Improving Residential Service Calls
By Greg Reyneke CWS-VI
A topic of frequent discussion when dealers congregate (apart from the depressed-economy) is frustration with wasted time on service calls, or the desire to increase service-call revenue. Residential water softener service calls are the cornerstone of business operations in most water treatment dealerships. Effective troubleshooting, repair, and follow through are crucial for long-term business success as a residential water quality improvement dealer.
Some dealers actually consider service calls to be a waste of time and resources. This attitude often stems from the fact that they have a flawed sales cycle. These dealers frequently justify the high retail selling price of their products by promising end-users years of flawless performance, or even making statements like “just feed it salt and everything will be OK”. Ironically, it is these dealers who are constantly demanding lower prices from their OEMs, tend to choose inferior offshore products and spend significantly more on advertising than on training and equipping their service staff. These dealers are masters at marketing, and selling the sizzle, but fall short when it comes to meeting or exceeding customer expectations. They are the epitome of the old-school soft water salesperson.
The 21st century water quality improvement expert understands that clients are not suckers and that end users are now more empowered and educated than ever before. Thanks to the Internet, consumers have access to a wealth of technical data at their fingertips as well as the ability to read and post reviews of the quality of work performed by dealerships.
A smart dealer always has three simple goals when interacting with clients:
- Improve their lifestyle by making their water better
- Create and maintain a lifetime service relationship
- Generate a reasonable and sustainable profit
Water quality improvement systems are wonderful devices that embody complex technologies to make customers’ lives better. As with any working appliance, they require periodic maintenance and even occasional repairs over their working lifetime. Smart dealers are already performing annual tune-ups or cleaning and disinfection services for their customers. If you aren’t currently performing annual services for your clients yet, now is the time to start.
The first step in improving service calls should happen before you ever go to the home; acquire the knowledge necessary to properly service the system and to address the myriad of water quality concerns that today’s customer might have.
Are you taking full advantage of the various vendor, dealer network, and OEM training programs, or do you think that you know it all already? If you have employees, are you empowering them with the technical and customer relations skills that they need to properly service your clients? Are your vehicles properly maintained? Do you use modern technologies to your advantage, like digital work orders, email, routing software, GPS and the plethora of other technical tools our predecessors could only dream of?
When a client calls for service on their water system, they need your help. They trust that you are an expert in the field and will be able to provide them with an honest, objective evaluation of the problem and offer insightful options to remedy the problem, including repairing, rebuilding, or replacing the treatment system or possibly adding additional treatment methods to help address their problem. The client doesn’t want an overt sales pitch or a rushed attempt to fix symptoms instead of addressing the root cause of the problem. They expect a visit from a professional who respects them and their time.
This checklist has been compiled to help you improve the quality, profitability and efficiency of your service calls while generating higher levels of customer-satisfaction:
Before you visit the home
- Quote the actual minimum trip/diagnostic charge.
- Obtain accurate address information and driving directions.
- Document the customer’s perception of the problem.
- Ensure that an adult will present at the home.
Gathering information at the home – questions to ask the client
- How long have you had your system?
- Are you keeping up on your annual maintenance?
- When was the last time you had your system serviced?
- When did you first notice the problem?
Testing the water
Equipment and environmental diagnostics (things to look for)
- Check the bypass valving and salt level in the brine tank.
- Current program settings and operational statistics
- Environmental/installation issues – power, temperature, tampering, modifications
- Check for crossovers.
- Short cycle and testing mechanical operation
- Observe for bacterial issues.
Quoting Prices and Performing Repairs
- Provide upfront written pricing including options to repair, rebuild, replace, upgrade, or augment.
- Secure written authorization for work to be performed.
- Test your work and confirm proper system operation.
- Disinfect and rinse the system.
After the repair
- Secure your tools and test-gear.
- Show the customer that they have soft water.
- Create reasonable customer expectations for future system performance.
- Discuss additional product and service offerings.
- Discuss maintenance contracts and preferred customer programs.
You’re an expert… isn’t it time you behaved like one?
Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI, is currently General Manager at Intermountain Soft Water in Lindon, UT and serves on the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Smart Dealer Network, a trade association dedicated to helping independent water treatment dealers succeed in today’s changing world and reach their full potential.