A Story About a Furnace & Fabrics! by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist I had an experience just a few weeks ago with a furnace repair that made me think of how any service company, including cleaning services, can win and lose in the market place. **************************************** The Story of a Furnace: We use a HVAC contractor who we have relied upon for many years to service a number of furnaces we own between three of our businesses. The company has multiple service trucks, and has been in business in our community for years. On a very cold Saturday recently, a tenant of ours called me to say that the furnace wasn't working. She had a newborn baby, and was understandably upset. However, when I called our furnace repair contractor, I was told by the answering service that they no longer work on Saturdays & Sundays! I requested that the owner be called for emergency service, and was told by the answering service that they may or may not be available. I immediately called my father (who does work on Saturdays), and he was getting his hair cut. He simply asked the people in the place if they knew a reliable company that might be available during the weekend. One lady referred a HVAC contractor that she knew. (Never overlook hair salons as a great place to network!) When I called his emergency number & referenced his customer, he not only answered, but also cheerfully responded that he'd be glad to help! He understandably had a substantially higher weekend/holiday service call fee. (a total non-issue at this point!) He was at the house within an hour to fix the furnace! He found the part that failed quickly, but was also concerned about what had caused that part to fail,and after careful investigation found the root cause. He explained how the problem occurred, and what we could do to prevent further problems of that type in the future. How Furnaces are like Fabrics! This story made me think about fine fabric cleaners, such as those of you that subscribe to the Cleantip. How do you differ from other professional cleaners in your marketplace? Review the italicized comments above, then read on: #1 - Be There: If your customer has a spill on a high value fabric, getting to them in a timely fashion, or at the very minimum, making sure that they don't do anything to make it worse, can make a difference between a successful outcome and a ruined fabric. Would you be willing to change your schedule, or even go out in the evening or on a weekend to save a valued customer's furniture? #2 - Be Cheerful: If you are going beyond the call of duty by providing evening, or weekend service, don't be grumpy or make your customer feel like you are doing them a great favor. When you are happy to help, it takes away any guilt they might have for “bothering you”. Make no mistake: They feel a little guilty, and you don't want them feel that way. Guilty feelings can create resentment later. You want them to be happily grateful instead. Grateful people give referrals. #3 - Be Informative: Always tell your customer things that they can do to prevent such problems in the future. You can leave a safe to use spotter with them, with instructions of how to use it. #4 - Be Thorough: If you notice something that your customer can do to minimize future incidents, make suggestions. Not the least of which should be the advantages to having a fabric protector applied. There is no better time to sell protector than when people have a bad experience because of not having any. In our case, we are shifting most of our HVAC business away from a company that we had used exclusively for over 2 decades to a new one based on those four simple, but vital parts of providing great customer service. Remember the value of taking care of referred customers, but especially established customers when they need you in an emergency. Summary from Jim: Communication (or failure of) is the key factor in this story!