We've talked to a lot of small business owners throughout the years. One question we often ask is "What makes you different from your competitors?". One answer that we kept getting regardless of the service industry was surprisingly simple to us. Regardless of if it was a pressure washing business, a single handyman, a small cleaning business, or anything in between, the answer kept popping up:
I pick up the phone, and I show up for the job.
We're not sure why it was so surprising — we've all probably called a landscaper, plumber, or another service professional and left a voicemail only to never hear anything back. Also, in many cases, you might have someone scheduled to come out and they never show up. It's a common problem, and it's usually the result one or two things.
Too busy to pick up
This is a common excuse, but it's actually a good one. Many small business owners are too busy doing the current job and don't want to be interrupted by a phone call. It's a good excuse, but it doesn't mean you should use it. We recommend looking at those calls as a way to take a short break from the current task at hand. Try to accept that you're going to get calls on the job and find a way to look at them positively.
You're booked up
Being booked up isn't a good excuse to ignore phone calls and here's the number one reason why: if you're always staying booked up and you're ignoring calls, you're not choosy about your jobs, and you should be. For example, say you wait until you're booked about two weeks out, and you start feeling the pressure to land some new work. You're likely to take the next job that comes in, regardless of the details. Compare that to picking up every phone call where you've got tons of opportunities to choose from. We've written about saying "no" to big jobs in the past but it also applies to smaller ones as well, and you'll never have that opportunity if you're always forced to say "yes."
Now is the perfect time
The truth is, the only good time to get a job call is when you're looking for work. Other than that, it's probably going to be a minor annoyance. If you're under a house running cable or pipes, it's not a good time. If you're driving down the road to the next job, it's not a great time either. However, if you're willing to pick up the phone for every call, you'll have more opportunities and a leg up on your competitors.
Show up for the job
Things happen: jobs run long, schedules change and work can get hectic. Don't let that keep you from showing up, or at least calling and letting the customer know what's up. Consider every job that you "no-show" for costing you five jobs instead of the one job, and that's not as far from the truth as you might think. If you no-show, the customer isn't going to recommend you, and there's a good chance they would if you'd done the job. Many service businesses that have been around for a long time don't advertise at all; they get their work from referrals and recommendations from their long list of happy customers. Now also consider that someone asks that customer if they know any good plumbers, landscapers, etc., they say "no, but I know some bad ones," do you want your name coming up for wasting their time?
Pick up and show up
We didn't expect to hear so many businesses in so many industries say that what worked best for them was the same thing: simply picking up the phone and showing up for the job. It makes sense though, happy customers mean a happy and successful business, and those to things go a long way towards happy customers. In future posts, we'll cover some tips to help you tame your phone and voicemail too, but until then, remember to pick up and show up.