John Schmotzer was making a service call a few weeks ago and let it drop that he was the owner of Metropolitan Windows, a window replacement company in Pittsburgh. Schmotzer runs leads, installs windows, does service calls, and, he says, makes a point of having regular face-to-face customer interaction. “I do it every day,” he says.
Company owners often find that direct contact with customers “keeps us close to the pulse of the business,” says John Aurgemma, co-owner of Rhode Island Home Improvement, in Warwick, R.I. Aurgemma regularly rides with salespeople, and his brother, Anthony, personally handles installation complaints and service problems. Interaction might include phoning to thank customers, stepping in to resolve a contract misunderstanding, or actually showing up to install windows. Schmotzer, for instance, personally calls customers while the installation is in progress to make sure they are happy with the work.
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Front-line involvement produces results above and beyond keeping owners grounded. Customers, for instance, are often flattered to find themselves dealing with the company owner. When Aurgemma began riding with salespeople after a few years away from the kitchen table, he noticed that homeowners were surprised and pleased. Now he regularly rides.
The sales rep typically explains to prospects that “Mr. Aurgemma is here to answer any questions” they might have. “It escalates customer interest,” Aurgemma says. And it raises both sales productivity and morale by showing that the company’s owner knows better than anyone how to apply the multi-step selling system RIHI uses. “They need to see me execute,” says Aurgemma, who typically rides with the same salesperson several times in a week, “so they know I’m not asking them to do something I can’t or don’t do.”
Merv Hollander, owner of Weather Tite Windows, in Youngstown, Ohio, often takes customer complaint calls directly, especially when there’s a need to sort out the specifics of an order where “miscommunication” finds the homeowner with one idea of the project and the production department with another. He also makes rehash calls following up on sales appointments and contacts clients to inquire about responses to satisfaction surveys. “There’s always a pause,” Hollander says, when he introduces himself as the company president.
—Jim Cory, editor, REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.