What if we told you the secret to doubling your close rates starts with that first phone call? That’s right! Your business’s customer service representatives have a bigger hand in crafting a positive customer experience and driving more sales than you think. Here to share his vast insight on the matter is Zac Garside, CEO of Power Selling Pros. Zac and his team have honed in on training CSRs to deliver a wow experience so that when the homeowner meets their technician, they cannot help but say yes. In this episode, he highlights the impact of customer service calls and shares tips on how to help your reps do their job well. Zac shares a ton of value in this episode, so grab your pen and take notes on what you need to do to improve your sales.
Double Your Close Rates With Zac Garside
Many businesses worry about what happens when they train and invest in their people. “What happens if we train them and they leave?” it’s been said. You probably heard how this ends. What happens if we don’t and they stay? For many businesses out there right now, turnover, employee retention, and hiring new people, it’s a challenge.
Our guest narrowed their focus so much on the customer service rep that it’s all they do. The team over at Power Selling Pros coaches and trains CSRs to help them deliver a wow experience so that when that homeowner meets your technician, they can’t help but say yes. There’s so much synergy in what we do over at Core Matters with helping companies attract, hire, or train great people, and what Power Selling Pros is doing by training them. This was an exciting conversation for me. There is so much value. Get ready to take some notes as I welcome our guest, Zac Garside, the CEO of Power Selling Pros.
Zac, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much.
I’m excited about this conversation. We do a lot in helping home service contractors find customer service reps. Not just any customer service rep, but the good ones. I’m sure that’s what all your clients want as well. Tell me a little bit about Power Selling Pros. My first question for you is what is the biggest myth about customer service reps and their ability to sell and close that you want to share with our readers?
Brigham Dickinson is the Founder of the company. He was doing advertising for contractors several years ago. He got the typical beef that his clients gave him that all marketing agencies get. That is the leads are no good. These leads, they’re not what we want. They’re not whom we want to work with. They want a ballpark price. They want to talk to our technicians.
Brigham, 1) Out of desperation because his first business had failed and he did not want to let this one fail, too. Number 2) Out of experience because he’d been a CSR before, saved the business by saying, “Let me coach your CSRs, those people taking the leads. I bet you if I coach them that you’ll realize you don’t have a lead problem. You have a customer service problem.” That’s what he did. He coached the CSRs and it was like magic. He increased the booking rate. The customer experience got better. They sold more services over the phone. His marketing agency transformed into what we are now, which is CSR training for home services.
I love that so much. People come to me all the time saying, “Ryan, we have a hiring problem.” I always ask them, “In 2021, how many people were on your team at the end of the year?” They’ll be like “Twelve.” “How many W-2s did you issue?” “47.” “You don’t have a hiring problem. You have an employee experience and a retention problem.” When you were telling that story, I was like, “I got to share my own because that’s how I got where I’m at.” Great synergy. This myth, you have a lead problem, but it’s not. You have a customer service problem. That’s what I heard.
Think about it. If you go into any home service business that is struggling to grow and needs help, “Please help us figure out what we need to do to grow,” the first thing they should look at is the highest point of leverage, the lowest hanging fruit. It is the phone calls you’re already getting. There are already people picking up the phone to call you. Are they booking with you? At least 90%. If it’s anything less than 90%, you could be doing better. It doesn’t cost you anything. They’re already calling. All you got to do is figure out how to provide a better customer experience so that they’ll book with you and not call anyone else.
I’ve talked to a lot of contractors over the years and they’ll tell me, “I get better leads here, better leads there, whatever it is.” I almost always see the conversion rate is like 20% or 25%. You use 90% in your example. Is it possible to close more?Change does not happen once. You don't go to the gym for two hours and you're suddenly ripped. You have to have a plan for consistent growth feedback, accountability training. Click To Tweet
You don’t have to deal with the 20% close rate?
You call this myth number two. Everybody thinks customers are looking for the lowest price. “I use price as a filter,” people say. “I have an $89 dispatch charge. That’s to filter out the price drop versus the cheap customers.” Somebody is calling you with a problem that you solve, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, garage door, pest control, or carpet cleaning. If you solve a problem, why are you losing 80% of those calls? The only reason that you should lose 80% of the calls is if your marketing’s terrible and you’re getting the wrong number calls all the time. You’re getting people calling, looking for Pizza Hut, and you’re a plumbing business. If they have a problem, why would you say, “20% is our average?” Do you mean 80% of the people who call you the problem hang up and continue having the problem?
Why don’t companies fix it?
There are many reasons. There are five main ones though. Number one is because of the CSR position. The call handler is notoriously the highest turnover, lowest paid, least respected, least trained person in the business. A lot of business owners think, “That’s how it is.” I remember I visited a large call center with a pretty big turnover problem. I asked him, “What are you guys doing about this?” He said, “It’s customer service. That’s how it is.” I said, “It’s going to keep being that way if that’s how you think of it. You can’t think of it that way. Otherwise, you’re going to have those problems.” I know businesses where CSRs have been there for 5 to 10 years. They love it. It’s career culture.
The number one reason people don’t work on it is that they assume it’s how it is. It’s customer service. We have to deal with it. The second reason is that change is hard. Old habits die hard. A business owner will invest in training. “We’re going to do training for a day. I’m going to get my call center manager to train them for a couple of hours.” They expect change to happen, which it won’t. Change does not happen once. You don’t go to the gym for two hours and you’re suddenly ripped. You have to have a plan for consistent growth, feedback, accountability, and training. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to sustain an in-house training program. That’s why most companies don’t have one. Those are the biggest things right there though.
I hear so much truth in that. As business owners, especially smaller contractors, they’ve got 37 different things they have to worry about every single day, put together a training program, hold their people accountable, coach them, and listen to calls. I imagine sometimes it feels like a waste, like, “I’m doing all this work and putting all this energy and I’m not getting anything out of it.”
It’s one of the reasons people reach out to us. I call it the cool uncle effect. They come to us and say, “I’ve been trying to teach them. I’ve been trying to change them. Nothing’s changing. I figure maybe a third party like yourself could help.”
Help me understand this a little bit. If we invest in our CSRs, it sounds silly to say it, but we can 4X our closing rate.
Let’s do some math for a second. What is an average company’s average ticket? $300, $500 somewhere in that range. Let’s say you book, not even quadruple your close rate. Let’s say you book one more call a day than you are right now. One of those customers that hangs up because they don’t like the price or you can’t get there soon enough or they’re shopping around, you look one more of those a day. You’ve got 250 working days in the average year. $300 average ticket, 250 working days, $75,000 in extra revenue from one more call than you’re booking right now. That’s all. That’s it. This doesn’t cost you anything. That call’s already covered. By the time you’re reading this, you probably lost a phone call you could have booked.
I see how you did the math, but I can see a lot of contractors like, “Our CSRs don’t close. We’ve got to send a tech out, do the estimate, and then it’s up to the tech to close. We’re booking calls well, but our closing rate’s not that good,” what do you say to companies like that?
Do you know Tommy Mello?
I do. I was on his podcast.
I was on his also. He told me a great story. When his mom was answering his phone, she would pick up that phone with so much energy and joy. She’d be like, “Tommy’s coming to your house. You’re going to love him. He’s amazing.” She would get these customers so excited for him to come out. When he got there, people would hug him. They’d be so excited. “Thanks for coming out. I’m grateful.”Customers do not buy from the best companies. They buy from the companies that understand them the best. Click To Tweet
The CSR can influence the close rate because they’re pre-framing the customer. If the CSR provides a bad experience, your technician has to work a little harder now because that customer is pre-framed to be skeptical, like, “The person who answered the phone was not pleasant. Hopefully, this guy’s not the same.” If the CSR is amazing, then your technician probably has a better shot of closing the job.
We talked about that customer experience that you mentioned earlier. It starts with that CSR phone call. If they frame it right, it makes every other part of the process so much easier. Let’s talk about some action items, some things that our readers can do without going in and firing all their CSRs and starting over because they’re not performing. What are some things that they can do, quick hit things? I love the things where they can get a nugget and by 5:00 at the end of the day, they’ve already implemented it. What are a couple of quick things they can do to help their CSRs right now?
The quickest thing you can do is number 1) Make sure you’re recording your phone calls. That’s the place to start. You have to record your calls. You can get some traction, but call recording is where you find real power. You got to record your phone calls. Number 2) Make sure that your CSRs start every phone call by saying three words. They pick up the phone. They say, “Thanks for calling Awesome Heating and Air. This is Zac speaking. How can I help you?” The customer says, “My air conditioner’s not working.”
The first three words you should say in response to that almost every single time are, “Tell me more.” That’s it. Incorporate the words, “Tell me more,” into your call scripting. That’s the first thing you should do because most companies immediately launch into, “Have we ever done business with you before? What’s your address?” They treat it like it’s just a transaction. You want it to be more than a transaction. You want the customer to know that you’re listening to them and that you understand them.
Customers do not buy from the best companies. They buy from the companies that understand them the best. Show them that you understand them a little better by asking, “Tell me more.” They’ll tell you what’s going on, and then you can go on and solve the problem. Book the call. That little thing improves the customer experience significantly. It helps you book more calls because customers feel more understood. It makes the job better. Nobody wants to feel like they’re mindlessly processing transactions. If I’m going to be sitting here answering phones all day, I might as well have fun with them. I might as well have good conversations with people.
“Tell me more,” can transform that experience, but also set your CSRs up for success.
I’ll add one last thing, “When would you like us to come out?” A lot of CSRs will answer every question under the sun. They’ll tell you how much it costs, what the schedule looks like right now, and how long we’ve been in business, but few ask that customer, “Mr. Jones, when would you like us to come out?” The best simple question increases a lot of people’s booking rates.
You don’t have to sell them on getting the service. You just got to get your tech in front of them.
We still sell it. We call it building value. We try to do that after we book the appointment. I want to show the customer that I understand them first. Positive greetings, demonstrate confidence, listen to them, “Tell me more,” empathize, “That’s terrible. I hate to hear that,” then reassure them, “We can help you out. I’m glad you gave us a call. When would you like us to come out?” “I want you to come out as soon as possible.” “Let’s get some information. Let’s take a look at the schedule together. What’s your address? What’s your phone number? What’s your email? Now that I’ve got you on the schedule, I have an available appointment this afternoon at 2:00. May I book that appointment for you?” The customer says, “It sounds great.”
Now I build value. I say, “Great. Mr. Jones, we got you on the schedule for this afternoon, 2:00. You’re going to love this. What we do is we send out a technician. He’s backed by our company and totally trained so you’re in good hands. He’ll do a thorough inspection. He’ll let you know what he finds, and do a little in-home consultation with you to give you your options. Have him come to do all that, it’s only $89. With that, Mr. Jones, you’re all set.”
They’re building that whole experience, that pre-framing. You’re setting it up for success. When that tech gets there, they’re going to knock it out of the park. It’s going to be easy for them because you coached and trained your CSR, the first point of contact.
Build that value, and set the expectation. Do you know what shoots many companies in the foot that no one talks about? I’ve never heard anybody but me talk about this. If a homeowner calls you and they don’t book, oftentimes, they’ll tell you it was because of the price. In reality, they didn’t book with you because you didn’t help them visualize what the experience will be when the technician gets there.
A reason that’s important is that when I hang up the phone after booking an appointment, who am I immediately going to have to answer to? My wife. My wife’s going to ask me, “Did you get that sorted out? Why did you choose them? I need an answer.” She’s going to be like, “We have to pay $89 for them to come out, why?” I need to be able to give her an answer.
When I’m talking to you, even if I like you or if I think you can do it, if I don’t have a good enough answer to give my wife when she asks me why I agreed to pay $89 for the dispatch charge, I’m going to hang up. It’s not because you aren’t good or you’re not qualified or I’m concerned about the price. I don’t feel like I have a reason to give my wife to explain what I did.We buy emotionally. But we also need to justify logically to somebody else. Click To Tweet
We buy emotionally but we also need to justify logically to somebody else. That’s why people buy Ferraris and then they’re like, “The gas mileage is awesome.” We’re like, “No, you’re having a midlife crisis, Dan. You just wanted to buy a Ferrari.” You got to build that value. Visualize the experience so that I can picture, “This is what it’s going to be like when he gets to my house,” then I feel good booking with you. I feel good explaining to my wife, “He’s coming out. He’s going to do an inspection and in-home consultation. That’s what we’re paying $89 for.” Peace in the hall.
You make it sound easy. Step by step, this is what you do. You’re going to quadruple your close rate. This doesn’t sound like a difficult process, but I imagine that there are a lot of people reading going, “That’d be great,” and there’s something holding them back from doing this. Where do many of these companies get stuck?
It sounds pretty easy to me. Create a great experience, give them something to sell to the spouse after they hang up the call, and guide them through it. That’s what I heard when you were going through your steps. You’re guiding the homeowner through the process instead of them having to figure it out. You’re walking them through it, saying, “This is what’s going to be like.” Why don’t people do this? What’s holding people back?
It is simple, but it is not necessarily easy. As you and I talk about it, you’re right, it is straightforward. It is as simple as I outlined, but then you have the pressures of being a CSR. Let’s face it. Most CSRs don’t just book calls. They’re doing invoicing, permits, payroll, administrative tasks, and dispatching. They’re slammed. Customers are also unpredictable. You never know if they’re going to be upset, what kind of pace or tone they’re going to bring to the conversation.
If the customer sounds rushed, they can get a CSR feeling a little frazzled because they know what they should do. We hear this all the time. The CSR says, “I know what I should have said, but the customer was in such a hurry. The customer wanted a price.” Customers are good at selling to CSRs. They’re good at selling their point of view.
One of the most important things is to understand that it is a simple process, but it does take time to master. We do it one point at a time. We master the greeting first. Let’s make sure the first 30 seconds of the phone call are impeccable and that you have a good greeting. The customer feels heard, understood, cared about, and sufficiently reassured. Let’s practice asking for the business, building value, and overcoming price objections when that customer says they’re going to hang up. Piece by piece, one thing at a time.
That’s a great point. A lot of people forget about that. As we’re helping people recruit these CSRs and hire them, they’re so focused on you got to answer the phone, you got to close the deal, but they forget about all the other pressures associated with being a CSR. In your process, I imagine that you have ways to help them cope with that and deal with it as you’re building this out.
Every company’s different. In some companies, the CSR is taking on many things that the phone call feels like a hindrance. Even though it’s a new customer, it’s the most important thing you could be doing right now, capturing that business. It feels to a lot of CSRs like an interruption. “I was working on all these other tasks. Now I have to do this.” There’s a mindset shift there that has to happen so that they realize the importance of the phone call. There also sometimes needs to be a change in responsibilities. You cannot expect the first impression of your business to also be the person who holds the entire office together.
Maybe when you’re early and you don’t have the resources to specialize as much. As you grow, a CSR, ideally, should have three jobs and three jobs only, book the call, create a wow experience, and uncover additional revenue opportunities by selling maintenance plans, making outbound calls to open estimates, and selling additional services that your company offers. That’s what a great CSR should do in the long run.
Again, small companies do a lot more than that. You want to work to that point where they’re only doing those things because then they can focus. They can create that great experience because it’s literally the central part of their job. If they don’t feel like it is the central part of their job though, like it’s just a piece of it, then they don’t quite see the importance of it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to CSRs and they’ll tell me, “The reason I’m leaving is that I thought I was going to be booking additional calls, creating a wow experience, and looking for other revenue opportunities. That was 10% of what I got to do. The calls were always going to overflow. They were always going to the answering service. I wasn’t able to get enough of the other stuff done that I needed to do because when the phone rang, it was like stop everything. It’s a disaster. It’s like chaos.” When you were saying that, I was like, “The best CSRs are the ones that want to just do those things.”
People are driven by mastery. We want to be good at something. Eventually, in the short term, it feels nice to do a lot of tasks because you can see your impact. There’s a lot of instant gratification, but in the long run, we all eventually realize, “I’m more so getting dopamine hits every day by doing short-term tasks. I’m not building a long-term skill set.”
People want to do that. They want to master a specific thing. You’ve got to figure out a way to help your CSRs master their job and not feel like they have to be so caught up in five other people. It feels like five other people’s jobs. Again, in the short term, it’s gratifying because you see your impact. In the long run, it leads to burnout, high attrition, and a lack of meaning. “I show up every day and I check boxes on a to-do list. I’m a glorified receptionist at that point.”
I’m thinking of some contractors that I know. I’m sending this show to them and be like, “You need to read this before we talk again. There’s so much great stuff here.” One of the things that you said when we started talking early on was that people aren’t comparing you to your competitors. Let’s unpack that for a little bit. I keep hearing about customer experience. I hear it over and over in everything that you’re building and what’s separating the companies that are implementing your process versus the ones that aren’t. Let’s talk about that. Where is this homeowner when they call you? What are they comparing you to?The hard thing now is the easy thing later. Click To Tweet
Customers no longer compare you to your direct competition. They compare you to the best brands in their lives. Don’t flatter yourself. They’re not sitting at the kitchen table with you and company B, making a pros and cons list. They’re not giving that much thought to this process. They’re thinking about the fact that Amazon delivered a package in 24 hours. They’re thinking about the fact that the worker at Chick-fil-A stood out there in the rain and said, “My pleasure,” when I got my peach milkshake. They’re thinking about all of the incredibly high expectations that the best brands in their lives are setting and whether you match up.
If they can, the soulless giant corporations, then my local business better. Notice how that’s shifted over the years. It used to be that the local business was the one that everybody loved talking to, having conversations over the counter, connections, and everyone knew the owner. There was a deep community there. Now it’s switched to where we give all our data and connections. We do everything through giant corporations. For the small businesses, homeowners are like, “We’ll see. Maybe they’ll call me back.” It’s flipped. It should be the opposite.
That makes so much sense. Even on the recruiting side of things, these big Googles, Amazons, and Walmarts of the world, they’ve gotten good at recruiting people. They’re not good at retaining them. That’s a whole different episode, but they’re good at recruiting them because they got these corporate machines. I hear all the time, these small home service contractors go, “I can’t find anybody.”
It’s not like they’re saying, “I don’t want to work for a small business.” They just don’t know they want to work for you yet because you’re not putting it out there. You’re not saying, “I’ve got an expectation to live up to.” I feel like that’s the same thing you’re saying here. I love the Chick-fil-A example. We’ve talked to some people about where we recruit good CSRs. I’m like, “I don’t know. Who’s training great CSRs?” Essentially the guy standing out in the rain, selling you your peach milkshake could be an amazing CSR if he does face-to-face interaction.
That’s a great idea. You need a new technician or a new comfort consultant you’re struggling to hire go drive through Chick-fil-A and be like, “How much are they paying you?” You’re going to find some great talent in the Chick-fil-A drive-thru, I’m telling you.
I say Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out. Those are the two. “Go recruit these high school kids. They’re looking for their first career,” who’ve had amazing training. Go find them there. I love that. Why is it that you think that these contractors don’t take the time to say, “They are comparing us to the best brands in their lives, how do we live up to that?” Maybe a better question is, what is one thing that they could do to start moving towards that and narrowing that gap between the best brands in these people’s lives and themselves?
People don’t do it because it’s short-term easy, long-term hard. The easy thing now is the hard thing later. The hard thing now which is getting the customer experience right is the easy thing later. People almost always default to the easy thing now, which is to continue doing business as usual. Maybe raise our prices a little bit, complain about the customer. I’ll tell you a story. I screwed up bad with one of our customers. I created an awful, terrible customer experience for somebody that we work with. I messed up this conversation with somebody. They felt underserved and disappointed because we’re a customer service training company.
I provided a pretty bad experience. I was like, “I messed that one up pretty bad.” I treasure the customer experience. It is the most important thing. I know that customers will be loyal to the brands that they feel the best about. What did I do? I went to my team on an all-hands meeting and I told them the story about this major screw-up that I had. I showed them the email exchange. I showed them the exact mistake that I make. Total transparency.
I told them, “The reason I’m sharing this with you guys is that a wow experience is the only acceptable outcome. Not just from you guys, but from me, too. We must create the best experience possible.” It starts with the leader. You got to be transparent and open with them. Get on the phones. Do you want to bring some life into the call center? Go in there for a day and answer the phones. Do you want to bring some life into the sales guys? Go do some ride-alongs. Visit them, and talk to the customer. Show them that you are willing to do the thing you ask of them.
That’s how you start. Practice what you preach. Tell them, show them, “I love them.”
If you want to preach it, practice it first so you have something to preach.
This has been an amazing episode. I’m already thinking of people I’m going to be sending this to once we publish it. I promise you, there’s somebody reading right now saying, “I got to learn a little bit more about what Zac does. Maybe his team can help me.” How do people get a hold of you? You’ve got an offer for them as well. Share that with me.
We invite people to go check out PowerSellingPros.com/free. When you go there, you have the chance to get a bunch of free training samples. You can use it to see what we are all about, or you can use it to share with your team and inspire them. We use some Chick-fil-A stories and other contractor stories and examples in our training that you can share with your team. Get some free training samples from us.
Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed this. I’m starting to see there’s so much in the hiring stuff that we deal with. Maybe it’s not a personnel problem. Maybe it’s a training and coaching problem. Maybe you hired the right person. They just need some extra support. It’s been fantastic. Thanks so much, Zac.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much, Ryan.
About Zac Garside
I’m the CEO of Power Selling Pros, a podcast host, and I have a short course called The Storytelling Habit – it’s where you’ll learn to become a prolific, engaging, and impossible-to-ignore Storyteller.
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