Keeping customers happy – and keeping them loyal – involves a good deal more than being an excellent service engineer. To survive and prosper, these days you also have to be a marketing communications professional.
Engaging with your customers will help you to grow your business, no matter what industry you're in.
How much is too much?
Here are a few simple ground rules for making sure your customers value your communications instead of viewing them as an annoyance:
Base communication on give and take
As in a romantic relationship, everything needs to be based on give and take – in other words, as close as possible to 50/50. If you can provide something useful in each communication, you'll often be rewarded.
Focus on the benefits
A simple and timely service reminder – one that is not too pushy, but rather focuses on why regular servicing could make your customer's lives easier – is probably the best of all.
Balance operational communications and marketing
There can be a big difference between emailing a customer to confirm that their job has been booked – an operational communication – and simply trying to sell them something. The best communications combine both, giving your customer vital information while at the same time making them aware of the other benefits your company can offer. Most people expect links to your company's website and social media pages in every email these days, but you could also include a link to a service related to the one they've booked or a blog post you've written.
Think beyond email
There are some companies that use social media incredibly well. What do they all have in common? They provide something useful or beneficial to their customers, such as tips on how to conserve energy or water. They also make sure that their text is free of spelling mistakes and their customers will be able to easily understand what they're trying to say – something that is often overlooked in the rush to get the message out.
We all make mistakes, but grammar and spelling errors often mean customers are unsure of whether they can trust a company or not. "After all", they think, "if the company can't even run a spell check, why should I trust them with my business?"
If you don’t have a degree in English literature (or even if you do!) get someone to proofread every piece of communication and make sure you spell check everything before approving its release.
Customers love case studies and testimonials
Every customer likes to read case studies and testimonials, as long as they are relevant.
Have you recently installed a new boiler for a hotel? Then let customers in similar lines of business know.
A picture is worth...
Even when perfectly correct, text-only communication can be boring. People like pictures – there's a reason the phrase 'a picture is worth a thousand words' became popular!
Much like it's worth taking time to have someone proofread your text, however, it's also worth investing some time and effort to make the photograph as appealing as possible. It doesn't have to be taken by a professional, but a well-lit, thoughtfully composed image will always be better than a quick snap taken on your phone in a dimly lit room. A link to a video – for example, a tutorial posted on your website or YouTube – can be even better.
Look at your website. Does it inform, or does it merely promote? Consider writing a blog that provides useful tips for consumers of water, electricity or gas. Don’t give everything away at once – update regularly, and when you do let your customers know with a short “teaser” by email or via social media.
Invest in email automation
While we’re on the subject of emails and social media, don’t get carried away with the latest technological gimmicks. Email marketing tools like MailChimp are very powerful – when done right.
Too many people send out spammy emails far too often, and all you need to do is think about how many emails you simply delete every day. Less is more in these cases and quality is more important than quantity.
Introduce content and context marketing
What we have described above is what marketers call 'content and context' marketing.
Content provides something useful and informative with every communication.
Context provides the right information at the right time.
A service reminder is a perfect example of this, as it's simple but effective: it demonstrates in a non-pushy manner that you are looking after customers in a useful way (content) and – if you have your admin systems set up correctly – it does this at precisely the right time (context).
Yet when most people think of marketing they don’t think “service reminder”, they think “advertising”. Big mistake!
Nothing without empathy
There's one last word in every marketer’s toolbox, and it's without doubt the most important: empathy.
Pretend you're the customer about to receive your communication. Do you want to read it? Does it benefit you in some way? Does it make your life easier? Or do you think you'll just delete it?
Get these things right and you'll build up a fantastic following that will take your service company to the next level.
In our next article, we’ll look at how to stop your company leaking money by applying some discipline to inventory and cash flow management.