Customer service representatives are a very important cog in the wheel of a well-running machine that is your business. They are the first responders and often the first impression your customer has of your company. In this episode, Tersh Blisset sits down with Erica Leonor, Customer Experience Master Jedi Trainer at Power Selling Pros and a Board of Director for Women in HVACR. They discuss the important role of CSRs and how they’re keeping your customers well-served and your business away from failure. More importantly, they dissect the top list of things you should never say to your customers. Being a CSR is all about having empathy all while being helpful. Learn all about that and more customer service tips by tuning in!
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Things You Should Never Say To Your Customers: Customer Service Insights From Erica Leonor Of Power Selling Pros
I have Erica Leonor on this episode. She is the Master Jedi Trainer at Power Selling Pros. She is a board member of the Women in HVACR. We're going to talk about CSRs and dispatchers and how CSRs and dispatchers and office staff, in general, are a very important cog in the wheel of being productive and without a very good CSR, you flat out. It's as simple as you're going to fail. Personally, with us, whenever Julie is working.
My wife Julie's in the military, so sometimes she has to go off for two weeks. Back before we had a CSR on staff, I had to start doing everything, and that's when we could feel the pain points. That's when the balls got dropped a lot. I'm super excited to talk with Erica about Power Selling Pros and talking about CSRs and their roles in general. With that being said, welcome to the show, Erica.
Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here. This is my favorite topic.
We talked a little bit offline and beforehand, whenever someone comes to you and says something like, “I’m not a service expert. I’m not a service technician or an installation technician. I’m just this. I’m just that.” What’s your first reaction to that?
I hate the phrase, “I’m just a,” because we’re not a something. It makes us sound like we’re pathetic. I hear this on-call recording all the time when I am training CSRs or dispatchers. We’ll be listening to their phone calls and they get a technical question. They’ll be like, “I’m not a technician. I’m just a CSR or I’m just a dispatcher.” I’m like, “Are you really, though? You’re just a, meaning you’re not as good or like you don’t play an important part of this company.”
What does it sound like when we say, “I’m just a?” We’re belittling ourselves. I like to help them with building themselves up and like, “I’m the queen bee of this office. I control the schedules of the people you need to talk to. When are they coming?” Building up our role instead of making it sound like, “I’m not as good because I don’t have technical knowledge.” Try and have a technician answer the phone as you said.
You start bumbling over things and like, “This sounded way easier when I was listening to someone over their shoulders saying them.” Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got hooked up with Power Selling Pros.
That is a fun story. I’ve been a gypsy my whole life. My mom’s from Hawaii. My dad is from Utah. I’m now living around in Salt Lake City, Utah. I moved back and forth between both my whole life. I had the islands, then I had the mountains. When I was in college in Hawaii, I was like, “I’m going to start traveling the world.” I started finding opportunities in different countries as internships or study abroad or like working as an English Teacher or a nanny or whatever it is I needed to find and I started traveling.
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For a few years of my life, I lived in two suitcases. I traveled to 21 countries. I lived in half of those, which was fun. I would stay maybe, five, six months in a place. I showed up somewhere and figured it out. I had to learn Mandarin in China. I was working in Israel, so I was learning Arabic and Hebrew. I’m killing fish. I lived in Mexico. My degree is in anthropology, so I love cultures. I love people. It only made sense that I wouldn’t get my classroom experience. I’d get a real life.
That makes total sense. There is no better way of learning a language than throwing yourself into the middle of it. Sink or swim.
I don’t remember a thing in Mandarin, but I can still recite the Hebrew alphabet, so that’s something for me. I spent eight years doing that and it was so much fun. I loved it. One day, I came back to Utah. I was like, “Maybe I should be serious about making money for myself instead of living paycheck to paycheck.” I started working at a substance abuse counseling center. I was teaching a lot of substance abuse classes or domestic violence, anger management classes, different things like that in Utah. My husband and I moved for his job and so I was looking for a new opportunity.
Funny, this is how now Power Selling Pros comes into the picture. My husband is from the Dominican Republic. He’s good friends with the wife of an employee at Power Selling Pros. We were only going over there to visit because they were friends. For dinner one night, the game night or whatever and before I know it, her husband is showing me everything that he does as a customer service coach. The next thing I knew, I applied and I started working here.
It's so funny, though, how the whole anthropology has come full circle. You're studying people and now you're helping to coach people.
I never even knew what HVAC stood for. I did not even know how to work a thermostat or anything like that.
That's very common. That's not uncommon, for sure.
When you're traveling all over the place and you're living in hostels or whatever it is, you don't have to do anything. Bless my father's soul and my mom, it was not something I learned about. The water was only hot. I didn't know about water heaters or anything. I definitely had a whole new world, but you're right. It's so cool to be able to apply that people knowledge, communication and cultural knowledge to the industry, specifically in customer service, which is super fun.
How does Women in HVACR play a role in that because you're a board member there also?
It was a couple of years ago where Power Selling Pros became a sponsor of Women in HVACR. We wanted to get involved because about 90% of our employees at Power Selling Pros are female. We're super passionate about women and having jobs and opportunities in the workforce, especially in an industry where it's predominantly dudes. That was one of the reasons why we joined up with Women in HVACR.
I was selected to be on the board at the beginning of 2021. Women in HVACR is such a great organization. I know we were talking before, and you said you came to one of our events. Our regional events are awesome. Many people come, everyone's invited, and we have tons of members. It's an opportunity for women to connect and network and get an education and learn about opportunities in the trades.
It's so funny because I've seen people as they've joined Women in HVACR and I've watched them grow in their professional life because of the other women that they're surrounded by. There are some big hitters in the Women in HVACR. There are the top names from all over the industry. I think that's an awesome organization.
It's, it's super fun. It's amazing that a lot of people think that when you come into the industry, you have to be a technician. You're definitely seeing a lot more female technicians and sales representatives cover consultants than you did before, but still, it's 2%. There are not very many still, but there are more opportunities in that and people don't think about it, from manufacturing and engineering. You've got educational platforms. You've got many different, sales or marketing. There are positions all over the place.
The training aspect alone, there's a lot of guys. We do some training and stuff and my guys tell me that I'm too boring. It's too monotonous. They don't want to listen to me talk, but they're fine listening to Julie or someone else talk or one of the ladies talk. I feel like that's extremely helpful to have someone else being able to teach and do the training aspect of it as well.
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It’s one of those things. My coworker is so funny. He’s like, “Imagine all day you’re getting hounded by your dispatchers and CSRs and then your daughter and your wife. If you have a female trainer or a coach, this is super nice. Somebody that’s building you up.” It was funny when he did that.
Let's dive down into a little bit about our topic and talking about CSRs and dispatchers in general. At what point do you think that or do you feel like a company should have a CSR or bring a CSR on? Before we get there, in your words, can you tell me the difference between a CSR and a dispatcher?
A lot of companies combine the role only because they don’t have or are not ready to hire enough people, but definitely, as companies grow larger, they have a specific department that’s for dispatchers and a certain department that’s for CSRs. CSRs are mainly the ones that are going to be answering all the inbound phone calls. Hopefully, they’re the ones that are also doing the happy calls and maybe scheduling all the maintenance customers. Sometimes you’re going to see dispatchers do scheduling maintenance for customers, but mostly the dispatchers are playing Tetris with the technicians and making sure that everybody is going where they need to go and that it fits geographically.
The dispatchers are also the ones that communicate with the technicians the most. Like, “I need you to go here. I need you to run this call.” Everyone’s different with how they run their company. One thing we have seen for sure is that and you would probably have some light on this. Some dispatchers would give technicians all their calls for the day. They’ll get five calls a day. The technician knows what he’s going to do.
He’s going to rush through his calls. He’s going to be done by 2:00 and he’s going to go home. Your dispatcher calls and says, “I got an emergency call. Can you run it?” He’s like, “I already did my five calls for the day. I’m going home.” It makes it so much harder for them to want to do an extra call and they don’t spend the time with their customer that they should have to provide different options.
Having conversations with them about an IQ product or service agreement. Going back to the “I’m just a,” technicians will say “just a” lot too. They’re like, “It’s just a capacitor. It’s just a motor.” If it’s just a part, why do I need you? Let me go by the part, I’ll make my husband watch a YouTube video and he can do it. You’re not only a parts changer because if that’s what you are, then I don’t need to pay you all the money that you’re charging me.
You’re not a commodity that you definitely take your value out of it whenever you have that. That’s a lot of what we’ve been talking about in a couple of previous episodes. It’s commoditizing you and take in your value and what your knowledge is. Whenever you say that “it’s just this part” as you said, then I’ll YouTube it. We’ll go about our day and I’ll buy the $7 parts off of Amazon versus paying you a couple of hundred bucks.
It’s taking that language out of everybody’s vocabulary because it’s not part of that overall customer experience. I don’t remember what episode this might’ve been, but the difference between a technician and a service professional or a service expert. A technician is the bad image of the industry. When we did this survey earlier in 2021, we asked a hundred different homeowners across the country what they thought of an HVAC contractor. Fifty percent of the responses were like, “They’re AC or furnace repair.” Then 50 of the other responses were completely random, like crappy, dirty, take advantage of you, a rip-off, too expensive, never call them, do it yourself.
Half of the homeowners have a negative perception of the industry. That’s what a technician does. A technician shows up with a cigarette in his mouth and paint or seven mastics all over his pants and holes in a hoodie he hasn’t washed for three weeks. That’s what people think of a technician but then you have your service professionals who show up and wear their shoe covers. They’re out the red carpet, put a tic-tac in.
People are like, “This is not what I expected at all.” It’s crazy when you get that five-star review where it’s like, “This is not the experience that I expected, but it’s the experience that I wanted to have.” Then you’re like, “That’s how we do everything.” Then all of a sudden, people are blowing up your phone because that’s the reviews that you’re getting every single time. You’re consistently getting those five-star reviews with that response.
I hate to say that people judge us by how we look, but they do. We should never judge homeowners by their house or their last name or anything because you never know what wads of money they’ve got stashed around but we can’t expect our homeowners to do that the same for us. Perception is reality. We do have to show up looking that professional part. For example, I met someone who lives in an HOA.
I hate the HOA but it is what it is. We have an HOA group and guess what people ask around the group all the time? “Who do you guys recommend for a plumber? Who do you recommend for a technician or an electrician?” I’m like, “We’re talking all the time. I want to have somebody that I can say, 'Trisha’s my guy. You got a call.'" People talk, as you said, those reviews, those experiences matter.
They do and it’s crazy because we have a real estate affiliate partner of ours. She and her husband are a real estate team. They’re great people, but every time somebody asks a question, she’s so fast to quickly recommend us and say, “You’re not going to have an experience the same with anyone else.” She sells something like 200 houses a year. She said, “I’ve gone through a ton of HVAC companies. I’ve gone through all the big companies in town and there’s nobody that provides the experience like this.” When she says that, then people are like, “We’ll give you a trial.” We get a ton of business from blowing her socks off.
I love what you’re saying, the experience. It’s not like, “These are the cheapest guys or these are the guys that do it the fastest.” It’s like, these guys are going to show up that are going to stand behind their work. These are the guys that are not going to trash your house. They’ll wipe everything down. There’ll be respectful. You can be five stars on fixing something. Technicians are great at fixing stuff. You’re world-class. All day long, you love working with your hands, but if I can give you five stars on changing out a part. Awesome, but I want to give you five stars on cleanliness, on parents, on your conversation with me, your empathy skills and on all these other little KPIs.
The thing about it is, I’m excited about this because the five-star experience or the experience package, starts as soon as the CSR picks up the phone. I know that Power Selling Pros is very much like this is something that you all teach a lot. That experience, showing empathy and knowing the difference between empathy and sympathy. Coming on and feeling for the customer, "I’m in the same shoes as you are, but I understand what you’re going through.” Let’s work through this together. We want to make sure that we solve this issue together with you.
If they have a super crappy, like somebody picks up the phone, you’re like, “What? What do you want?” You’re an inconvenience to them. It’s like, “Sorry for calling. I need service. Sorry for stopping you from playing words with friends or whatever you’re doing.” It’s like picking up that phone like that five-star experience starts at the beginning. I’ll tell you this. Before we hired a CSR full-time and Julie was rocking that position, she was getting five-star reviews from people that didn’t even use us. It was like, “We don’t offer that service, but this is where you can go.” She would get through it, go through that, “These people will take care of you.”
Even going as far as calling those people and having a conversation with them, “Somebody is looking for this service.” They’ve given five-star reviews for that. It’s crazy how much of an experience. We will listen to people and even like we’ve had after-hour services. Julie and I, together, will listen to a phone call where they’ve picked up the phone. Together we’re like, “I wouldn’t buy anything from us if that’s how somebody talked to me.” That CSR is the first line of defense when it comes to getting a bad review. That’s the most important position in the business. They’re your frontline defense.
They are and when you think about how much money you pay to get your phone to ring, you get $350 a phone call and I’ve got like thousands of calls now I could play for you where somebody calls and says, “How much do you charge to come out?” “It’s $89 for us to send a technician out there.” “$89? Great. Thanks. Bye.” If people believe and think that price shoppers are not leads. They’ll call us back if they need us. Hope is not a business strategy.
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You can’t hope they’ll call you back because you’re the cheapest company. You don’t want to be the cheapest company. A couple of things here with the after-hour service, I know that’s a big problem in the industry. People are always looking for good after-hour service because if you have great CSRs and crappy after-hour service, it’s hard. That’s definitely something to be very conscious of who’s answering yours after hours.
To mystery shop the after hour service too. The other day I was like, “I don’t think this phone number even goes anything. We have a lot of marketing phone numbers or whatever. I don’t recognize that phone number.” I clicked on it only to listen to it. I sat on hold for like five minutes while it was only ringing and saying, “We’ll get to you. We’re going to get to you.” They picked up and I was like, “What in the world?” They were nice once they picked up, but to wait that long? I was super irritated that it was the case.
It’s the lesser of all of the evils I feel like now. Nobody kills it in the industry as an after-hour service, in my opinion, so we’ve experienced it. It’s definitely a tough one. It is a tough one. In our small mastermind group, we even have talked about like, “Let’s get together and hire an after-hours service together or create a small after service, go in overseas. It’s during the daytime for them and here it is at night. We use them together.” Even coming up with something like that, so they’re answering the phones the way we want them to answer the phones and going through the processes the proper way, but we haven’t pulled the trigger with that. It’s something that I know a lot of people talk about constantly.
It is. I probably shouldn’t say this, but Power Selling Pros is working on something like that. It’s in the works because definitely creating an after-hours call center is a big deal, but as Disney always says, there’s a method to their magic. They’re very intentional about how they create the Disney experience. It’s the same thing at Power Selling Pros with our process of call handling. We’re very intentional of how we train CSRs and training them on the process and the principles, the dos and don’ts especially, but how do we become the person that can pick up that phone that gets what it means to listen. Scripts are great, but I use the term script loosely.
I want you to be the person who can listen to a customer and ask good questions. I want you to be the person that’s empathetic. I definitely help with starter things like, “Here’s what you say and don’t say.” Never say you’re sorry is one. Customers never believe you. “I’m so sorry your water heaters out. I’m so sorry your toilet’s clogged.” It’s like, “Are you, though? Are you really?” Another thing that people are is they’re very indifferent. They’re very apathetic. Meaning somebody says, “My toilet’s clogged or I don’t have any heat or AC.” They’re like, “What’s your address? Have you ever used our services?” You completely bypass all of the pain that they’re trying to tell you.
Sympathy is like, “I’m sorry about that or I understand what you’re going through happened to my cousins, brothers, uncles, aunt one time too and it was bad.” We never understand what’s going on for a customer. Taking out, I’m sorry, I understand. The last thing we should never say is at least like, “At least it didn’t go out on the hottest day of the year or, at least, you still have water.”
At least the AC works in my house.
It’s so condescending. Those would be my top three to never say to customers to be empathetic is, “I’m sorry, I understand and at least,” because it’s apathetic and sympathetic. You want to work on empathy. As you mentioned, like what is empathy? It’s feeling with people and validating them. “That sounds so frustrating or that looks like this happened at the most inconvenient time or you got a lot on your plate. This can only be what is overwhelming for you.” Connecting with people of like the emotional state that they’re in instead of apologizing for it.
It’s funny because Julie said, “Connect with them first,” and it’s so true. Connect with that emotional state. The problem that I have is I have an extremely dry sense of humor and I’m very condescending without being condescending. I saw those same things that you said and they’re like, “Are you being a jackass? Are you being a jerk right now?” I’m like, “No.” Not at all. You have to be very careful about the way that your conversation is being perceived to them and that’s going to be the biggest thing.
How it’s perceived, perception is reality. When I talk with customers and when I answer phones, I try to be very intentional about, “If I say this, could they misinterpret how I’m saying this?” If I find a way that they could misinterpret what I say, I don’t say it. I try to reword it. The most common one is we don’t get pricing over the phone. That may be true, sure, but your customer’s going to misinterpret that as, “You can’t help me then. I’m going to hang up on you.”
The reality is you absolutely can help them. All your technicians or your service professionals, your experts have the pricing, but the fact that you’re like, “We don’t have pricing in the office. Unfortunately, they don’t give that to me.” Once again, you’re belittling yourself and make it sound like you don’t know what’s going on in that building, which you do. Second off, you have to be more proactive in helping them. Paying attention to the language of how they could misinterpret this helps us be more proactive.
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I do love hearing it, someone who’s good at talking, having that conversation with someone and getting the job booked for one and having the entire conversation without giving out prices. I’m a sucker. If you asked me about three or four times what the price is, I’m going to give you the price or some version of it. It’s like to listen to someone who can have that conversation and they’re like dead set. They’re not giving the price out. They’re not giving out the diagnostic or the consultation fee until you’ve already built the value. Once the value is built, they’re like, “It’s only $89.” That seems low. That’s the conversation versus, “It’s $89. Thanks. I’ll call you back.” It’s cool listening to people who can have that conversation.
Honestly, in my opinion, it’s getting out of your headspace whenever it comes to that conversation. That’s not the way we’ve done it in the past. That’s not how it works in our industry. That’s what I loved about Julie coming in because she’s a nurse. She came into our business not knowing the industry. When she said stuff, she was like, “This is the answer.” When she was coached and taught how to do any CSR or dispatching-type stuff, I would say, “That’s not going to work. That’s not what has always been done in the industry.” She said, “This is the way I was trained.” I was like, “Then do it.” She would do it and it worked. I’m like, “How did that work like that? It’s crazy.” If it is working, keep doing it. It’s so wild that we can’t get out of our way and our headspace there.
It’s true. You see this a lot because the industry is a big industry, but it’s also small. Everybody knows each other. We connect all the time. We love talking with other contractors. We follow what other people have always done but one of the things is I’m a Millennial. I think you’re a Millennial too. You got 45% of your homeowners that are Millennials now. We expect something different. We expect solutions and you to figure it out and this is me.
Anytime I have to call in for something, it’s a problem with my credit card or my cell phone bill or whatever it is. I expect who I call to figure it out and take care of me and not only leave me hanging dry. I love what Julie’s like, “This is how we do it,” and being able to bring that new perspective in is so important instead of getting stuck in a rut. Not that how it was done before was bad. We have to change with this.
I agree, 100%. I would almost argue that it is bad, the way that it was done. Just because that’s how we’ve always done it, that’s one of my pet peeves with my guys. Like, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” I’m like, “You’re about to get smacked. I don’t care if that’s how we’ve done this. It’s not the right way to do it, so we’re going to do it this way.” Sometimes you try a new way and it doesn’t work. Then it’s like, “The other way worked better.”
At least you can say you’ve made an attempt to do it. With this, I would say that having that conversation and doing it the Power Selling Pros way. Having that conversation that way is very much the right way to do it now. I definitely feel like there has been a transition in our industry. I challenge people to check out Power Selling Pros and see how they do things. If somebody does want to do to get connected with Power Selling Pros, how do we do that?
If you want to contact me, you only have to email me. It's totally fine. You can even text me. I'm a Millennial. Send me an emoji. I don't care. Just contact me. I'd love to talk to you about our CSR training programs, dispatch training programs or our service professional training programs. We go into the soft skills and setting up that process and foundation to what are the opportunities to be empathetic to people? What are the opportunities to build value?
Going back to some of these pricing calls, how you said, you love to hear how people are able to never give a price, but do it in a nice way. We have the four-step process to overcoming pricing objections. If a customer does this, you take them here. It's like a roadmap thing. It helps people be able to deliver that experience without having to use any of the negative languages and providing solutions for them. We also have a great leadership program and using our same curriculum, using the same pattern because of their principles. If we can upgrade our principles and how we do things and how we talk to people, we're going to get better. When we get better, people around us get better. Business gets better and it gets easier.
That's the angle. We want it to be easier. Where's my easy button at? Thank you, Erica, for coming on the show and sharing everything with us and taking the time out to share a little bit more information with us.
Thank you so much for having me. It's so much fun. Let me know anything I can do to help you. I'm so passionate about this stuff.
I'll put all of your information in the show notes and the Live Chat on Facebook.
Thank you so much.
Have a wonderful day. Thank you, again for tuning in. It’s a show focused on service business owners, managers and technicians who are considering becoming business owners themselves. I hope this episode help answer some of those unasked questions that you may have had. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Erica or me. With that being said, I hope you have a wonderful day and we’ll talk again soon.
About Erica Leonor
Erica Leonor is an outdoor and survival enthusiast who loves to travel the world. She also loves The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and a good bag of Cheetos. She rides motorcycles with her husband, is fluent in Spanish, and has a YouTube channel. Apart from her nerdy side, Erica enjoys serving on the Board of Directors for the Women in HVACR organization and providing education, networking, and new opportunities to women in the trades. She is also an Executive Trainer at Power Selling Pros where she delivers world-class customer service, leadership, and employee experience trainings for contractors.
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