Monthly Archives: August 2010

Minimize Blame Implication with “Do It Yourself” Customers

Article provided by:
Steve Coscia

These days, some customers who are low on cash are attempting to repair and install equipment that is best handled by an HVAC contractor. During the last few months, I have heard numerous horror stories about Do It Yourself customers who, in an attempt to save a few bucks, try to fix things themselves.

Taking it one step further, Lowe’s and Home Depot continually promote the idea that “You can Do It Yourself” and so this concept becomes cemented in the mind of customers.

An HVAC contractor client recently handled a call from a customer complaining about an air-conditioner malfunction. When the technician arrived at the customer’s home and diagnosed the unit he found evidence of tampering which resulted in damage. When the technician inquired about the damage the customer played coy and spoke vaguely about what had happened. It took about 15 minutes of qualification before the customer admitted that he had attempted to fix the unit himself.

 

When trade professionals encounter the “Do It Yourself” customer they should minimize Blame Implication. This means that once a technician has ascertained that the customer screwed things up – it’s best not to make things worse by implying blame.

Customers feel bad enough when their good intentions spiral downward to defeat. A talented trade professional knows how to leverage these events to his or her advantage by making the customer feel better and thereby enhancing the rapport for future opportunities.

One way to make a customer feel better is to pay them a compliment. The compliment doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. One example of a compliment might be, “You’re light years ahead of and smarter than most customers who have tackled a project like this. Unfortunately most customers don’t contact me until they have damaged items beyond repair. Contacting me was definitely the wise thing to do.”

 

Regarding compliments, only two types of people like to hear a compliment: men and women. A compliment needn’t be too gushy or pretentious, be subtle, concise and straightforward. Then, get on with the business of adding value.

 

Steve Coscia helps HVACR companies make more money through increased customer retention, improved upselling and reduced on-the-job stress. He is the author of the HVAC Customer Service Handbook. A best selling author, columnist, 20-year customer service practitioner and customer service specialist, Steve presents keynote speeches and facilitates HVACR customer service workshops. To learn more about Coscia Communications go to www.coscia.com or contact Steve Coscia at 610-853-9836 or steve@coscia.com.

 

Do You Have a Strategy to Your Truck Graphics?

Article Provided by:
Ed Cerier
Nexstar Marketing Strategist

Your trucks pass hundreds, if not thousands, of customers and prospects every day. Truck graphics provide a wonderful opportunity to generate brand awareness. Your truck graphics can make consumers familiar with your logo, company name, services and contact information.

Just adding this information to your trucks, isn’t enough. Put yourself in consumers’ shoes. Are they staring at your trucks, hanging on every word, the same way you do? Sadly, no. Some are engrossed in their radio programs; many are distracted by street signs, billboards, store signage; and a scary number are focused on their cell phone conversations. The point is, to get the most out of your “moveable billboards,” you need to think carefully and creatively about your truck graphics.

Who’s Your Target?

The first thing to consider is: who should your trucks “speak to?” I’m going to assume your primary target is residential. This means your truck designs should be warm and friendly. They should say “residential,” without having to use the word. Once your target is clear, let’s go shopping.

Shopping for Designs

Pay close attention to others’ trucks, but don’t limit yourself to home service providers. In fact, to view the widest range of design options, don’t limit yourself to your market.

Make a list of things you like and don’t like. You don’t have to love or dislike everything on each truck. It’s OK if you like an image, but hate the colors. This list will help you and your designer understand what you’re looking for and what to avoid.

Your competitors have probably set the bar very low, so don’t assume your trucks should look like theirs. Be clear at the outset of your design process that your truck design should be dramatically different and better than theirs.

You can view a number of truck designs at www.signzoo.com, This company is one of Nexstar’s strategic partners.

Your Goals

Now that you have an idea what you like and dislike, and who your target is, let’s think about your goals. This one’s easy. You want your trucks to draw attention, be appealing and memorable. At the same time, your graphics should be relevant. Let’s begin with this last goal.

Relevancy: Take a good look at the key elements of your brand, like; your logo, theme line, and any colors you use consistently that aren’t in your logo. Protect these elements—don’t let a designer change them just for your trucks. I’ve seen situations where a company created a logo, which was later changed by a yellow pages designer, and then changed again by his truck designer. Before he knew it, he had three or more logos. This can confuse your customers, which is very easy to do.

Here’s a great example of how easy it is confuse people. A very large, successful Nexstar member developed a phone book magnet. It contained all their key brand elements, including their bright, distinctive color, with one exception: the name of the company appeared in a simple typeface, instead of their logo typeface. When the phone book arrived at one of the company’s employees’ homes, she took one look at the magnet and concluded that another company was trying to rip off her company’s name and distinctive colors. If you can confuse your own employees this easily, imagine how easy it is to confuse people who often don’t know or think about your company!

Another element of relevancy is not to allow your graphics company to change the tone and feel of who your company is. If your website and other marketing materials are conservative and traditional, don’t let your truck graphics agency create a three-ring circus design or something from the 60s, like a tie-dyed design. The best way to protect your brand is to share your logo, website and other marketing materials with your designer. Make sure he understands how you present your brand. He’s not to change your brand and company personality, just for your trucks.

Illustrations

Illustrations are a great way to draw attention, be appealing and memorable. Consumers love to see photographs of happy homeowners and families, especially cute children. You can add a home to the background, if you’d like, to help communicate that you serve consumers, and to give supporting graphics; depth, texture, and warmth.

Photographs of technicians can also work hard. A good photograph can communicate how clean, intelligent, friendly, and professional your technicians are. If you shoot a real technician, though, make sure you select a photographer who’ll pay attention to the details. Poor lighting and uptight body language won’t communicate the excellence of your operation and the friendliness of your people. The expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” is correct, and a bad photograph can communicate the wrong words!

A photograph of a technician waving to motorists on the back of the truck has become increasingly popular, and with good reason. It’s a great way to attract attention, be appealing and be memorable. This kind of imagery will likely differentiate your company from your competitors.

Some members wonder if they should add photographs of their kids to their trucks. This can be very appealing and memorable, but it can also be confusing if you don’t showcase your children in other marketing materials. If you want to add your children to your vehicles, be prepared to add them to the website and ads.

Copy

While it’s tempting to add lots of copy to your trucks, don’t treat your trucks like a yellow pages ad or website. People will only give you a few seconds at most, so limit yourself to crucial information. Too much information may make your truck design crowded and difficult to read. In most cases your company logo, primary services (if they’re not identified in your logo), phone number and web address are enough. You may also have room for your slogan, if you have one, depending how large your vehicles are and how short your slogan is. Remember that your trucks don’t have to close sales; they just have to create enough awareness, likeability and be memorable enough to be the service provider who gets consumers’ calls.

Show It Around

Once you’ve settled on a design, show it to a random sampling of customers to see if there are any major problems. Make sure they can easily find and read your company name, for example. A caution, though: don’t react to every comment every person makes, because no matter what you do, there will always be some who disagree with your decisions. Share your design with your technicians, too. It’s important they’re comfortable with your direction. If they’re unhappy with the design on the trucks they’re driving, it could affect their motivation.

Conclusion
How you handle some of your key truck graphics decisions depends on your current marketing materials, your company’s personality, the size of your vehicles and more, so be sure to consider the big picture when creating the perfect picture for your trucks.

Ed Cerier is the Marketing Strategist for Nexstar Network®, a world class business development and best practices organization that provides business training, systems and support to independent home service providers in the plumbing, electrical and HVAC trades. Nexstar members get rapid results, guided by experienced coaches, surefire systems and incredible peer connections. For more information, visit www.nexstarnetwork.com.