Facebook, is used by people across generations. So if your customers are active social media users, they’re more likely to contact businesses on these platforms and expect an immediate response.
Easily manage all of these platforms in a communication hub
Plannit includes a communication hub that connects all of these different modes of communication. Your Facebook, email, web forms, phone calls, texts, and chat messages all show up in a single, easy-to-use dashboard. You'll receive notifications anytime a contact comes in on any platform, so you’ll never miss a new opportunity.
Then add communication support tools
Since many customers now prefer digital-only communication, you need automated tools to handle that when you’re unavailable. Some of the most powerful communication support tools available today are automated phone and chat bots. You can customize these bots to take messages, prequalify prospects, and answer common questions when you’re unavailable.
Chatbots can respond to customers in Facebook messages and web chats. They offer customers a way to get quick answers without the hassle of engaging in a voice call or sending an email. Conversations are then automatically recorded and flagged in Plannit’s communication hub for you to prioritize and respond to when you’re available.
Phone bots provide a similar service to callers when no one at your company is available to take a call. They can answer frequently asked questions, take messages, and field general account inquiries. Plannit technicians can also program these bots to sort callers according to their concerns and then direct those callers to the appropriate people in your company.
CRM Software: A Powerful Tool That Makes Customer Service Simple
One of the most essential new customer service tools is customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM software assembles complete histories of everyone you’ve ever worked with and everyone who’s engaged with one of your marketing campaigns. CRM software allows you to access all of your customers’ contact information and associated documents even when you're in the field, including:
- Invoices and payments
- Jobs and site visit logs
CRM software can help with very specialized tasks. For example, it can save detailed notes on important jobs you only do once a year but need to get right. It can also send automated follow-up messages after you finish an appointment for a new customer to request feedback or a written review.
You can tag every file, conversation, and saved note in a CRM with different labels. This organization makes it easy to find old conversations that include important job details or search for similar problems on another job. It also makes it easy to generate and renew all of your seasonal contracts.
Say you tag every customer who used you for a particular service throughout a season, say lawn mowing for your landscaping business. Then, early next spring, you send a renewal notice to all of your tagged ‘Lawn Care’ customers advertising a discount on early bird contract renewals. You’re targeting people you know might want this work, increasing the chance of locking in more recurring revenue early in the year.
Customer relationship management software is powerful on its own as a platform to offer better customer service, but its greatest asset is its ability to connect with other business tools.
Connect to your communication hub
Home service management software, like Plannit, connects our CRM to other business services, like our communication hub. Monitor your phone line, email, web form, and Facebook feed all within a single message center. Tag conversations for follow-up, check job histories in the CRM, and then send one-click saved replies to follow up fast.
Use CRM to manage jobs in progress better
CRM software can also improve how your crews work on the job. For example, connect tagged conversations with special requests your customer has made to your work orders. Then, when your crew shows up on-site, they pull up the job and see the relevant conversation right there.
You can add quality control checklists to a job based on previous jobs for the same customer or similar ones in the area. You can create, modify, and monitor jobs. Plannit also allows for real-time updates on work progress.
How Better Communication Will Make You Stand Out From the Competition
You need to find a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Most prospects searching for a new home service provider are looking for a company to answer their questions and confirm an appointment as fast as possible. That means home service software with robust communications tools can help you stand out.
Customize your service
Communication tools help you provide higher quality, customized service. For example, let’s say you’re a pool and spa service company that wants to specialize in offering season-long treatment packages. You can use CRM software to track the chemicals used in each customer’s pool throughout the season. Then, if an unexpected storm drops a lot of rain on a customer you know doesn’t cover their pool, you can proactively contact them to arrange a new treatment without needing additional details.
Or let’s say you’re a snow removal company. You can use the communications hub in Plannit to save quick message templates. With a single click, your drivers can message a customer to confirm they should move their vehicles when they’re en route and then message them again when the plowing or sanding work is complete.
You can also customize your marketing efforts when you customize your service offerings. CRM software can help with that. For example, technicians at that pool service can tag all customers that show interest in an upcoming seasonal promotion after they talk to those customers on-site. Then when you’re ready to launch that campaign, you can send an email to all of those tagged customers in just a few clicks.
If your business is seasonal, it’s easy to know when your busy times are. Or so you think. Many trends aren’t apparent when you’re in the thick of things, and you will only recognize them when you step back and look at your records.
You can use customer communication logs and data in your CRM to look for spikes in activity for different services that you might not have noticed. For example, your cleaning service company may see that one particular town in your coverage is responsible for the majority of your new business. As a result, you may want to target that town with more marketing efforts or special promotions.
Create a better customer experience
For home service companies, especially smaller ones, competing on price alone might not be sustainable. So instead, match your larger competitors’ prices, and then provide better customer service and the right amount of communication. Remember, quality over quantity.
For example, maybe you’re the only lawn care company in town that sends post-service surveys for your customers to provide feedback ahead of their next appointment. Advertise that you give them a way to quickly provide custom instructions for their next appointment and then use your home service software to build a quality control checklist using that feedback.
Work With a Trusted Home Service Software Partner
If you choose to adopt home service software for your company’s communication and CRM, you shouldn’t just look for a vendor who’ll sell you software and then go away. This kind of software needs to become a cornerstone of your business if you’re going to get maximum value from it. That means you’re looking for a software provider who can act as a full business partner.
You’ll have a long-term, ongoing relationship. Compare software prices and features, but also make sure to compare service and support.
- Will they help train your staff?
- Will they help you get all of your paper and computer records imported into their service?
- Will they help you customize the phone and chatbots that you want to use?
- Will they be available to answer questions when you have them?
Every Home Service Business Can Communicate With Its Customers Better
The bottom line: there are no great secrets to offering better customer service. It’s all about communicating with your customers in the way they want, giving them the information they need to make decisions, and taking feedback from them to customize what you offer in the future.
The challenge comes with tracking, managing, and applying changes to your business based on all of that information. That’s where good home service software can fill in the gaps for your company. You’re already busy enough.
Good service software will streamline how you talk to and work with your customers. Then it gets out of the way and lets you get the job done.