How to get Referrals and keep them coming
So why would a customer refer you?
Do you think it's because:
a) you fixed the plumbing problem or you installed the new bathroom fixtures in a reno successfully?
b) you left the work area spotless, removed all rubbish from site, and nothing appeared to be too much trouble for you?
AlI too often it seems that many tradesmen think that answer (a) above is THE most important factor to a customer, ie solving the plumbing problem or installing that new toilet successfully.
Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news... BUT guess what - your customer expects this of you. After all THAT IS YOUR JOB, ie you're a professionally qualified plumber so of course you know how to stop a cistern leaking and install a new bath or toilet or basin.
For those of you actually doing both (a) and (b) then I'm sure you guys are run off your feet with work and have many happy customers, and that's pretty awesome.
If you want referrals you've got to offer something more, something that seems to be as rare as hens teeth these days, and that's in one word:
Consider these TRUE stories....
During our last reno we wanted new fans installed in the main bedroom, and a couple in the loungeroom. So because we had a great relationship with our builder we decided it would be fine to let his electrician put them in. I mean the builder was great, nothing was ever too much trouble, he constantly pointed out things that could be potential problems and helped us work out Option Bs, and he was forever cleaning up the worksite - surely the tradies he had working under him would be of a similar nature? HELL NO!!!..... you see although he was able to install the fans in the correct spots and get them working (wow what a shock - he is an electrician and that is his job.....), he showed absolutely no CARE and no RESPECT for any part of our property.
When I went to check on him in the main bedroom I discovered the apprentice up a ladder drilling and cutting a hole in the ceiling with the boss holding the ladder. On the bed I'd left a basket of clean washing. Do you think either of them had thought to a) move the washing, b) put a drop sheet over the washing c) put a drop sheet over the whole bed - seeing though this was exactly where all the gunk from the ceiling and their little electrical bits they cut off were going? What do you think was said to me when I pointed this out to them?
"We just figured you'd want to do it." WHAT THE F?
Did anyone come and tell me they were heading into the bedroom and were going to make a mess?
Then it was onto the loungeroom to install the other fans and they did EXACTLY THE SAME THING - even after I'd just had words with them about making a mess.
When they'd finished I pulled the boss aside and asked him if he needed to borrow my broom and dustpan and brush. His words to me were: "Why? I'm pretty sure you don't want to pay me to clean up when you can do that yourself". I WAS FUMING! Now I'm thinking some of you might be saying to yourselves, what's wrong with that - he has a point. The point is this - HE ASSUMED THAT HE KNEW WHAT I WANTED AND WHAT WAS OK - at no time was there any communication about making a mess, at no time did he come and ask ME "would this be OK if we did this...."
If he'd come to me and said "listen Penny we don't normally clean up as we leave that to the builder, or we haven't included clean up in our price but we could do it for extra if you want us to, or I'm really sorry this will make a mess did you want to move any furniture or would you like us to"..... there are so many things he could have said that would have have turned this into a NON NEGATIVE experience. But he didn't. He just ASSUMED.
Do you think I would ever have this guy back in my house again? Do you think I now thought differently about the builder? So what just happened..... they did their job, they installed my fans. But there was no level of care and they were rude. And now I started to think that the builder may not be as good either, I mean how could he possibly use subbies like that..... you see where this is going, I'm now probably not going to recommend the builder either - purely based on the fact that I don't like his subbies!!!! So there goes a recommendation for 2 businesses - and worse, how many of my friends (and guess what - now you guys) do you think I've told about them - and NOT to use them?
I want you to stop and think RIGHT NOW - how many of your customers are women? How many of you work in someone else's home everyday? How could you make sure you leave the RIGHT impression on your customers?
Our 11 year old TV died, (wow, it's such a shock to think anything electronic can last that long now....) and we needed a new one. So after the usual Google research we picked the be all and end all TV! Being extremely time poor and knowing how much tech stuff changes from week to week we thought our best option was to go with Appliances Online and have it not only delivered, but installed by the Subbie team they use.
Talk about one of the most impressive tradie experiences we've had! Wow - totally blown away.
They arrived in a team of 2, introduced themselves by name, took their shoes off at the door and came in to scope out where the new tv was going. "Would you like us to take away your old TV and cables?" - YOU BET. "Can you point out whereabouts you'd like the new TV positioned on the wall?" SURE NO PROBLEM. "Ok, all good we'll have that done for you in no time at all". WELL OK THEN.
- Do you think they used a drop mat to put their tools on? YEP
- Do you think they laid both the old TV and new TV on mats so as not to damage my existing furniture or the devices? YEP
- Do you think I heard any swearing, anything other than polite chitter chatter between them as they merrily went about their job? NOPE
- Do you think they called me in to explain that they had to put an extra bracket on the wall for added support? YEP
- Do you think when they'd finished they showed me how they'd programmed all the stations in and also set up our WII and Apple TV (which they didn't need to do mind you)? YEP
- Do you think the work area was left spotless - I mean you would never have known they were even there? YEP
- Do you think I'd recommend them - IN. A. HEARTBEAT!!!
Here's the thing - they solved my problem, they did it swiftly and without any impact on me or my house. They were polite and friendly, knowledgeable and nothing appeared too much trouble. I was left FEELING good. Can you see the difference?
Now - what about the price I hear you all thinking..... Did I probably pay for that kind of service? I reckon I probably did - but it was a set price which I knew before they got there and it was totally worth it. Could the TV repair business who will just charge me for an hour of his time and whatever materials he uses have done it cheaper? Maybe - but would I have gotten the same kind of service? I guess we won't know...... Do I care about that? NOPE - because I'm so happy with what I paid for.
BOTTOM LINE - Your customers want the job done and they want it done with a certain level of care. If you can't provide that level of care because you're so worried that you haven't allowed for it in your prices or that you'd have to tack it on as an extra hourly rate charge at the end of the job, which will probably piss your customer off -
THEN YOU'RE NOT CHARGING ENOUGH TO START WITH!
Clean up and care and respect of someone's property should be factored in to every single one of your charges.
Ok, I've nagged and ranted enough - and if you're already showing you CARE about your customer and her/his property then you don't need to read anymore. YAY! You already get it.
BUT - for those of you who aren't doing this yet.....
Please start now. This is the best way to get referrals. Our world is only going to become more and more social which means so many more people are able to see what other people are saying about you. I'll give you an example - there's a facebook site I know of, based in the area we live in, and it's a closed group for Mums. What are the kinds of things that pop up on that site on a regular basis?
What about this: Can anyone recommend a good plumber?
Do you know how many responses those questions get on there - it's amazing. And guess what they say, "oh you need to use so and so because he puts special covers on his boots and he doesn't leave a mess", or "well if you've got a baby, use Joe the Plumber because he'll book you in around your baby's sleep times", or "definitely use Bob the Plumber because he's a real sweetie and he'll even bring your bins in if they're still out on the street"...... There's plenty more like that.
This is what your customers are remembering and talking about. NOT because of how well you did the job!!!
Here's your takeaway:
Do a good job, but leave a GREAT impression because of how you acted and cared!!!