Note: This content has been updated; we want to provide the most relevant advice possible!
No matter how good we claim our memories are, we’ve all forgotten something at one time or another. A birthday, an anniversary (oops), dental appointments...
Fortunately, the way we use technology today has helped many of us avoid these problems. “Hey, Google-, “Hey, Siri-”, “Alexa-”: these (IoT) tools, whether through a voice note or short message typed into our phones, computers, or calendars, have become a part of everyday life.
They make it significantly easier for even the least tech-savvy amongst us to benefit from reminders, alarms, and notifications that help to keep our daily lives on track.
At Commusoft, Service Reminders are among the most popular feature that people ask for when they speak to us, and it’s easy to see why. While I needn’t go into specific detail about ourselves here, I have prepared a list of 7 benefits that you’ll want to keep in mind if you’ve not yet implemented (or remain uncertain) about the power of service reminders.
Here are the seven ways that service reminders can:
- Enable you to plan ahead.
- Keep your customers from going to the competition.
- Allow you to deliver a bespoke customer service.
- Assist in promoting brand awareness.
- Improve your preventive maintenance strategy.
- Incentivise customers: creating reliable, recurring income.
- Offer flexible communication options.
As mentioned, we’ve prepared a guide (at the end) that will enable you to create powerful service reminders and help ensure you're getting the most out of this essential feature...
1. Enable you to plan ahead.
For anyone unsure: a service reminder is basically a message used to inform customers of an upcoming service. This could be for an appliance that needs a yearly inspection, such as a boiler, or perhaps you’ve got SLAs in place for bi-monthly check-ups of security equipment. Whatever the case may be, a service reminder can enable you to remind customers when services are due and help you keep track of them yourself.
That being said, getting your personal schedule straight is one thing, but managing a growing team of office staff, engineers, all whilst handling customer enquiries (and even nurturing healthy commercial relationships) is another. Fortunately, service reminders can alleviate that stress and help you get your schedules organised.
Of course, the best time to send service reminders will depend on your business, but a good rule of thumb is to send out reminders around a month before they are due.
By sending out service reminders early (and without having to rely on someone to remember to check for appointments) you can take control of the scheduling process and ensure that even that customer journeys are easier. By having with options (perhaps via an online booking portal), appointments can be arranged in a timely manner that works for everyone.
At the same time, this enables you to keep your engineers busy during slower seasons.
2. Keep your customer from going to the competition.
I can’t stress enough the importance of timeliness. But you know this yourself. If you’re the first to inform customers of an upcoming service, you’re far less likely to miss out on their business. However, you need to be systematic in your approach.
You know that service reminders are a necessity for landlords or letting agents; they’re under a legal obligation to obtain specific services and certificates and knowing that can influence your approach to service reminders and, ultimately, scheduling.
Offering a reminder at the right time is key to your success: send a reminder too early and the customer is likely to ignore it; send it too late and the customer might give the job to someone else.
To secure a service, your responses also need to be swift. If you have sent a service reminder and you don’t receive a timely reply, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to follow up with a courtesy telephone call, SMS, or email (but not all three at once, you don’t want to overwhelm your customer or come across as money-grubbing!)
3. Allow you to deliver a bespoke customer service.
Bespoke customer service is about more than just good timing. You want the customer to feel like you know who they are; a name, comment about previous work history, or a polite request can make the difference between establishing (or maintaining) a good relationship and alienating an already converted customer.
With a database at your disposal, you can access and apply customer information to help you provide a more personalised service. To make this even easier, you should consider creating and implementing templates to suit different customers or different types of service. Templates are a great benefit of moving on to become a paperless business.
It's a good idea to set up a couple of templates for service reminders to save time. If you’re a plumbing or heating business, you'll need at least two templates: one for letting agents & landlords, and one for private customers. This might change depending on your clientele and how big your business has grown, but for now, let’s focus on those two (you can always apply this concept to your own clientele, regardless of your field service speciality):
For Letting Agents and Landlords: They’ll just need a concise reminder detailing all the tenant properties and required services. As these services are a legal requirement, this reminder is more of a notification to act, rather than a sales pitch.
For Private customers: They’re not under the same legal obligations as Letting Agents and Landlords, so their service reminders should be of a more advisory nature. We’ve provided some examples and templates in the guide available at the end, but a good rule of thumb is to be friendly, polite, and make it easy for customers to communicate (more on that shortly).
A good rule of thumb is to not send the same information for every type of reminder. Minor adjustments to the wording you use in a service reminder can have an impact on how well and how quickly the customer responds, so make sure to keep your target audience in mind.
4. Assist in promoting brand awareness.
A service reminder can also act a valuable marketing tool for your business and, perhaps if it’s the only once a year that a customer is reminded of your service, it’s a great opportunity to subtly get across your brand, and an opportunity to make an impression.
A method that marketers often use when thinking about engaging with customers is to picture the customer (or buyer persona) that they have in mind. This can help them to write content that appeals to a particular audience, whoever they may be, rather than writing a “one-size-fits-all” message that lacks personality, presence, and fails to make an impact.
It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece in literature, but thinking about the way you prepare your messages will have an impact on how customers perceive your brand. If you communicate with professionalism, demonstrate attention to detail, and also strike a balance with a friendly approach, you’re on the right track. It’s that sort of personal customer care that wins loyalty, but also helps you to get your brand noticed with referrals and recommendations. Speaking of branding...
5. Improve your preventive maintenance strategy.
Service reminders are a vital tool in your ability to provide a quality preventative maintenance plan. With that in mind, when it comes to writing to customers, especially in cases where they might have neglected to arrange a service (and so a warranty deadline is looming) it’s a good idea to introduce some urgency.
You can do this with a light touch: simply pointing out a warranty will expire is one way of implying urgency, but it can help persuade private customers to service their boilers. In many cases, no one wants to void their boiler warranty if they can help it. In addition, if the customer is an owner-occupier, you might want to make an oblique reference to the fact that a regular service record is important when putting a property on the market.
Likewise, you can mention that annual gas safety certificates might be required in the event of an insurance claim. These come across as helpfully informative, rather than aggressive or pushy.
6. Incentivise customers creating reliable, recurring income.
Every interaction with a customer is a potential sales opportunity, and that includes service reminders. If you do installations, then that's a service job waiting to happen.
Let’s suppose that the majority of your work in the busy winter months. If so, you might want to offer a seasonal discount on summer boiler services, which you can include when you send out a reminder. This helps motivate customers to act, especially if they’re making a saving. The same might be said of discounts for other services (up-selling).
If you’ve shown yourself to be reliable, and indicate you provide other services, customers may lean more favourably toward you.
In the templates we’ve mentioned previously, you could choose to implement these offers within your scheduled reminders. Rather than seeming like an opportunistic shot-in-the-dark, it shows that you can cover a need and also have more to offer!
From there, customers can make up their own mind and make an informed decision. After all, you’re not demanding but helpfully suggesting solutions to other potential problems.
At the very least, regular interaction helps you to maintain a relationship with your customer; they may even come to view you as a trusted adviser, which could incentivise them to set up service appointments for a number of years in advance, helping you to cement your business-relationship and thus create reliable, recurring income. This way, your customers stay happy and your cash flow is healthy. Win-win, right?
7. Offer flexible communication options.
To make all of this possible, it’s important you enable your customers to communicate in ways that suit them: that means making communication easy, clear, and concise.
Choosing the right format can be critically important in setting the right tone with customers, both old and new. When it comes to service reminders, there are essentially three options:
It is a good idea to ask what form of communication the customer would prefer in future, and make sure you update your database accordingly. This also plays into the previously mentioned bespoke, personalised service, which is massively helped by a digital database.
After all, contacting customers in their preferred way is a great method of showing you listen and care about their personal preferences. It also has the added bonus of saving time and resources.
You shouldn’t treat service reminders as a “tick the box” chore. If used correctly, they are a great tool for retaining business, improving customer relationships, and can even help you win new business.
So, whether you’re in plumbing, heating, security, HVAC, or another type of field service: can you really afford to not be using service reminders?
If you’re thinking, “Well, I need to get started ASAP!”, you’re absolutely right! And to give you a hand, we’ve put together a free template to speed you along!