For Johnson Pest Control, Sevierville, Tenn., providing top-notch customer service is always high on the list of priorities. In 2012, Owner Ray Johnson developed a new system that he said has helped take his company’s customer service to the next level.
“I got the idea at NPMA Academy about two years ago,” Johnson said. “We ran a little focus group, trying to bring customer service to the highest level without much cost.” The idea was simple — the customer should have an idea of who they’ll be greeting when a pest control technician shows up at their door for an appointment.
Johnson hired a software development team and over the past two years developed a system called ACES for Business (Appointment Confirmation Email System), a platform that allows businesses to send out appointment confirmation emails complete with a picture of the specific technician who will be performing a service at the customer’s home. The platform performs a host of other functions that can help gather valuable customer information, according to Johnson.
“The customer response has been phenomenal,” Johnson said. After a customer books an appointment with a customer service representative from Johnson Pest Control, that customer can check their inbox moments later to find a confirmation email complete with a photo of the technician they can expect, and a photo of the representative they just spoke with over the phone. Johnson says this not only gives his customers an enhanced sense of security, but is an all-important “first touch” with the customer.
Customer Contact. There’s an imaginative and charming practicality at work within ACES for Business. PCOs can not only send appointment confirmation emails, but an array of other email services to customers, such as thank-you cards, service surveys, referral incentives, coupons and more. The service is fully customizable, specific to the company using the software, and is Web-based. Johnson says it’s about building an interaction with the customer that builds incentive for that customer to keep doing business with you.
Kevin Kordek, president and CEO of A-Active Termite and Pest Control, recently began using the ACES system for his own company, and said the results so far have been very positive.
“We’ve incorporated ACES into every single phase of our customer experience,” Kordek said. “In a tough economy, the little details make more of a difference. This program touches all levels of customer service.” Kordek added that he had originally intended to use the program to reach new/prospective customers, but now A-Active uses it for virtually everything: appointment confirmation, estimates, thank-yous and more.
Instant Customer Feedback
Procuring reliable customer feedback is one thing — implementing an improvement based on that feedback quickly enough that a dissatisfied customer won’t jump ship for another service company is quite another.
According to Matt Selbie, that’s where Opiniator comes in, a multi-platform customer feedback technology intended to prevent customers from deferring. Selbie, the company’s founder and president, says Opiniator allows customers to deliver real-time, actionable feedback to a service company. “Our key purpose is to prvent customers from deferring,” Selbie said.
Opiniator works across multiple platforms — Web, telephone, text message. For instance: a pest control technician shows up at a home and hands the customer some sort of “call to action” before performing the service, Selbie said — it may be on a dedicated card, the bottom of a receipt or something else — and directs the customer to give feedback through one of various channels. A modest incentive can be given for the customer to fill it out.
If the technician showed up late to the appointment, for instance, the customer can fill out the survey immediately. Selbie said this triggers an alert that is sent to the office, perhaps a customer service representative or manager. Knowing the customer was unhappy with something, that person can call the customer in an effort to rectify the situation.
“The biggest thing that pest control companies have found useful is the immediacy,” Selbie said. “They have a safety net by which they can get a real-time remediation plan in place if something goes awry. They have that opportunity.”
Opiniator works the other way, too — if a customer is thrilled with the service, they may be directed to leave a testimonial on a website such as Yelp.com after filling out the survey.
To learn more, visit opiniator.com. — Bill Delaney
Kordek said he appreciates how the appointment confirmation feature can put some of his customers at ease. “(Customers) will open the email while they’re still on the phone, and it really familiarizes things very quickly. It takes away that uncomfortable feeling of ‘Who’s going to be showing up at my home?’”
Kordek said A-Active uses the system for any opportunity that presents itself as an additional touch point with a customer — and those touch points are important. “That’s what I look for in service companies I use — there’s nothing worse than feeling unappreciated.”
Strategic Elements. Johnson said the ACES program has bolstered his company’s email database, an important feature of a contemporary business no matter the industry. “We used to have problems getting email addresses from people — I paid my employees a dollar for every email they’d get from a customer so we could add them to our mailing lists, in hopes of billing them through email instead of snail mail,” he said. While customers had previously been reluctant to provide an email address, the confirmation emails were added incentive for customers to provide an address. These days, Johnson said his company receives a customer email address the majority of the time.
The system also has bolstered a few intangibles for his company, Johnson said. These emails heighten the level of professionalism perceived by the customer, and the level of trust. Johnson related an anecdote of an elderly woman who called with a termite problem — the woman forwarded the confirmation email to her daughter down in Florida, and the daughter in turn called Johnson Pest Control to thank them for providing such exemplary service, Johnson said.
As well, the ability to send simple customer surveys to gain feedback is a useful tool for any service business, Johnson said.
Future Prospects. Johnson has been using his own system since February of 2012, and ACES for Business is now available for use by other companies at a monthly subscription fee. He said of those who have used it so far, the system has been a success.
“I’ve been trying to figure this out for a long time, and this has been one tool that has really helped us gain closing percentages — if customers are looking at three or four estimates, you send out an email to them, that helps,” he said. He added that he is always open to hearing ideas on how to improve the system from those who have used it.
A-Active’s Kordek said Johnson is an entrepreneur who has a nuanced understanding of the pest management industry, which is why he believes ACES has thus far flourished. “It’s born of the industry — its not one of those things, someone from the outside who thinks they understand pest control says, ‘Here’s this…’ This is from a guy who has the same real needs as everybody else in the industry.
“I don’t think he realized what a great invention he was creating,” Kordek added. “With that kind of innovation and passion, its nice to know we have a guy like that helping us.”
Learn more about ACES for Business at www.acesforbusiness.com.
The author is associate editor of PCT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.