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Enhance Communications

Answering Service One Can Help You Enhance Communications and Your Public Image

Face it. Some employees just shouldn’t interact with the public. They may know their jobs well, having mastered the skills to perform them with excellence. However, their communication skills have a decided lack of quality. In fact—despite having done their work admirably and met all expectations—they sometimes turn people off. In extreme cases, how they communicate may even drive business to the competition.

While applicable to every industry, this need to enhance communications is most profoundly felt in the trades: plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, construction subcontractors, and so forth. These guys—yes, they’re still mostly guys—know their jobs and preform them well, but they often fall short in the communications department.

But it’s not just the trades. Consider the highly sought-after doctor with the lousy bedside manner, the top trial lawyer with an abrasive ego, or the performance artist who’s a prima-donna.

They’re their own worst enemies.

While they may do quality work, others don’t always perceive it, simply due to how these people communicate.

Consider Bart Sizemore, a former electrician, who now owns Sizemore Heating, Plumbing, and Electrical. His multi-discipline trade group provides a full gambit of services for residential, commercial, and municipality, covering construction, renovation, maintenance, and repair.

He hires highly skilled staff who do excellent work, but their customers’ perceptions about the quality of the completed job often suffer simply due to his workers’ poor communication skills, both in person and especially over the phone. “When a guy is standing in front of you, having just gotten your heat working, it’s easy to overlook his less-than-ideal communication,” says Bart. “But when talking on the phone, the customer lacks visuals—as well as a repaired system—so communication shortcomings become obvious.”

Add to this is Bart’s preference to promote from within. This means most of his managers, estimators, and schedulers possess great technical skills and not-so-great communication skills.

“I used to shudder when one of my guys would answer the phone or when I heard how he talked to a customer,” Bart says. “But when I lost a major, longtime customer due to a less-than-ideal phone conversation from one of my guys—an otherwise excellent plumber—I knew I needed a fresh approach. The future of my business depended on it.”

His first effort was to hire from the outside, tapping someone with excellent communication skills in hopes he could train the newbie how to be an estimator. “That didn’t work at all,” said Bart, shaking his head. “The guy talked a good game, but he simply couldn’t do the work.”

Next Bart tried to serve as the communication interface between his staff and key customers, but that ill-conceived idea quickly fell apart. It lasted only three days and no one was pleased with how it worked, or in this case, how it didn’t work.

He struggled for a workable solution for months, until his daughter came home from college for Christmas. She had recently taken a part time job at a telephone answering service near her college. When she heard his lament, she was eager to help.

“Daddy, I’ve got just the solution for you!”

Bart studied his daughter closely. She had never shown any interest in his business, even though it provided the income to pay for her schooling. His attempts to involve her in it, such as to help with the yearend inventory or set up his social media presence, encountered more attitude than action. Though hopeful, he remained skeptical. “What?”

“You need an answering service!”

“This goes way beyond taking messages, honey,” he said as his hope vanished.

She shook her head. “We do the kind of thing you need all the time!” She smiled, likely pleased to actually help her dad for once. “Yes, we screen calls and take messages, but we also dispatch emergencies, schedule appointments for estimators, send out reminders, confirm that bids arrived, make follow-up calls—”

“Wait. You said follow up calls?”

“Yes, after a job is finished, we call to make sure the customer is happy. Then we send an email or text, too.”

Bart considered this. “It might be a smart thing to do before we send out an invoice.” His daughter nodded and smiled. “I do a lot of those types of calls. They say I have a real knack for it! I guess I know all the right jargon.” Bart shook his head. Who would have thought? He got the contact information from his daughter and called right away, even though it was two days before Christmas. He and the answering service worked through the details of how to handle his calls, the protocols he expected, and their too-complicated on-call schedule. Before yearend, the answering service was handling all of Bart’s calls. Though they had a few wrinkles to iron out, he was pleased with the transition and ecstatic with the results.

When his daughter returned home for summer break, Bart had good news to share. “Because of the answering service’s professionalism, we’ve taken on a lot of new business. Plus we’re now a ‘preferred vendor’ for the school, county, and two major general contractors.” Then he grinned. “Looks like I can pay for another year of college!”

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