Back in the day, my mother focused on three things on the home front: cleaning, ironing, and cooking. And she did a great job at all those things. Today the focus for many moms has changed considerably. Not only are many of them working, juggling the needs of a job and home life, but families today tend to be heavily scheduled, driving the kids to karate lessons, soccer practice, Girl Scouts ... Do you think there’s time to drop everything for a contractor’s phone call about whether or not the crew can start at 7 or 7:30 a.m. tomorrow? How welcome, in all of the home/kid scheduling chaos would that be?
And how about you? If you’re running multiple jobs, do you need to be on the phone with every client every day? In the old days, if it was a big or complex job, maybe. Not anymore.
Cut to the Chase
Text is the ultimate form of communication. It’s what people do. Don’t believe it? Take a look at your next phone bill. Texting up, talking down.
Between distraction and meaningless chatter, phone calls can sprawl. They burn through time. With text, you cut to the chase. I keep my text messages short and sweet. “Hi, Mike from K&B following up.” And then I tell the homeowner whatever they need to know or ask for the information I need to know.
Text used to be thought of as an adolescent preoccupation. It is that. Just watch teenagers texting one another across restaurant tables. Those nimble fingers and agile brains can work a screen keyboard like nobody’s business. Me? My big hands have a far harder time.
That’s one reason among several to use texting software products such as HeyWire or TextMyBiz. Simply set them up to interface with your company’s CRM system. Texting software allows people to text you via landline (if you have an 800 number) and to text you from your website, if they’ve just landed there looking for a roofer.
You don’t have to wait around to read emails or catch up on voicemails to know about a prospect who wants to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Ping! There they are. Ping! And it’s done.
Quick, Efficient, Tracked
There are a few big advantages to regularly using text in your business. One is that it’s fast. It takes seconds to type a message, seconds more to receive it. Moreover, texting software allows regular communication, since you can set up a system to send certain key text messages automatically. For instance, right after the lead is booked at our company, a text confirmation goes out saying: “Your appointment is confirmed for Thursday at 10.” That leaves the client thinking: Hey, these guys are on their game. Or, when we’re done preparing a proposal, we hit a button that sends this message: “Your revised proposal has been prepared and emailed. If you do not see it, please check your spam/junk folders. Thank you!”
Think about how much time and money is saved when you don’t have to have an admin person on the phone half the day relaying those messages.
Another is that the software tracks message exchanges and creates from that data an ongoing record of every text with every client in the course of each project. Every contractor knows how critical it is to document a project so that a step-by-step record is created. That’s simply so that you know where you are today. Also, if a dispute arises—let’s say the homeowner changes his mind on trim color but thinks that the color that arrives is a mistake on your part—documentation will clear that up in an instant. Phone calls create no written document. Text messages and emails (along with cumbrous paper forms, including contracts, checklists, etc.) do. I can call up a text file and know exactly what was communicated on any given hour of any given day.
We associate texting with young people, especially Millennials. The younger generation doesn’t talk, they text. And, you’re thinking, my customers aren’t Millennials, they’re Baby Boomers. What if they don’t want to text?
Recent studies show that other generations tend to do what Millennials do—especially in matters having to do with technology. The sight of someone 25 years old walking down the street completely entranced by what’s on their phone screen is now a cultural cliché. But how uncommon is it to see someone 50 or 70 doing the same thing?
Of course, you don’t want to go on assumptions. Assumptions ruffle feathers. So when we make our initial contact with a prospect and we’re taking their contact information, we specifically ask for a cellphone number. Also, we don’t ask permission to text. Instead we say: You’ll be receiving text messages because that’s how we communicate with our customers. This isn’t going to seem strange. Think about it: The last time you had an appointment with the doctor or dentist, you probably received a text message the night before or that morning reminding you of the appointment. Studies show that automated Appointment Reminder texting reduces no-shows by as much as a third and improves on-time patient arrival.
Where text is not your best bet is when there’s a problem. Here’s where a little empathy goes a long way. Say you get a text from a homeowner at 8:30 a.m. saying she’s waited an hour and the crew still hasn’t shown up. Text a response along the lines of: “They should be there soon,” and you risk seriously irritating that client. The better way to handle it is to find out where the crew is—let’s hope it’s not a go-go bar—and call the client with that information. If there’s a problem or a service issue, the client needs to hear your voice. And you will need to be able to read the client emotionally to resolve the issue. Text is emotionless and becomes anything but appropriate in situations where emotions can flare. Managing customer communications is about discretion, and discretion is rooted in experience.
Drip, Drip, Drip
One other advantage of texting is that it enables you to massage that lead that, for whatever reason, didn’t convert to an appointment, or the appointment that didn’t convert to a sale. This assumes, of course, that you’re two-step selling and your marketing and sales are directed toward filling a pipeline of jobs that keep your company steadily engaged. In that case, you’ve got all these people situated at some point in the sales funnel but not yet ready to convert. They need a no-pressure nudge, not a Take It Or Leave It phone call. All you need to do is persevere. And text makes that easy. Typically, drip campaigns center around email. While you’re waiting to hear from a client about that $35,000 roofing and siding job, your email may be sitting in an inbox all day, your voice message just as long, if not longer. Call? Chances are good that it’s not the right time to talk. But when that phone in the pocket goes Ping! you know the prospect is going to see it. And Ping! you right back.