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Getting Used to the New Normal: Advice for Home Services Business Owners

Dan Dowdy's Headshot Dan Dowdy Owner, Built for the Trades

Over the course of the last couple of months, every business owner has been forced to make significant changes — if they haven’t, they’re probably struggling or not in business anymore. It’s tough to know when these changes will go away, or even if they ever will, which got me thinking: is this the “new normal?”

We all took a forced detour from our normal routines and strategies, and I don’t know about you, but when I take a detour while driving, all I can think about is getting back on the original route as soon as possible. Shifting back to the original way of operating may sound good, but if you ignore the trends that are here for the long haul, you’re most likely damaging your business.

The businesses that commit to their changes and to working out the kinks are the ones that will come out on top. Some of these trends were already occurring — lockdown orders have just forced people to adopt them at a faster rate. As business leaders, it is our job to create and sustain momentum for our companies, and now is the time to do so.

As the markets start to reopen, think twice before shifting back to the old way of doing things. Customers are demanding convenience and safety now more than ever, and it is our time to step up and provide that level of service. To get a clearer picture of what leaders are experiencing, I’ve summarized the results of a poll of home services business owners across the nation on the trends they think are here to stay.

Adapting to Shifts in Behavior and Expectations

PPE (Personal protective equipment), e.g. gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, shoe covers, etc.

There is no gray area — companies that respect their customers are going to continue to wear PPE items on every job. During a virtual technician training this past month, techs were already asking if they could stop wearing gloves and masks. Their argument was that most customers were starting to not care. Whether your customer cares or not, as professionals in the industry, we should work together to ensure that our techs are not putting anyone at risk. All it takes is for one team member or customer to get sick for your business to end up in an unwanted legal situation.

I know that there are 20 different opinions as to whether doing these things really makes a difference or not. I will just remind you that it is all about perspective. Customers do not necessarily care how pretty your repair is, but they do care about time, respect, safety, and cleanliness! Ensuring that PPE is worn and clean-up efforts are the top priority after every job is completed is an awesome way to remain professional in all we do.

Estimates Now Not Later

Customers are calling and texting like crazy wanting estimates ASAP on their repair projects. The businesses that have embraced the virtual estimates option are starting to catch traction and customers are LOVING it.

My personal preference has always been that it is better to be onsite, and I continue to stand by that approach. However, we must offer the customer customized options and let them decide. If you don’t, you take the risk of losing the customer to one of your competitors who is embracing technological changes. It’s as easy as using FaceTime or Zoom to complete virtual face-to-face estimates. Now more than ever, customers are looking for multiple estimates. With more people working from home, time is no longer a driving factor. So, save yourself and your techs’ time and implement this today!

Contactless Transactions

I can still remember the day when using an iPad as a technician was cutting-edge technology! Those days are officially over. Most techs today are using some type of tablet to present estimates and invoices, get signatures, and collect payments. If your technicians are not equipped with some type of tablet, get on it!

Welcome to the contactless world of social distancing, where customers only want one technician in their home at a time. Communication via videoconference or text message has become the standard, and photo or video examples are now the expectation. Customers can provide signatures digitally. The days of presenting the options at the table may be a thing of the past. Equipping and training your techs to use this technology is important as many of these innovations will probably stay in place for years to come.

Training

Don’t tell me you used the pandemic as an excuse to stop training! Training is all about momentum, and starting over from scratch is the last thing that you want to do. Virtual training is all about repetition, structure, and engagement. (For more detailed training tips, check out my last blog post.)

As you read this, you may be thinking, “I’ll just wait a few more weeks and we can start training in person again.” I agree that training in person is the preferable option, but what about the techs who cannot make it to the training for one reason or another? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to send them a link to watch at their convenience or to upload the video to a training or onboarding library? Another benefit to recording your training sessions is the ability to watch how the presentation went and take notes on how you can improve your teaching skills for the next session. There is a reason athletes review recordings: to learn and get better. Why shouldn’t you?

Recruiting

There are a couple of things that come to mind when I think of recruiting. If you were one of the businesses that have had their office staff working from home over the last couple months, you now know it is possible and convenient. This may have caused you to rethink that large office space draining your profits. Another thing to consider is recruiting outside your service area to open up the talent pool. Knowing the service area is important in some positions, but it’s not always mandatory. With competitors downsizing or possibly shutting down, talented people may be readily available to your advantage. A process like the one below can help you expand your search for new team members:

  • Post an ad for position on Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or social media.
  • Batch and screen the resumes.
  • Complete social media reviews of the potential candidates (based on company core values).
  • Send a DISC assessment for the applicant to complete that allows for a clear personality profile
  • Set up an interview via teleconference.
  • Bring the potential candidate in for an in-person interview with a department member in the room (observing social distancing best practices, of course.)
  • Present the offer.

This will allow for a hands-off experience and an effective approach to sorting through hundreds of resumes. The best part is that you could delegate this pretty easily — what person in your office wouldn’t want to spend their time gathering research on social media?

Marketing

I like to look at marketing as a snowball effect. The more you do and the more personal you are, the bigger the snowball. Notice I said the more YOU do! The days of just sending money to an internet marketing company and doing nothing else are over. Nothing against internet marketing companies, because they are a very essential part of any home services business marketing strategy, but now is the time to have continuous contact with your home services digital marketing manager to ensure your money is being spent wisely. I want to get you thinking outside of the proverbial box.

One way to approach this is to lay out your marketing goals, then share them with your internet marketing company. Your deliverable could look something like this:

Target Market

  • Determine the typical customer that you want to serve and the home value that is most profitable (use a price range).

Geographic

  • Identify areas or cities that you want to serve — be specific.

Psychographic

  • In a few short sentences, explain why customers choose your business or services.

Three Uniques

  • What makes your business different from competitors?

Proven Process

  • This is where your service systems would go. If you do not yet have a service system for your techs or CSRs, reach out to learn more.

Guarantee

  • What guarantee does your business offer to customers?

You can add or remove elements of your own marketing goals overview, but no matter what, open conversation with your marketing partner allows for a customized approach to the ads they post and a better understanding of your business.

Following the advice in this blog will not only help your business stay ahead of the competition, but it will lead to the steady growth that you are looking to accomplish. Doing the same things month after month and day after day and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I challenge you to try something new.

Push out of your comfort zone and think twice before getting off the so-called detour, and embrace the new normal!
 

About the Author
Dan Dowdy's Headshot Dan Dowdy Owner, Built for the Trades

Dan Dowdy is the owner of Built for the Trades, a leadership development company specializing in trade-specific businesses. He is a Master plumber and has 20 years of experience in the plumbing and leadership field, running a successful home services company. Dan is passionate about his faith, his family, and the outdoors. If he’s not at home with the family, you can find him with a bow in his hand getting ready for hunting season. His goals are to grow others to their true potential so that they may lead others with confidence and passion.

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