What Puppies have in Common with Your Maintenance Customers

Last week I had a couple of experiences that got me thinking about our customers and how they must feel…

First, my vet called to schedule my puppy’s exam. 

Naturally, I was busy and, when I saw who was calling, I let it roll over to my voicemail (just as our customers do). When I finally took the time to listen to the message, my first reaction was that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you know something’s going to cost you–and cost you big. 

I was thinking, “How much is it going to be this time?” (Just a side note here… my puppy is not exactly a young pup but a middle-aged dog with bad hips, bad knees, and arthritis). 

My second thought was, “I’m just too busy right now – I don’t want to take off work to deal with ‘yet’ another appointment!” 

In fact, I almost didn’t call back. But, eventually, I did because I know that he needs to have regular vet appointments to keep him as healthy and as pain-free as possible. When I called back I was reminded that the exam is part of my dog’s Optimum Wellness Plan and that it would not cost me extra. Yep, I have a maintenance plan for my dog and yet I forgot that it covered the exams… 

Next, she reminded me that I could drop my dog off in the morning and pick him up at the end of the day. So, the appointment wouldn’t interrupt my schedule and I wouldn’t have to take time off work. Fantastic! Once I got her on the phone, she addressed my fears and I was happy to schedule his appointment.

Then I wondered… what if she would have addressed those fears in the voicemail she left? I would have immediately called her back to schedule the appointment and I wouldn’t have had that moment of panic. 

Later in the week, I took that same puppy in for his grooming. While I was digging through my purse to find the exorbitant amount of cash to pay the bill (they charged extra because I kept forgetting to call and make an appointment for so long that he was overgrown and a mess), my groomer suggested that I pre-schedule the next appointment. She reminded me that if I wait and let his hair grow out too much it will cost me extra (like it did this time), and Saturdays book up fast so it will be more difficult to get the time and day that I want. She also assured me that they would call to remind me a couple days before, just in case I needed to reschedule. 

She had me pegged – she knows I forget to schedule his appointments (that is, until he starts running into things because he can’t see), and I always have to take inconvenient appointment times just to get him in. She also just addressed my two biggest FEARS – cost and inconvenience. And, she told me how to get what I wanted – that coveted Saturday appointment. Brilliant! Of course, I scheduled his appointment!

This made me think… 

About the constant battle we have getting our agreement customers to schedule their maintenance visits. They have the same FEARS that I did.

  • They forget to call to schedule them – often times until it’s too late and it ends up costing them more
  • They’re busy and they don’t want to be inconvenienced
  • They worry about how much it’s going to cost them because they forget maintenance is a covered part of their plan

And, because they have FEARS, they ignore our calls and our letters asking them to schedule their maintenance visits. 

It’s just plain frustrating for them and for us!

I was recently visiting with a Customer Service Representative whose responsibility was to contact agreement customers whose maintenance visits were due or overdue. She had several whom she had made multiple attempts to contact without success. Some of them were several months old and she had called 6-8 times and mailed a reminder postcard. Needless to say, she was not enjoying this part of her job. She was frustrated and felt that her efforts were a waste of time. Incidentally, this company’s renewal rate was very low, and they had not been able to sustain or grow their agreement base because of it. 

I suggested that she try something different, a method that I knew was successful for another company (one of the cool benefits of having worked with so many other HVAC companies in the past). She agreed to try it, and one month later reported that they had a 100% success rate in reaching their customers and getting them scheduled. In my book, 100% is a pretty impressive number! 

So what did we do differently?

We changed the ‘words’ she used and this changed the experience for the customer… and, ultimately, the result. 

Her original script went something like this: 

“Ms. Brown, this is (insert name) from (insert company), calling to remind you to call and schedule your air conditioning maintenance visit. Please give us a call back at (insert phone).” 

If having their air conditioner tuned up was a high priority for the customer, they probably would respond. But, unfortunately, we’re in an industry where our clients don’t even remember they have an air conditioner until it breaks. 

To solve the customer apathy that was frustrating them, I revised the script to include a pre-scheduled appointment so it now went like this:

“Ms. Brown this is (insert name) from (insert company), we’ve scheduled your ‘Prepaid’ air conditioning maintenance visit for (insert date & time). Please call me to confirm this works with your schedule. If this is inconvenient, let me know and I’ll be happy to reschedule it for you. You can reach me at (insert phone) from 8-5 Monday through Friday. Talk to you soon.” 

Short – Simple – and to the Point.

Why did this work so well? Simple psychology… 

We took control of the situation away from the customer so they had to respond in order to get it back. Not only this, but we removed the unknowns from the original message. The main unknown we removed was the FEAR of cost – by reminding them that they had already paid for this service. ‘Prepaid’ is a magical word you’ll want to build into your scripts wherever you can. Then, we gave them a method to take back control of the situation by telling them we would reschedule if needed (and we would be happy to do it). Third, we told them exactly what we wanted them to do – call to confirm or reschedule and we told them whom to call, how to call, and when to call. 

It not only worked – it worked well. Words definitely have power and just a little tweaking can go a long way when it comes to routine customer communications – give it a try!

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