All
General
Blog Posts
Thanksgiving Hours

The ServiceMonster team will be out of the office on Thanksgiving day. We wish our customers a happy Thanksgiving, and our support team will be back with limited hours on Friday 11/25 from 8am-1pm PST. Normal support hours will resume on Monday.

General
Category:
How a Bootstrapped Seasonal Gig Generated a Thriving Values-Led Business: Pete Happy of ProShine Part 1

Back in 2013, and with only $180 worth of hand tools, Pete Happy decided one day that he would create his destiny - even better, to be his own boss. His seasonal gigs at Mt. Hood ski resort meant that he'd need to figure out quickly what to do with his summers, so with big ambition and some ingenuity, ProShine was born.

Nearly five years into bootstrapping the Pacific Northwest-based business with hard-earned cash, Pete was able to add an additional service vehicle and expand his services menu from purely windows to everything related to exterior cleaning - from roof cleaning, gutters, and solar panels to decks, driveways, and patios. 


The growth was exciting, and shifting into becoming a more grown-up business was more than a welcome event. Yet it started to become clear that the expansion would add some complexities to operations that couldn't be handled with the few existing tools they currently had. 


With Growth Comes the Growing Pains

Until 2017-2018, it was one truck with Pete doing everything. He was using Google calendar to schedule things, and QuickBooks was his only software to manage estimates, invoicing, and payments. 


Using the Google calendar for scheduling jobs worked fine when it was only him. However, as Pete started adding more vehicles and services, things quickly fell into disorder and disarray, with random notes piling up everywhere and a calendar that couldn't handle multiple jobs and sites. He knew he needed some type of extra support for handling that, or else things would quickly go downhill. That's when ProShine made the switch to ServiceMonster.

"Notes were all over the place, you're using Google calendar for scheduling things…it was really just kind of a mess. It worked ok for just 1 truck but when we started adding additional vehicles it was going to fall apart."

ServiceMonster handled the more complex scheduling requirements that ProShine needed for its multiple worksites. In fact, ServiceMonster is a scheduling platform first! But beyond just scheduling, there were many other things that ServiceMonster helped with while Pete was navigating through his business expansion.


All your customers' info at a glance

"Being able to attach photos and review that history was another key piece…"


Pete was excited to be able to communicate info easily with his techs and have them see all their customers' info at a glance. They were no longer scrambling around and trying to make sense of random notes! They could also easily pull up info on their mobile devices. 


While inside customers' accounts, ServiceMonster's newsfeed gives them a full view of everything that's happened between you and the customer - including all communication history and work done. Employees could attach photos to the work order, review the scope of work with the homeowner, and see all of ProShine's previous jobs - all from out in the field and under one umbrella.


Marketing Made Easy

"No one answers the phone. It's the least effective way of getting anything on the schedule."


Before ServiceMonster, Pete's marketing system involved:

  • Importing his invoices to a spreadsheet.
  • Going through each invoice line by line.
  • Physically picking up the phone to make calls.

The phone calls were a personal way to reconnect, but he found it to be the least effective way of getting anything on the schedule. No one ever picked up the phone! In Pete's words, it was 'extremely labor intensive and really depressing.' 


ServiceMonster helped automate ProShine's marketing with straightforward drip campaigns that follow up with customers every time after the work is done - all done at a combination of different touchpoints and channels. 


Pete was looking for a more efficient way to market to his existing clients, and he understood that when he ran an email marketing campaign, only about half of the recipients opened their emails. Enter FillMySchedule (also known as FMS). With FillMySchedule, ServiceMonster's in-house automated direct mail marketing service, ProShine could automatically send out cards so those not checking their emails would get something in the mail.


And because it's automated, it's easy and consistent. And we all know that consistency is king when it comes to marketing!


Know your reports. Know your business

 "If there's one thing you can't screw up, it's someone's pay."


Pete's life got easier once ServiceMonster could help with providing automated marketing campaigns and support for his operations, all under one umbrella. But in addition to cutting down on time spent on tasks, ServiceMonster software provided another valuable and critical source for his business: Reports.


Before using ServiceMonster, Pete had no idea what his residential or commercial repeat rates were. Today, Pete can happily say what his repeat rates are (72% and 77%, respectively)! Repeat rate was a metric they didn't even know about until ServiceMonster entered the picture. If you know where your business stands, you know where you need to make adjustments.


Another ServiceMonster reporting game-changer for ProShine was being able to track employee performance pay. When it's time to run ProShine's payroll, Pete can easily pull a report to see how much each technician receives for their production bonus based on their production rate. It's an effortless way to track employee commissions while keeping things accurate. And if there's one thing you want to be accurate, it's someone's pay!



You've just read the first part of the story of ProShine's journey to becoming a growth hero. There's still a lot more to share! In next week's post, we'll talk more about how ProShine made a values-led decision to focus more on employees during covid, and how, while many service businesses struggled, they were able to work through the challenges and end up thriving.

General
Category:
How to take a stress-free vacation as a business owner

Vacation time is a luxury many business owners don't have the opportunity to enjoy. As the holidays grow near, vacation is on the mind of many a service industry pro. It's hard to take the time to recharge on vacation when you're still responsible for your company. However, as business owners, we know that taking time off is essential for our wellbeing—and our businesses. Don't worry: with the right mindset and smart planning, you can enjoy a stress-free vacation without losing ground on your business.

Here are some tips for keeping your business running smoothly when the boss disappears for a week or two:

Ensure your entire team has a plan for while you're away.

If you have a team of people who can step in while you're away, they must know exactly what to do in your absence. Ensure that your entire team is aware of any changes while you are away. Make sure they understand what's happening and know their responsibilities during this time so there is clarity when you return.

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure.

When you're getting ready to go on vacation, don't be afraid to ask for help. Ask your team, customers, and suppliers if they'll have time to step up in your absence. You may be surprised at how willing people are to pitch in and help make things run smoothly while you're away.

You don't want your vacation to feel like a burden, or that it's taking away from the life of someone who steps up to help. Try handing off tasks that can easily be delegated so there isn't too much stress on any one person. If not all of those things can be outsourced—and most likely some can—maybe consider bringing someone on board full-time who can take care of them for now. This can also help them build relationships with clients they may have access to one day down the road!

Test your communication channels.

Test your communication channels before you go on vacation. Test them while you are away, and then test them again when you return.

Make sure they work. Could you make sure they are secure and reliable? If there are any issues, have a plan to deal with them ahead of time so that no one has to worry about the problem while dealing with other things on their plate during the vacation period. If necessary, ask for help or delegate tasks to others who can take care of them in your absence (or at least know how much more work needs to be done).

Be clear on what to do in case of emergencies.

You'll want to do a few things to prepare for this. First, ensure that you and your team know what to do in an emergency. It is best to have a plan that everyone is aware of. Additionally, if something happens while you're away, the next person in charge needs to know the steps to correct the situation.

To help with this process, create a shared document where everyone can keep notes about progress toward completing their tasks or projects during your absence. This way, people can go straight to the document instead of having long phone calls or meetings where everyone has different versions of the events taking place! 

Regarding who is responsible for handling these situations during your vacation time, designate one person on each project as the main point of contact. This way, everyone will know who they need to ask if issues pop up while no one else is around (though hopefully, this will only happen sometimes!).

Have a plan for what to do when things go right. 

Preparing for the worst-case scenario is crucial when planning to take time away from your business, but you should also plan to handle the good things!

If a client calls and pays their invoice—or makes an inquiry about booking another job—make sure someone is available to handle it immediately. You don't want to miss out on potential revenue or opportunities while away from work. 

If no one has access to this information while you're away, consider contacting clients beforehand and letting them know they can reach one of your team members should anything arise while your away.

Plan and adjust your deadlines accordingly.

Planning is key to a stress-free vacation. If you have a job deadline, ensure you have enough time to meet it before leaving. If that's not an option, add the project to your vacation schedule so that you'll know exactly when to check with your team when it comes due.

Be creative with auto-responders.

Automation can help you in many ways, but communication is the first place to focus your automation. 

Luckily, there are a few ways you can automate your responses. You can use filters to automatically respond to emails with certain words in the subject line. For example, if someone sends you an email asking for advice about a project they're working on, you could have the filter send them a response that says something like: "I'm happy to help! Send me more information, and we can set up a time to connect." This way, if the person wants to schedule an appointment or get advice from you—they won't need to wait for your response!

You can also set up rules so that when certain people send emails (or when specific keywords show up), your email will handle them in a certain way. For example, I can filter my incoming mail and set aside all of my client inquiries into separate folders within Outlook. This way, I'll know where all the client inquiries are going without having them clutter up my inbox unnecessarily. 

Update your clients with email and social media.

Email and social media updates will be some of the first things people see before visiting your website. It's essential to communicate your status and tell them what to expect.

You can also update any other marketing materials that you have in circulation. For example, if you have business cards or postcards on hand with old summer hours, get rid of them! You don't want anyone getting confused or thinking they can hire you when you aren't available.

If you're an owner-operator, it's still okay to take a vacation!

Many of us in the service industry are owner-operators, meaning we don't have teams to rely on when we're gone. Being a business owner, that definitely creates a certain amount of stress knowing that you're the only one there to run things. But that doesn't mean you're never entitled to a vacation! Burnout and overwork are both very real. Taking time off – even if it might mean shutting the business for a week or more – is essential to keep you and your business refreshed and restored.

If you don't have a staff in place and it's just you, consider designating a specific period during the year as your holiday break. As long as you give your clients advance notice and tie up any loose ends before that period, it's okay to close the doors for a time. The main thing to acknowledge is that prioritizing rest and vacation doesn't make you a bad business owner. The rewards from taking a break will benefit you and your business when you're back: reduced stress, clearer thinking, and increased productivity. Proper time off is a more sustainable solution to keep you functioning at your best.

Conclusion

With all these tips, it can feel like you need to be a master of business management. But don't worry! Just focus on what's most important to you and take the time to plan for any unforeseen events. Take the proper steps to ensure there are no fires to put out when you're back so that you can adequately relax on your vacation instead of returning more stressed. Then use some of these ideas to automate your workflow so that even when things go wrong (and they will), it won't affect your time away. 

Finally, remember that taking time off is good for everyone - including your employees!

General
Category:
10 simple ways to go the extra mile with customers

You may think of customer service as the work you do in your clients’ homes, but it goes way beyond that—it's about how you carry yourself and treat people in general. In fact, many successful service businesses have built their reputations on going beyond just completing jobs; they've inspired customers with their professionalism, great attitudes, and general willingness to help whenever possible. 

I can think of one time I had a plumber in my home to fix a burst pipe. The first thing he did was take off his shoes before he entered so as not to track dirt inside. That level of respect for my home left a lasting impression on me! It went a long way toward building trust for him and his company and I never thought twice about calling him again.

Customer service is crucial for any home service business, but what’s more important is to be engaging, honest, and helpful so that you can go the extra mile for your customers every time.

Here are some simple customer service ideas you can use in your service business to set yourself apart from your competition:

1. Reach out. Don’t be afraid to make some calls.

The phone is an underutilized tool in the customer service arsenal, but it can be a powerful way to show your appreciation when you take the time to call someone who's given you their business. Call them up and ask them how they found you. Do they have any questions about the work done? Is there anything else that might make their experience better? Research has shown that a simple phone call works better to help people connect in a meaningful way. This type of personal touch will make for a lasting relationship with your customers—and it won't cost you much money at all!

2. Greet clients and prospects with a warm welcome

Have you ever stepped into a retail store and none of the sales people even bothered to look up and acknowledge you? You’d be surprised how far a simple ‘hello’ and a smile with eye contact goes. Even if you're busy, be sure to greet every client in person—it's a great way to set the tone for your relationship with them.

Use their name when you greet them and throughout your conversation. People like being recognized as individuals by those who serve them, so make it a point to use names whenever possible (including when addressing groups).

If you have a long list of open tasks on your agenda or are slammed at the office or on a job, don't let that interfere with showing up ready to serve the customers who matter most: those who've already shown interest in doing business with you! You'll turn off prospective clients if they get the impression that their needs aren't important enough for you to prioritize over yours.

3. Be honest about your skills and pricing

Be honest about your skills and pricing. Don’t over-promise, but don’t under-promise either. If you can usually do a job in one hour but you foresee this one taking three hours, tell the truth! Educate your client on the factors as to why and let them know if there are any delays in service that happened because of something outside of your control (like bad weather or an illness).

Be honest about the cost of materials if you have them on hand at a discounted rate for clients who use them for projects. For example, let's say that you sell tiles at wholesale prices as part of your business model; when someone purchases from you, they're paying retail prices anyway—so why not make up some ground by giving them some savings where they don't normally expect it? You could also offer services such as delivery or installation at no extra cost—because after all, what good is a discount if there's still an expense associated with obtaining said discount?

4. Offer reassurance to anxious customers

Make sure your customer knows you’re there for them. When customers are anxious about something, they need to feel reassured that you can help. So, let them know that everything will be okay: “I’m glad you called us about this problem; we want to make sure our customers are happy with their services. I know how frustrating it can be when things don't go as planned, but rest assured that I am here to help fix the situation as quickly as possible."

On the flip side, be transparent and honest if you don't have an answer yet. While offering them reassurance is important, sometimes a situation isn't clear-cut enough for a simple solution or quick resolution—in which case it may be best not offer any promises of fixing things right away until more information becomes available. Try this instead: "It sounds like there might be some work involved on our end in order to solve this problem--but since we've never dealt with anything like this before ourselves either, I'm not sure what exactly needs doing at the moment."

5. Go out of your way to provide helpful information

Be proactive with customers. You can’t assume that your customer understands the processes of the job involved. So be proactive in asking questions when talking to them to gather info that’s helpful in understanding their needs and wants better - including why they are looking for services like yours, along with what impact this would have on them (e.g., cost savings, time savings). 

Don't assume you have all the answers. Ask! While this may seem obvious, many businesses don't take any opportunities to dig deeper because they want quick sales rather than long-term relationships with their clients. Going above and beyond here will help generate repeat business down the road if done correctly.

6. Become an expert they can trust

You're a professional, and you want to be treated like one. That means that when you ask a customer for their opinion on your product or service, they should take the time to respond with constructive feedback. To earn that kind of respect from customers and clients alike, become an expert in your field by reading relevant books and articles, attending seminars and conferences related to your industry, and staying up-to-date on current trends in business.

Becoming an expert is also about building trust with customers—they'll feel more confident about trusting you when they can see that you know what you're talking about! You can earn this trust by being honest about what works best for them (and why), being reliable by showing up when expected or delivering work on time (or early).

7. Always clean up the job site

This should be a given, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve had experiences where service providers complete a job and leave a mess. A clean job site means a happy customer. It's easy to leave behind bits and pieces of your work, but it pays off in the long run to leave a clean space when the work is done. After all, what's the point of being done with a project if you're leaving work for someone else to deal with? The rule of thumb should be to treat and leave your clients’ space as good - if not better- as your own.

Another thing that customers appreciate is when workers clean up before they go home for the day. Show care and consideration on behalf of everyone involved in getting something done right.

8. Don't be afraid to apologize when appropriate

Apologizing is a skill that can be learned and perfected through practice. You don’t need to be perfect; it’s better to apologize than not, especially when it comes to customer service. Apologizing is beneficial for both parties involved because it demonstrates an understanding of the issue and shows your willingness to fix the problem, even if you weren’t the one at fault.

Effective apologies are simple: they include an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, an explanation of what went wrong, why it was wrong (if applicable), how you plan on fixing the problem and what steps you'll take next time something similar happens. In addition, an effective apology should avoid blaming others or making excuses—which means saying things like "I'm sorry" or "This isn't good enough." Instead, express regret for having disappointed someone's expectations by saying something like: “I know this isn't what we agreed upon but I'm going to try my best."

9. Always follow up

Once you've done a job for a customer, don't walk away and leave them hanging. If you're the type who's good at following up, it can be an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your customers and make sure they're satisfied—and happy to refer you in the future.

Here are some great ways to follow up after completing a job:

Call or text. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly phone call to put someone's mind at ease and confirm that everything went well. At the very least, this demonstrates that your company cares about getting things right!

Following up doesn't have to only pertain to after the job, either. A quick followup call or text to a prospect who didn't get back to you after an estimate also shows a commitment to relationship building and follow-through. If you haven't thought about using text messaging for followups, you should check out ServiceMonster's CHIIRP integration to see how you can easily automate followups with prospects or current clients. It's a great way to win warm leads and get repeat business!

Send a handwritten note or card. A handwritten note from someone means so much more than just an email or text message—it takes time and effort on their part as well as yours for both parties involved (which is why it's worth doing!). Plus, people love receiving snail mail these days!

Send a gift card or voucher for their next purchase/service with you. This could be used toward any follow-up services you offer that are specific to the work you just did or a coupon or discount code tucked in a handwritten thank you card. If you were particularly pleased with how understanding they were with a tough situation, consider sending them free merchandise or added services as well.

10. Handwritten thank you cards

Sound old-fashioned? Maybe so, but it works! Handwritten thank you cards are an excellent way to express gratitude and build lasting relationships with your customers. With the rise of social media and text, handwritten notes are far more meaningful than digital messages.

A handwritten note is a great way to show your customers that you care. You can use a template or make it unique, but the important thing is that you add your personal touch and let them know how much they mean to you. 

It's also a nice way to show customers that their business matters. If they see their order has been carefully packaged, they're more likely to believe that other aspects of their experience with your company are being cared for as well.

Did you know that ServiceMonster has an automated feature to help you do this very thing? It's called FillMySchedule, and instead of handwriting and mailing cards yourself, you can let ServiceMonster take care of it all with one tap of a button. It's one of the easiest ways to get repeat business and will come back in spades when it comes time for reviews! Customers remember good service and tell others about it—especially if there's something specific about it, like a personalized, handwritten note.

Remember, it’s the little things that often stand out

Customers remember the little things. They’re not just looking for a good service experience; they want an exceptional one—the kind that makes them feel special and appreciated. So go the extra mile in whatever ways you can: deliver above and beyond, send thank-you cards when someone has chosen you for their services, and even leave handwritten notes on receipts thanking them for their business (seriously!).

Customers remember how you make them feel. One of the best ways to make customers feel special is by going above and beyond their expectations and making sure experiences are memorable for all the right reasons—not because something went wrong!

If you want to build customer loyalty and make a lasting impression on your customers, then it's important to go the extra mile with them. By doing small things that show you care about their needs and wants, they'll be more inclined to trust in your service and return again in the future.

General
Category:
Spot Out: The Story of Growing a Successful Family Business

How a Family-Owned Cleaning & Restoration Company Used ServiceMonster to Make More Time and Grow From Owner-Operators to a Fleet of Technicians

Spot Out is a well-known floor care company in the Coachella Valley owned by Josh and Connie Klopfenstein. For almost 25 years, loyal customers have been trusting them with all of their high-end cleaning and restoration needs. Josh and Connie believe in offering only first class experiences, and they’ve made it their goal to set themselves apart from the competition by educating their customers with knowledgeable and informed expertise along with providing unsurpassed levels of thoughtful and personalized service.

Watch The Interview:

A Scalable Solution to Operating Your Business (Hint: It’s not doing everything with pen and paper)

In their early days as a family operation, Connie took over admin duties to help her husband, Josh, while he was moonlighting to start his carpet cleaning business. After some time, though, she found herself struggling with multi-tasking and the manual tasks involved with keeping track of new jobs and work orders - whether that was sending follow-up cards after each job or taking phone calls and booking jobs while at her kids’ baseball games. Doing everything with pen and paper was proving too chaotic and, as a result, this juggling left her with little faith that her current system of operations was a reliable one. The final straw was the one evening she forgot her business scheduling calendar at her daughter’s guitar lesson. Every record of the next day’s jobs and beyond disappeared in the blink of an eye! That’s when she knew things had to change and that she needed a way to reliably keep track of things. 

Josh and Connie began looking for a business solution. ServiceMonster was the easy choice to help automate all those tasks that Connie was previously completing by hand. They could stop relying on physical invoices and job folders to carry to each job, and Connie could stop having to rely on a calendar notebook to write down each client that needed to be scheduled. With ServiceMonster, Connie could now easily handle work orders and scheduling from her phone - all while still balancing life with kids and raising a family. Now she can schedule jobs from anywhere like a pro!

One of the Best Things You Can Do for Customer Retention

Besides reducing the chaos and clutter of pen and paper work orders and scheduling, one of the big things for Connie that set ServiceMonster apart from other service business softwares was FillMySchedule (otherwise known as FMS), ServiceMonster’s in-house automated marketing feature that sends out stamped, addressed high quality thank-you and follow-up cards to clients. Connie was already sending follow-up cards as a way to stay true to Spot Out’s ’old-fashioned service experience’ because it added a great personal touch and was a way to show appreciation for their customers’ business and loyalty. But instead of writing and sending each one by hand, now she could send them out with just a few clicks. And clients loved receiving them! 

For Spot Out and other companies, FillMyService is an excellent way to show how much you value your customers, as well as a great tool to get repeat business. If you want to read more about how a vast majority of ServiceMonster users have had their biggest growth and customer retention by using FMS, go here.

Be More Efficient and Manage Your Time Better

During Josh’s early days working as a delivery driver, time and efficiency was drilled into him. Subsequently, he carried this work ethic into his own business practice. So it was important to Josh that he be able to get the most work done in the shortest amount of time, and for the quality of client that he had. Introducing a software to do the things that he and Connie couldn’t - or didn’t want to - do themselves was key to keeping them professional and efficient.

Know Your Business To Make Better Informed Decisions

As a budding young business owner, Josh also understood there were certain aspects of his business that were still unfamiliar and new, like bookkeeping. With its QuickBooks integration, ServiceMonster helped him get a better grasp of where his company stood financially. Also, being able to see and track reports of his business progress helped him to make better informed decisions, such as being able to identify which clients brought the highest ROI and which ones who might not be the best fit.

Keep You and Your Employees on Track

After a few years, Josh and Connie were able to expand their business and hire new employees. For a long time, they were using route packets and handwritten invoices with job folders containing each client’s necessary paperwork. Just this year they went mobile using ServiceMonster! Now, both they and their techs are able to have visibility and tools from their mobile devices. Josh and Connie can see how far away techs are from the next job, and their techs are able to do a variety of things right in the home, like quote and collect payments.

Make Difficult Estimates Easy on Techs

ServiceMonster also allows for pre-filled pricing menus within the CRM, which Spot Out techs could refer to and quote with. This took a lot of stress and fear away from techs having to present high priced ticket items to the client, while allowing them to be consistent and build credibility.

Make Your Life Better with a Service Business CRM 

Adding ServiceMonster as their customer relationship management tool has helped Spot Out be more professional, more efficient, and to keep their highest ROI clients. Their goal of running a successful cleaning business while managing a family is now simpler than ever. As a result, they’ve even been able to make more time for themselves and expand their business to hire employees.

General
Category:
Guerrilla Marketing: Is Door Knocking Good For Business?

Going door-to-door is one of the most effective ways to get your name out there, especially when you're just starting or facing a business shortfall. It's inexpensive and quick, and it allows you the chance to meet face-to-face with potential clients. However, there are a few things you should consider before you start knocking on doors to sell your service. In this post, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of door-knocking so you can determine if it’s a good fit for your business.

Door-to-door sales for your service business: what it is and isn't

Door-to-door sales is a term used to describe going door-to-door to sell a product or service. But what is it in practice?

The stereotypical door-to-door salesperson that we think of is often someone who works for a direct selling company. Direct selling companies are companies that sell products directly to consumers through direct sales representatives, who are independent contractors that make a commission off of every sale. Direct selling companies have been around since the 1940s; many are legitimate companies with good products. Still, their commission-based pay structure encourages salespeople to be unrelenting in securing a sale. The pay structure of direct selling companies and the behavior of their salespeople have given door-to-door selling a lousy wrap with consumers. 

It's essential to understand the difference between an independent contractor working for a big direct selling company and a business owner selling a service. You might be using the same approach to sales, but you aren't in the same category. 

Suppose you work for a direct sales company, and you're still reading this post. In that case, it's a good time to stop because the strategies here won't be half as effective for you as they are for a service business and an independent entrepreneur. 

The advantages of door-to-door sales for your service business

1: Reach a wider audience

One of the most significant advantages of door-knocking is that you can reach a wider audience than other forms of marketing. Service businesses offer things that every homeowner needs, and chances are there are people in your area who would be interested in hiring you. Door-to-door sales lets you reach customers without them finding your product online or through advertising.

2: Connect with potential customers

With most forms of marketing or sales, connecting with customers in person is impossible, but knocking on doors almost guarantees you'll meet a future customer. Meeting customers means getting to know your customers and their needs before they hire you. Knowing your customers is especially important if they have to trust you when you enter their homes to perform a service. You can't get this personal connection via phone calls or emails alone.

3: Tailor your sales approach

The number one advantage of door-to-door sales for home service businesses is seeing a potential customer's home, which lets you tailor your sales pitch. For example, suppose your company specializes in pressure washing, and you see grime and oil spots on their driveway. In that case, you can explain to them how pressure washing would make it look good as new and even tell them the exact methods you would use. Lawn care and landscaping are also industries where this approach works well, as is any industry where you can see the area you're servicing from outside. This strategy of assessing and addressing the customer's needs on-site before you even knock on the door is only possible with door-to-door sales.

The disadvantages of door-to-door sales in the home service industry

1: Unpredictability

When you sell your services door-to-door, unpredictability is a part of the job. You never know what you'll find when you knock on someone's door: maybe they'll be in the mood to talk, perhaps they'll be annoyed you're there, or maybe they won't answer their door. While there are ways to make it a valuable knock regardless of what happens, you will need to knock on many doors to find people interested in your service. Impatience won't help you win door-to-door. 

2: No solicitation policies and legal considerations

Laws in many states make it illegal for door-to-door salespeople to solicit customers without obtaining permission from those customers or during certain hours of the day. Specific homeowners associations may have policies, and some homeowners will post a no-solicitation sign. It's best if you check with your state's Department of Consumer Affairs before you start knocking on doors. 

When researching local laws, remember that many things fall under the legal definition of solicitation, so look specifically for laws and policies that apply to selling services door to door. An excellent place to start your research is library.municode.com, a website with an extensive database of municipal codes that is free to use. You may also want to call your local municipality to check. Most importantly, always respect the homeowner's wishes if they ask you not to solicit their home, and leave the neighborhood when asked. Overstaying your welcome in a community can damage your company's reputation. 

3: The walk and the weather 

Another disadvantage of door-to-door sales is that you have to walk around in all weather conditions. Bad weather can be uncomfortable and even dangerous if you don't prepare. Still, planning and preparation make it much more manageable. Because you will be walking door-to-door, the terrain and the area's layout can make or break a day of selling. 

In the next Guerrilla Marketing post: we'll go over tools and strategies to make door-to-door sales successful in practice. Stay tuned!

General
Category:
Putting Yourself Out of Business

Adapt to Meet Your Goals

The world is changing fast, and your business must adapt to meet your goals. Expectations from vendors have changed as costs continue to rise, expectations of employees have changed as their ambitions have shifted, and expectations of clients continue to change as older service businesses shut down and new ones replace them.

From 2021 until the 2nd quarter of 2022, the amount of cleaning businesses closing their doors increased by a factor of 4 and those numbers haven’t shown any signs of slowing.

Put Yourself Out Of Business Before The Market Does

In 1990, if you had the right equipment, a yellow-page ad, and an employee manual, you could operate a successful service business with little else.

In 2010, you needed the right equipment, a good number of referrals, a decent website, pay-per-click ads on google, and a good relationship with your employees.

In 2018, you needed the right equipment, a good number of referrals, a decent website, pay-per-click ads on google, a good relationship with your employees, software experience, content creation, digital ads, and social media presence.

The number of skills required to run a successful service business have radically changed since 1990. It’s not enough that you do good work and have deep knowledge and dedication to the craft. Now in 2022, you need all that and more hoping to break even. If your business is thriving, congratulations. You’ve either adapted or you have benefited from other service providers closing shop.

New businesses are always better equipped to leverage the current environment. In a very real sense of the word, at some point you must be prepared to build the business that will replace you. But how do you do that? How do you hack changes in your current business that will allow for these changes?

Measure

Every business generates the data needed for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). You must know what changes will affect you bottom line. Tracking Cost of Goods Sold (COGs), Margins, repeat rate (for residential), average invoice, services income breakdown, sales pipeline, lead source acquisition, schedule capacity, recurring revenue, and ad attributions.

Once you have visibility, you can attack low hanging fruit and watch how changes in your business influence your KPIs.

Differentiate

Set yourself apart from the sea of options on the market. There are two ways you can do this. You should do both. First is to identify yourself as an All-Star service provider. This is super easy because the bar is so low.

I will:

answer my phone

show up on time

be smart like a guru

educate my client

manage expectations

be fresh and clean

develop an intentional retention strategy

smile more and be sure

clean my equipment.


And if there is a problem, do my best to fix it


The second way to differentiate yourself is to BE DIFFERENT! Shocking, I know. Opportunities here should be tracked. Consider using index cards for your ideas. Leave nothing out, no matter how crazy or expensive. Take each card and rank them on two values. 1- Difficulty (time, cost, knowledge, etc.), and target impact on your business. Rank each of these as either LITTLE or BIG.

Impact card example

The number of ideas you can come up with is nearly unlimited but here are a few creative options we have seen. Automated recurring services, community outreach, trucks and vans with bubbles, a caricature of the owner or animal as a mascot, hi-tech posturing, costumes, online services for clients, using local lore/teams/attractions as inspiration, a list of services presented like a restaurant menu, and on and on it goes.


Streamline

Never make your client work harder than they have to. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I once went 3 months before paying a service provider. It wasn’t intentional but I was shocked that in 2019 they didn’t take credit cards! He sent one invoice via snail mail, and I had to make a special trip to the bank to get a check printed. When I remembered on my own, I had yet to pay it. I don’t know if they take cards now because I never used them again. If they would have sent me a text or email with a link to a payment portal he would have been paid before he left the driveway and I would have used his services again.

Similarly, when we moved ServiceMonster to Bellingham in 2007, I wanted to get my carpet cleaned before I moved into our new home. I called three service providers and left three messages (read: answer your phone). I didn’t receive a single return call. I remembered that when I opened the truck roll-up door in front of my new house. If any of them would have followed-up, it would have been an easy job.

You should streamline your internal processes (like follow-ups, call-backs, and reminders) to make it easy and traceable for your team. This also includes access to their schedule and reports on their own individual KPIs. Streamlining your business can help reduce employee turnover and costs while giving you every opportunity to win new business and keep existing clients.

In order to thrive in our current business environment, we must learn to adapt. By putting the right systems in place, like ServiceMonster, you can make measuring, differentiation, and streamlining much easier.


General
Category:
Lead Capture and Automated Marketing

To automate your marketing strategy, two core facets need to be addressed. The first is capturing attention and acquiring leads, the second is the follow-up after you capture them. Before addressing any of the processes involved in automated marketing, you need a place for potential leads to land on the internet. The web presence of your business is crucial to potential customers contacting you. This includes your social media (i.e., Facebook and Instagram) your google business presence, and a strong website.

Social media can be addressed in a wide variety of ways, but it is good to post at least a couple times a week. These posts can be before and after pictures of job sites, “value add” posts that explain the benefits your service offers, or positive reviews of your business (NiceJob offers an excellent product that automatically turns your best reviews into social posts.) While not the cornerstone of your marketing strategy, social media is a great way to build trust with web-based leads.

Google’s business is centered around managing your reviews on google, which is critical to your business being found on the internet. Google functions as the modern phone book and is the first-place people will go when searching for a service. Google geolocates your business and will place it above normal websites if you have strong reviews and manage your presence through the google business suite. Your website is where you capture a lead.

When a potential customer finds your business, the website for your business is where they go to learn more about your company and book an appointment. On your website it is essential to have a lead capture form, where they enter their information for you to follow up with them. The information you collect from leads is essential to automating your marketing strategy.

 

Here is a hypothetical journey of a potential customer. First, they query google, for example they search “HVAC installation.” Google automatically finds their location, and matches them with results in their area, displaying a list of businesses in google maps at the top of the search results. These results include a phone number, links to social media, and a star-based rating. Most importantly they include a link to your website. This is where a potential lead will vet your business, checking your past reviews, social media presence, and the information on your website. From there, they can call you via the number you have listed on google or opt to book a call or appointment from your website. In a best-case scenario, they either call you directly from google, which you can track via the google business suite, or they navigate to your website where they book a call or appointment. This is where the magic happens.

 If they are booking through your website, you can capture their information directly through a form. For example, you could have a form that asks “Interested in our services?” and provides a way for them to schedule a phone consultation. This form can ask for a variety of information, but their name, phone, and email are essential. If you want to go beyond this, we recommend asking for specifics about the type of work they are interested in so that you can address their needs as soon as you contact them.Once they enter information on your site, you need a system in place that notifies you and creates a customer record in a database. While you can use a tool like google sheets to log this data, it is best to create a record in a CRM (customer retention management) database. CRM products offer a suite of tools that let you track interactions with a potential customer and eventually convert them into a paying customer. A CRM also makes it easy to manually add a customer if they come to you organically, in other words through a source that is out of your control, like finding your phone number.

After you have started to build a database of leads, it’s time to market your service to them. It is incredibly important to operate a complete and accurate database, so that you are not wasting time and money marketing to customers that are not truly interested in the service you provide. A preemptive step you can take to help maintain a clean database is to ask more from your customers in the form where the lead is captured. While asking more of potential leads early on will result in some dropping off before submitting their information, it will result in only the most motivated clients making it into your database.

With your database built and cleaned, there are a plethora of ways that you can automate marketing to these leads, but before automating marketing it is critical that you make the initial contact directly. This can be a phone call to discuss their needs, or an email responding to the details they listed in your lead capture form. No matter how you directly follow up, it is important to do so quickly. When a customer reaches out, it is rare that they only reach out to one provider, with most opting to reach out to the top 2-5 companies they find in their initial search. A prompt response increases your chances of winning their business and is a near guarantee that you will beat a competitor that fails to respond within the first 24 hours. 

After initially reaching out, it’s time for automation to take over. The most direct way to automate your marketing is through something called a drip campaign. A drip campaign is a series of emails that are scheduled to go out after a specified period elapses and begin when a customer is added to that email list. As an example, an initial email is sent that thanks the lead for reaching out, a week later an email is sent that outlines/clarifies the services your business offers, and two weeks later a final email promotes a deal or specific service. Through your CRM or customer database, you can automate updates to the drip campaign process. This will allow you to set a rule that removes a lead from the drip campaign if they book an appointment or move them to another drip campaign if they request a quote but do not book an appointment. This sort of automation ensures your marketing stays relevant to a given client and alters the messages you send them based on their interaction with your business.

Automated marketing can work wonders for past clients as well. In fact, you may have a longer list of past clients than new leads, especially if you are new to lead generation. A drip campaign that sends follow up emails after a job is completed can be a great way to leave a positive impression after you have completed work, oreven request that the customer leave a review on google.

Mass email campaigns, on the other hand, work differently than drip campaigns in that they send a single email to a large list all at the same time. Mass emails are a good way to seasonally remind clients of your services or promote specials. If you operate a cleaning business, it is easy to send a spring-cleaning reminder to all your past clients, or if you are struggling to book jobs during the off season you can offer a discount to all your past clients via email. Again, this is a place where a proper CRM has advantages over a simpler database system, because it can facilitate the generation of lists based on advanced qualifiers so that you can separate customers by the type of services they need, or their last date serviced, allowing you to tailor your mass emails to match the needs of customers more accurately. Past clients are some of the best customers to market to because they have already chosen to do business with you, making the sales process easier than if they are simply shopping around for a service.

 

Email marketing is the cornerstone of a marketing automation strategy, so make sure you're doing it right. ServiceMonster offers a suite of tools focused on marketing automation, including a full CRM capable of drip campaigns.




General
Category:
Welcome to Homeschool

From the desk of ServiceMonster CEO Joe Kowalski:

Some general advice from the husband of a homeschool parent.

What just happened?

With the current shutdown orders in place for US citizens, most public and private schools have closed their doors to students for the rest of the school year. Many states have scrambled to get students some sort of direction, suggestions, and/or remote learning access, albeit with varying degrees of success. Parents who are in the middle of their own stressful changes are suddenly responsible for their children’s education. Parents may feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and a bit freaked out by the entire situation. I get it. It’s scary to think that, out of the blue, the daily education of your children currently rests in your hands.

Relax. It’s going to be okay. Your children will thrive even if you completely screw-up the next 5 months. I know this because I’ve experienced a more controlled version firsthand. About 12 years ago, my wife and I decided to start homeschooling our children. It was a major struggle for me to get used to that idea. We have 6 children now but at that time we were raising our first two. They were both super bright. I was terrified that we would fail to give them the direction and education they needed, that they would fall behind their peers or that they would not live up to their full potential. I was so very wrong.

I was raised in a public-school environment and indoctrinated into the system. I believed in our public schools and even accepted its many flaws. It was simply easier. Easier to leave the task of educating our children to the professionals. I have a lot of respect for educators, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that, in my opinion, it’s not the best learning environment for the kids. The best environment is one-on-one, much like the aristocracy did for thousands of years. The education is adapted to the child. Not the other way around.

Now I don’t think everyone should suddenly start homeschooling. What I would like to do is provide a bit of relief for parents who are worried. Your kids will be just fine heading into their next year, even if you do nothing until September. Have them follow the local schools plan as best they can but don’t beat yourself/them up over it. I’ll break the following article into two parts. The first will provide some basic suggestions to get you and your children through until the next school year. The second will attempt to provide a bit of guidance if homeschooling is something you are now considering.

What now?

Social media is plastered with frustrated parents trying to become the administrator for their child’s education. Managing the schedule for multiple siblings, controlling computer and screen time, ensuring they are paying attention and attempting to tutor them when they get stuck or need help can nearly be a full-time job by itself. Let’s see how we can ease the burden a bit.

  • When possible, try to establish a routine schedule. Recognize that in a focused learning environment, they don’t need the 6 to 8 hours they spend in school to get their studies completed. In fact, most of the parents I have talked with that had an easy time making the adjustment, were surprised that they only need 2 to 3 hours a day to complete their studies.
  • Be flexible but keep them accountable. Make sure to take the time to review their work. You can randomize it if you want so that you don’t look over their shoulder for every assignment, just make them aware – you’re watching.
  • For kids with systems you did not get training in (think common core) don’t take the easy way out. If you attempt to go around or undo the program that their teachers, school, and district has carefully created for all students, what lesson are you REALLY teaching them? I can see it now; “No, Ms. Krabappel, we don’t do it that way in my house. My dad said it was stupid so you have to teach me the other way”. Realize that unless you have spent a few hundred hours studying the art of education, you’re going to do more damage than good by bucking the system. If your intention is to help them, then have them teach you what they know.
  • Have them teach you what they know regardless. One of the best ways to ensure someone knows something, is to have them teach it to someone else. Not only does it display mastery, but it can also root the knowledge.
  • For teenagers, try to get them to do their studies in the common areas. It’s way too easy to lose focus and end up on a Discord server with friends or playing video games.
  • Create a cut-off time for school. Let’s face it, most kids have been conditioned to dislike school. Give them a carrot. At a specific time each day, let them pursue their own interests as long as the day’s work was fruitful.

Consider Homeschooling

All of that is well and good. As I stated, if you’re invested in your kid’s education, it’s unlikely you’ll screw them up before September. However, many families are seriously considering making the switch more permanent. Under those conditions, any friction one may have had with the schools, the curriculum, or the teachers, nearly vanishes. There is almost an infinite amount of ways you can go about educating your own children, resulting in what can be a confusing and stressful first year or so. If you are thinking of homeschooling, realize that the burden will be yours. You are going to have to do a fair bit of learning yourself to figure it all out.

In my opinion, as a homeschool father, my #1 goal is to install intellectual curiosity and rational thought. If I can do that, we both win.

Curriculum

Some parents are surprised that you can’t buy a “school in a box”. There is no one best solution that you can purchase, learn, and teach. Instead define the topics that you AND your child would like to tackle and find resources for the task. Yes. Both of you.

Institutionally Assisted Learning

While you’ll find a lot of information about all the other methods of homeschooling, Institutionally Assisted Learning is my personal term. It’s the idea that you can homeschool your child using the resources available to you from your school district. Educational materials are not inexpensive. Some parents find that the financial assistance that is available from some school districts helps to ease the financial burden and fog of war by providing much of the curriculum that you may need. There are strings attached though, such as regular testing, documentation requirements, and regular counseling.

The Classical Method

The classical method is one of the more popular teaching styles for homeschool parents. Mostly because it has been around since ancient Greece. This technique is centered around the Great Books. The subjects are interwoven into a chronological reading plan. This way the student gets the benefit of learning in historical context. The Classical Method also makes heavy use of dialog, fostering rich conversations and debate over the material while encouraging a deeper understanding beyond simple comprehension.

Montessori Method

Montessori is much more modern than the Classical Method. It was created around the turn of the century by physician and educator, Marian Montessori for her work around kids with special needs. Physical learning tools called manipulatives provide a tactile experience while helping the child understand the concepts in physical form. Montessori is an independent learning system where the teacher provides guidance and instructs indirectly. Large time blocks (up to 3 hours) of unstructured learning encourages free movement and independent thought. Uneducated observers might look at a Montessori environment and simple see kids “playing”. Upon further observation, they will see the sneaky and well-structured teaching technique. This method is better suited for smaller children.

Student-Led Learning

Another teaching technique popular with homeschool parents is called Student-Led Learning. In this style, the student (with guidance and direction from the parent) decides what he or she would like to learn or what topics they would like to learn about.

Here is an example. Let’s say Jonny is super into Greek Mythology. Go deep. Study the Odyssey and the Iliad. Read about Greek society. Look into the great western philosophers. Study the Art of the Argument handed to us by Aristotle. Study the Pythagorean theorem and Euclidean geometry. With one subject which the child is interested in, you can cover, math, science, history, philosophy, and sociology. And it works.

Unschooling

Most traditionally educated parents have a hard time understanding the unschooling concept. Let’s start with what it’s not. It is NOT an excuse to provide no schooling and be lazy with the effort. It’s not No-School. Unschooling takes the idea that everything is a learning and teaching opportunity. The student must first be well grounded in the basics of reading, math, and science before being allowed to learn from the world. It’s very much like Student-Led Learning but also promotes the idea of lifelong learning.

Conclusion

Homeschooling rules differ from state to state, so be sure to do your homework to find out what requirements your state may have for you, your child, and their education. Some states simply require you to file (so they know not to send the school money for your kid) while others require testing and a visit with a district educator.

I haven’t touched on some of the more common concerns of parents, such as support network, socialization, pace, and so on, but know that most of these concerns are non-issues as long as you are making the effort. Find a homeschool association in your county. Talk to other homeschool partners in your area.

Effort is the key. This is going to take real effort on your part, but the benefits, as I have seen over and over, can far outweigh the risks. You’ll get more family time, your child will get richer education, and you can choose your own methods from year to year. Fair warning though, if you simply pull them out of school to not teach them, or simply teach them what you think you know, there is a risk they will be underprepared for the adult world. Yes, it’s a big responsibility. But I think it’s completely worth it.

General
Category: