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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The power of follow-up inspections

The "Mary a Plumber" images from Bestline Plumbing's website may not convey the image of a business with high-brow sophistication and inspiration (and the company's website is certainly not state-of-the-art). But Bestline's owner Leonard Megliola certainly has the basics of effective marketing in his business -- he shares freely his ideas, expresses a strong and vibrant personality, and reaches out to current, previous and potential clients in a manner that attracts profitable business. We can all learn from him.

Leonard Megliola, president of Bestline Plumbing in the Los Angeles area, challenges other contractors and sub trades to think differently about marketing; in the process, he has adapted and implemented some solid and really resourceful practices.

One of his methodologies, also recommended by the late Sonny Lykos, is the follow up service/warranty inspection call. Clients are advised when his company does work, that his staff will inspect the job and make things right if they aren't up to standard.

His employees complete the inspections, as promised, and obviously take responsibility to fix any deficiencies. But these visits have much more marketing power than you can imagine. Clients have other things they need done; they have friends and acquaintances which also need plumbing services, and the good-will created by the follow up service just adds to the marketing value of this initiative's marketing value.

Here is part of his posting on the topic:

This is how this campaign works and it is too simple. You send 100 letters, to customers you did large jobs for. These could be room additions, new homes, foundation walls, copper repipes, furnaces, roofs, roof valleys, sewers, new drain installations, electrical wiring, roofs. etc.

Your letter tells the customer that you want to inspect only one or a few items. Don't make the letter confusing.

Your letter tells your customers, you gave them a guarantees, and you want to inspect the integrity of your work (list only one or two items), glued joints, copper joints, fire-box, foundation wall, roof, gutters, storm caps, structure integrity, mold, water drainage, wiring, drainage,. etc. The letter tells the customer that you will inspect the job, for free, and if there is a problem, you will repair the problem for free.

People love this idea. We send out 100 letters and the phones start ringing the next day. Guess what happens when people are so happy with us. While inspecting our jobs, these people need more work. Almost every customer needs something and we are closing very large sales on 50% of our inspections. This week, we sold three floor furnaces, drain jobs, a copper repipe, and a huge clean-up job in an attic, removing blown-in insulation, that was contaminated with animal waste.

The first thing we do, when we arrive at the customer's home, is hand them a handful of ink pens and a few business cards. We carry a camera and take pictures of everything. If we find nothing is wrong, smile, and thank the customer. When you find something wrong, give it your best to do what is right. This past Monday, we inspected 6 jobs in less than two hours.

I prefer not to mention the amount of money sold from inspections, but it is more than most will believe . . .

Checking your jobs should be something that you are willing to do just to provide good customer service and build your business. Posts tell me that it is obvious that few to no plumbers actually call their customers a year later and say, 'hello, this is Acme Plumbing. How is everything working? The reason I am calling is because I would like to let you know that we appreciate your good business and we would like to make sure that the work we did is still working fine, ........and on and on.

Thank you for being a great customer. We (company name) would like to thank you for your business.

Most likely, you are aware that the piping (furnace, or whatever) has an Original Owner Lifetime Guarantee and we would like to honor that guarantee. In order to honor your guarantee, (company name) we do periodic inspections to check the integrity of the of the piping installed and to make sure that our work does not cause any physical damage to the occupants or to your property.

Bestline will be performing you inspection between Monday July 21 and Friday July 25, between 9 am and 4 pm. We will be calling to schedule a firm appointment, or you may call us to schedule an appointment before or after the dates we have suggested.

This inspection is absolutely free and there rare no obligations of any type.

Thank you very much.
The Big Boss

I can't think of any strategy that is more effective and less expensive marketing-wise than this follow up inspection system. (This obviously only works when the contractor has a direct relationship with the client, either residential or commercial -- you might have challenges doing this if you are working purely as a sub for general contractors, and I can imagine the challenges of GCs and subs working out who pays for what when these follow-up calls are arranged. On the other hand, you might have no trouble arranging with the GC to provide this follow up service in your own name: After all, if you really will honor the warranty then this is one load off the general contractor's worry-list.)

See also how the late Sonny Lykos used this technique to great effect in this posting: "The Marketing Budget"

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