July 2017

The First Five Minutes of the Service Call


When the customer comes to the door, ask or wait for permission to go into their home, don’t barge in. Permission is usually given visually, so don’t ask for permission again if they gave it with a nod of the head or by standing back to let you walk in.

Human interaction is complex. Be natural, open and honest in your relations with everyone. There are some good skills and best practices, but the very best practice is to be yourself and be natural.

Control the service call by asking questions, not answering them. If you are answering questions, educating the customer and trying to woo them with your product knowledge, they are in control. You never know what unnecessary subject you might talk about that might hook their anxiety, fear or send them online to educate themselves and compare.

The way that you establish control is to quickly introduce yourself and then quickly ask them how you can help them today. If you already know them, use your common sense and be natural in how you greet them. You could say, “Hi John, it’s good to see you, what brings us out here today?” If you have no tools, it implies “let’s talk.”

I know that you already know why you are there because it’s on your dispatch. However, the process of communication does not give justice to the speed of thought. Consider the important concept that the entire idea of what the customer wants to communicate to your dispatcher is in the customer’s mind’s eye. He or she has to use words in an attempt to convey the totality of all their thoughts. When the customer does this, he or she goes through a process of generalization, distortion and deletion to convey their thoughts. We all do this.

Think about what I just said: “We all do this.” This means the dispatcher does the same thing to you. He deletes, distorts and generalizes what he was told. Now, as a technician you are two steps removed from the customers’ reality which is really not reality, so you are three steps removed from it. If your company has a customer service representative (CSR) department and dispatch never even talked to the customer, then you’re four steps removed from reality. This is why gossip is so destructive. By the time the rumor spreads, it’s often not even close to reality.

I want you to hear the customers’ best description of their reality, so ask them when you greet them, even if you think you already know. I listen to thousands of greetings and I’ve never heard a customer complain when asked, “Why am I here?” or “What brings us out here?”

I can think of one ride-along where dispatch told us that the customer wanted an estimate on a new faucet. However, when I asked what brings us out here today, I heard much more detail, more pain indicators and opportunity that was not on the dispatch. We sold a very nice $1,000 service call based on what I heard from the mouth of the customer by asking that question.

Relax and listen after you ask that question. We want to hear about the customer’s pain and frustration. You can’t do this by showing up dressed for battle with your head down and your mouth and ears closed. You must ask and then you must listen. As you listen you must ask other questions that reverse this process of deletion, distortion and generalization.

When you ask questions and listen in this manner, you gain understanding of what their agenda and expectations are. Customers feel affirmed when we understand them, and when a customer feels affirmed, she or he feels connected to you. Feeling connected is the essence of rapport.

You now a better understanding of the situation and must share your agenda with the customer. We will assume this is a demand service call, which means the customer called us because something is not working and the office advised them of a service call fee. Matt Koop, the developer of The New Flat Rate, teaches a simple script that confirms this with them by saying something as simple as the following:

“I just want to clarify with you that the office did share with you the service call fee of $79.00.” If they did not understand, explain it again and obtain agreement.

Another agenda that you also have to get their agreement on is options. Show them a menu of options after you determine what needs to be done, and gain permission to do this. Pre-frame the process by leading them in that direction before you get there. This is called future pacing and establishes more control. For example:

“Mr. Jones, I’m going to go back to my truck and get my tools and get started. I don’t know how long it will take me to determine the fault. However, once I do, I would like to show you all your options for taking care of it today. If you choose one of those options today, I will be able to waive the service charge fee for you. How does that sound?”

Now the customer has a clear expectation of your process and has agreed to it. Many folks don’t realize that we can fix their problem the same day because many service companies don’t offer that service. I would submit to you that excellent customer service is solving the customer’s problem today.

See other similar Articles in the Customer Relations Category.