Anyone who has ever started a business knows one thing for sure: customers don’t come pouring in just because you’ve opened your doors. But new businesses sometimes learn something else… the few customers who do come in can be their biggest source of growth.
The folks at Black Tie Moving have lived this – 1,180% growth over the last three years. How have they managed such enviable numbers? In this Forbes piece, they explain, giving seven steps to a level of customer service that, in the long run, can trump any marketing plan.
The key, of course, is putting them into practice every day. With that in mind, we provide some real-life context for some of the points Black Tie makes in the Forbes article.
#1. Have a clear line of communication
It goes without saying that we should be readily available at every point of the move – from that initial point of contact, all the way through the load (or unload), right up until the customer has signed off on the paperwork. Our customers have a hundred things to do… and twice as many questions. Giving them quick and clear answers to those questions creates for them a feeling of confidence in us so they can get to their hundred things.
The other half of the picture, however, involves us being proactive in communicating. Our customers don’t even know half the questions they need to be asking. So we need to ask beforehand.
- “Do you have a place for the truck?”
- “Are you going to need any furniture disassembled/assembled?”
- “Will your fridge be fully defrosted by move day?”
We don’t want any surprises – and neither do they.
#2. Identify needs early on to eliminate being blindsided by typical problems that can arise
This is a direct outgrowth of #1. Particularly when the customer is paying us by the hour, how long the job will take is constantly at the forefront of their thinking.
We don’t want to be stuck spending an hour removing that corner bar countertop because it won’t fit out the door or disassembling that Ikea entertainment unit because pressboard doesn’t generally like to be moved. (We’re quite familiar with both scenarios.)
If you don’t already have a list of questions for the customer regarding move day, put one together. Aside from those three questions in #1, ask your customer about:
- Their appliances
- “Do you have any and will they be unhooked?”
- Their pets
- “Do you have any and can you keep them in a safe, secluded place?”
- Any items they are particularly concerned about
- “Which box of your’s is especially fragile?”
Ask if they’ve had any issues in past moves and if they have any concerns about this one (and be sure to ask again on move day when the customer’s worry-radar is running full-speed).
#3. Dress to impress
Very easy and very important. Sure, your movers can do a great job no matter what they are wearing, but that first impression sets the tone not only for the customer’s expectations but for their eventual evaluation of you and your crew. You want to make sure the customer thinks highly of you from the moment they open their door to let you in.
Keep in mind that while company t-shirts look good, they can come across as a disguise for a bunch of people you just picked up off the street. It’s true. Close your eyes and picture four guys in matching shirts. Now picture one of them with brown work pants, two with jeans (one of them gray with the knees all torn up) and one with a pair of green shorts. You might as well have gotten your crew from a temp agency. Now picture all four men in matching shirts and pants (or shorts). See the difference? Your customer certainly will.
#4. Be the expert
All right, let’s be honest. We’ve all been tossed questions that we can’t really answer. Early on, this is okay. It can take awhile to get used to handling sudden inquiries about insurance coverage and what the customer can and cannot put on their truck. For our part, the best each of us can do is educate ourselves as quickly as we can in such matters. In the meantime…
Always, always have at least one “designated expert” on every crew. If the newer workers can’t answer a question with full confidence, they need to be able to point the customer to the person who can.
As for the actual moving of stuff, this too is something your newer guys will get better at over time. But this learning curve is quicker, as long as you give them constant guidance and plenty of on-the-job pointers. In other words, be the expert for your crew so they can soon become experts themselves.
#5. Exceed expectations
This is easy, but it’s also hard as hell. Let me explain… your average customer’s mindset going in is that they want you to be superhuman, but they half-expect you to be sub-human. The best we can do – the only thing we can do, having covered those other points above – is to strive to be the superhumans they were hoping for.
This takes us back to that bit about communicating. Understand what the customer is concerned about and what issues, if any, they’ve had with previous moves. These are the areas where their hopes are highest and their fears are deepest. Handle these like the professional you are and you’ll have a customer who will be itching to brag to their friends about what a great moving crew they chose.
#6. Utilize technology
Black Tie Movers talk about using a GPS tracking system so its customers always know exactly where the moving truck is. This sort of thing may never come into play as moving labor providers. You may need little more than your smartphone. The importance, then, lies in using it – to take pictures of the pre-existing damage, to check customer inventories, to download and email documents to your customer.
Of course, the most important piece of technology at our disposal remains your smartphone’s original function – to call up our customer to let them know we are here, we are available and on our way.
#7. Provide a concierge
Black Tie Moving tells Forbes that they have a concierge on duty 24/7 to answer the customer’s questions and eliminate the stress of moving. And guess what? So do you: you! We all know what it’s like running a business. And we all know that being on call is part of the deal.
Now, being on call 24 hours a day is a hefty proposition which you may or may not deem wholly necessary or even feasible. But answering the phone seven days a week is a service we can hardly afford not to provide. At HireAHelper headquarters, we man the phones most of the year, just in case we need to jump in and provide a little back-up.
That you guys are willing to do the same keeps our entire network moving!