Service companies make up 80% of the businesses today. From plumbers, doctors and hair stylists to accountants and printers, a service business helps or does the work for someone. Many are local. Most require a more personal interaction with their customers. All sell something intangible. But some stand out while others struggle.
13 Ways to Help Your Service Business Shine
Get Your House In Order. The core of a service business is the service itself. If you fail to deliver what you promise, customers won’t stick around and will share their bad experiences with others. Identify what you want the ‘buying experience’ to look like and have procedures in place to help your people deliver it consistently. Here are some great words advice from Harry Beckwith, “Getting the word out and attracting people to a flawed service is a strategy for killing a service company.”
Hire for Heart, Teach Skills. Your business is only as good as the people you employ to deliver what you promise. Skills can be learned through education or training from you or others in your company. But you can’t teach heart. People either care or they don’t. They are passionate about helping others or they are not. Keep this in mind when hiring people to represent your company and serve your customers.
Know Your Competition. In a services business, your prospects have more options than you think. Sure they can choose you or another company in your industry. But they can also choose to do nothing or perform the service themselves. Look for ways to create additional demand in your market by converting those who do nothing or do it themselves. Think emotions – what they can gain or avoid!
Mistakes Mean Opportunities. Outstanding service doesn’t mean zero mistakes. Service businesses are people dependent so mistakes will happen. How you handle them is the key to how you are perceived long-term. Don’t pass the buck or try to justify it. Fix it without a hassle and you may earn a lifetime customer and a lot of referrals.
Be Competent and Likeable. If you sell a service, you are really selling a relationship, so chemistry counts. Prospects need to like you and feel comfortable working with you. Sure you must be capable and professional, but most of all you must be personable! And it must come across in everything you do before, during and after the sale.
Price With a Purpose. Your pricing says something about you. Don’t assume it is always logical. People make assumptions about quality based on price. High price assumes high quality, low price assumes acceptable. What you perceive to be a value, may actually make you look second-rate.
In his book, Selling the Invisible, Harry Beckwith shared a few pricing tips worth repeating:
- A little resistance is a good thing. If nobody complains, your price is too low!
- Pricing somewhere between the high and low in the market forces you to compete with everyone — so, avoid the deadly middle.
- Low cost is not sustainable and requires no imagination so don’t go there!
- Charge for your experience, talent, skills, and knowledge – not your time.
Stand for One Thing. Have a singular, distinctive message for your service business and reinforce it every chance you get. You will achieve more if you narrow your focus, choose one thing and put the power of association to work. By nature, we associate one positive (or negative) thing with other good (or bad) things. Yes, it works both ways. So if prospects perceive you to be the most convenient provider, by association they will view you favorably for other attributes like quality and expertise.
Don’t Say It, Prove It. “We offer great service” won’t inspire people to try you since most businesses make these claims. If you really do a great job, create evidence to support this. Build your case. Customer satisfaction surveys are a great and often under-utilized way to document and demonstrate your service quality. The overall satisfaction scores along with customer comments and testimonials can be used in your marketing and make your service claims stand out. Afraid to know what customers think or maybe your scores aren’t worth bragging about? Then fix it and make service the priority it should be.
Manage customer expectations. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ and it emphasizes the importance of expectations versus satisfaction. A customer’s satisfaction is the gap between what they expect and what they actually get. Avoid hype. If you make a client think you will do better or more than you can do, they will end up disappointed and unsatisfied!
Sweat the Small Stuff. Buying decisions are not always rational. To justify decisions, people look for differences between service providers. When significant differences are hard to find, prospects look to seemingly minor things. Are your business cards professional and free of smudges? Is your staff in uniforms or dressed professionally? Are your vehicles clean?
Be Grateful, Show It! The best way to nurture and keep customers is simple. Say thank you and say it often. Stay connected in a variety of ways. Make them feel wanted and appreciated!
Always Look for New Clients. If you have customers and are really busy serving them, it’s easy to become complacent. This is especially true for service companies with recurring revenue or those who work on larger jobs a few at a time such as contractors. Don’t do it. Keep your pipeline full. Unless it’s an emergency, people will wait to work with a company they really like or prefer!
Track What’s Important. While customer satisfaction is one metrics you can use to evaluate what’s important, it’s not the only one. For example, quality scores that reflect re-works or customer retention rates are effective ways to monitor your results. They can be shared in your marketing. Labor as a % of sales is also an important efficiency metrics in a service business. Pick a few that are relevant to your business. Track them and use them to make improvements. Where applicable, promote them in your marketing and sales efforts.
Service businesses are people businesses. The more you understand them, the more success you will have. So get to know your customers personally, understand what is important to them, and deliver what you promise consistently! It’s a recipe for success in all businesses, but critical when you sell intangibles!
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