Build Customer Loyalty Through Maintenance Programs
While it may be the dog days of summer now, as we know all good things must come to an end. When summer is over and the weather becomes cool enough to open windows during the day, but not cold enough for heat at night; contractors’ phones quickly stop ringing.
The fall slow down can be tough for contractors who don’t have a plan to keep busy. What is the plan that perpetually busy contractors have? Fall maintenance of course! And according the contractors that IE3 spoke with, not only does a solid maintenance program help keep them busy, but it also helps create loyal customers.
Building A Maintenance Program That Works
The most important part to any maintenance program is to have a solid plan of action that shows value to the customer.
“We created a membership program for our maintenance customers that includes us going to their home and doing our 24-point inspection twice a year,” says Jim Cosmas, general manager of The Weather Busters in Paramus, NJ. “Our goal is to make sure our customers have systems that are working as close to original condition as possible. “
Phil Roth, CEO of A.N. Roth Co., in Louisville, KY, has a similar plan in place. “We make sure that we talk to the customer before we start doing any kind of inspection, because that gives us an idea if they have been having any issues. Then we go through and inspect, clean, and test all the systems to make sure they are working properly and so we can identify any issues that may be present. It’s really about making sure that our customers’ systems are reliable and in good working order.”
By having a program you can stand behind, it also helps with customer objections to having someone come out and look at a system that the customer thinks is “working just fine.”
“When we get objections to our maintenance program, we always give the analogy of a car, which everyone seems to understand,” says Cosmas. “We simply draw the parallel and say, ‘you know how you need to get your car’s oil changed, tires rotated, etc. or it won’t work as well and will break down? Well it’s the same thing with your HVAC system. It’s a machine, and all machines need periodic maintenance.’ This seems to really resonate with customers and it makes it easier to understand why we are asking them to spend their money.”
Both contractors point out that by having good programs in place, it helps to keep their employees busy throughout the whole year.
“Our maintenance program helps us level out the workload, we really don’t have a slower time of the year,” says Cosmas.
“It’s not the only thing that keeps us busy in the fall, but it certainly helps,” adds Roth.
Make Sure You Have The Proper Infrastructure
Once you have a maintenance program in place, you need to make sure you can handle the workload, or else you will have a one and done customer.
“A maintenance program takes commitment,” says Cosmas. “It’s easy to schedule maintenance appointments, but if you can’t live up to what you are promising, then your customers are not going to see any value in the program. Before you commit to a program make sure that you have the means to schedule the appointments, send out reminders to the customers that it’s time for maintenance, and the field staff to get the job done right.”
“There is a statistic that says for every 1,000 maintenance agreements a contractors has, they will do an additional million dollars in sales,” adds Roth. “Maintenance is the lifeblood of our businesses, so once we get the business we need to make sure that we have the ability to give the quality service our customers deserve and expect.”
Price is also a key component of these programs that will make them successful.
Roth admits, “Maintenance is not where you are making all your money, but it’s about the relationship. You can’t under price your program, but you can’t make it too expensive either. You have to find the right balance between price and value.”
“One of the biggest mistakes companies make is under pricing their programs,” adds Cosmas. “Having specials to get the phone ringing is fine, we’ve done Groupon and Living Social deals, but you have to have the program priced correctly from the start or you will lose money in the long run.”
Maintenance Programs Keep Them Coming Back
The biggest benefit of having a maintenance program is that it keeps you in front of the customers, which usually means that when something goes wrong, you are the first people they call.
“Our maintenance program is really about relationship building,” says Roth. “We know that customers shop very different today, because they go out and try to get several quotes before deciding what to do. When you have a relationship with a customer, they tend to just call you, because they trust you and they know that you are going to help them and things will get done properly.”
Cosmas agrees, “Our program isn’t just about making money, it’s about building relationships. Our program is not just some ‘driveby tune-up,’ there is real value behind it and what that does is it makes a customer into a client who will come back to us. Having a loyal clientele base is why we put such a focus on maintenance in both the fall and the spring.”
So, whether you have a full blown maintenance program in place or you are trying to get one up and running, it’s important to make sure that you can show the value. Because once you do, you will be rewarded for many years with loyal customers, who will likely recommend you and help grow your business.
And Roth reminds, “There is no reason to reinvent the wheel with your maintenance program or any of your programs for that. Get out and network with other contractors. In this industry, people are willing to share, because when contractors improve, the entire industry improves and we all benefit from that.”
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