Hone Your Warranty Service to Boost Referrals
By Tracey Gundersen, CEO, Warranty Management Technologies
Your warranty service may be the last impression you make on your customers. It also is often the impresssion they remember most.
To ensure that your last impression is a good one ― one that can generate referrals ― follow these 12 simple steps to keep your customers happy and saying only good things about you.
- Under-promise and over-deliver — Be remembered for keeping, not breaking promises. This one step can secure a positive long-term relationship with a customer.
- Brand your warranty service — Why not give your warranty service an identity? Find something memorable and have your warranty service people repeat it every time they enter your customers’ homes. Maybe, it’s something as simple as having your service people wearing a uniform.
Maybe you can have them take off their shoes (or boots) before entering a new home. That’s something new home buyers will remember — and talk about appreciatively.
You can even develop a catch phrase to emphasize your memorable action, something like, “XYZ Warranty Service…we take off our shoes because it’s your home.”
- Establish a warranty service Web log — A blog or other online communications tool is one of the simplest ways to communicate with customers. You can use it to introduce your warranty staff and trade contractors.
Take advantage of the resource by posting photos and videos, too. The blog can be a great way to tell success stories and demonstrate your commitment to service.
- Tell your success stories — How well do your service personnel respond? How often do your people go above and beyond to help out a buyer?
When you have successes like these, be sure to tell these success stories from the customer’s perspective. Your credibility will skyrocket ― especially when you include your buyers’ comments.
Post these stories and comments on your blog and Web site and feature them in your advertisements and direct mail.
- Use video — Show warranty work and demonstrate how your service department does repairs. You don’t have to hire a professional video crew. A simple hand-held video camera should do fine.
Also, post these video on the company Web site site, service blog and YouTube. This provides value for any future prospective customers or current home owners who are out-of-warranty.
- Ask for your customers’ opinions — Asking can be as simple as a sincere, “How are we doing?” Asking them about your warranty service lets them know that you and your company do not consider this follow-up work as an afterthought or necessary evil. It lets them know they are valued customers.
Ask some open-ended question (i.e., who, what, where, when, why, how) so you can gather valuable information that can help you improve your service. Even better, you may be able to gather happy responses that can easily be turned into testimonials that can lead to referrals.
- Provide quarterly maintenance tips from the service department — Remind customers about seasonal maintenance responsibilities like changing filters. This helps reduce service requests and potential trouble down the road.
Send them tips via postcards, letters, e-mail or on the Web.
Better yet, have your service personnel change their furnace filters while giving them other seasonal tips. This will make a lasting impression that can lead to referrals.
- Establish a service FAQ page — Post a solid and thorough list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on your Web site or blog, or have them available in print form to mail or distribute with your warranty agreement. This is an effective way to be responsive to customers’ needs.
A service FAQ is extremely useful because it provides answers to commonly asked questions without having your customers call you. Your customers will get the answers they need quickly and your service calls will decline.
Be sure to keep your FAQ updated with new and relevant questions.
- Build relationships — Use all your communications tools to show the company’s human side; it will build a stronger relationship with your customers.
Service personnel can use the blog to talk about their hobbies, interests or family. Encourage them and your customers to share photos, recipes, restaurant tips or vacation ideas.
Also, subscribe to the community newspapers in the areas where you build so you can keep track of your customers, or their kids, making the news. When they do, clip the articles and send them to them with a congratulatory note.
- What’s your service philosophy? — Your service philosophy is an effective marketing tool. Post it everywhere — on your Web site and blog, in closing materials, on posters, office walls and placards by every company phone. Put it on a refrigerator magnet that you give to your home owners.
But remember, your service philosophy is not just an advertising tool, it’s a commitment to your customers.
- You’re not just providing warranty service, you’re serving a family — Customer service goes beyond doing the tasks. It’s remembering who your customers are.
Send them a handwritten postcard on the anniversary they moved in, or on their birthday, the Fourth of July or their children’s birthdays.
Do they have a pet? If so, have your service personnel arrive with an animal treat.
In order to garner positive word of mouth about warranty service, be memorable and authentic. Send these items courtesy of the service program.
- Encourage your trades to participate — Make your trades a part of your service team. Identify them to customers. Post their pictures and success stories on the Web.
Remember, your whole company delivers warranty service. One surly person can undo a year's worth of hard work.
Everyone needs to be committed and accountable to the customer.
Tracey Gundersen is the founder and CEO of Warranty Management Technologies, LLC, of Burnsville, Minn. The firm provides warranty process management software, consulting services and fully outsourced customer service to new home builders. For more information, e-mail Gundersen, call her at 952-707-0725 or visit www.homsoft.com.
NAHB Has Nearly 300 Resources to Help You Run Your Business More Profitably
Go to NAHB's Business Management Tools Web pages (available to members only) for instant access to nearly 300 timesaving, moneymaking and cost-cutting business resources to help you run your business more profitably. Get guidance on accounting and financial management, business strategy, computers and information technology, customer service, human resources and more.
Resources are added weekly, so bookmark www.nahb.org/biztools to go directly to these vital business management resources.
Local and state home builders associations can link directly to www.nahb.org/biztools from their Web site and give their members instant access to these resources. It will make your HBA's Web site the place to go for the information and guidance that members need to succeed.
Learn How to Maintain Positive Customer Relationships With ‘Beyond Warranty’
“Beyond Warranty: Building Your Referral Business” by Carol Smith, available at BuilderBooks.com, provides practical tips and tools for builders and their sales and warranty staffs to understand and plan for the customer service that follows the sale of a house, especially warranty service.
“Beyond Warranty” takes builders step-by-step through the complicated but essential process of creating a home warranty program that can improve housing quality and earn satisfied customers and referral business.
To view or order this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.