Do you have life insurance? How about car insurance? Homeowner’s insurance? I know you have one if not all of these, but who out there has customer insurance? Do they even write a policy that protects our businesses from loss of customers? Now that would be a policy worth buying! Unfortunately, this type of policy does not exist, so how can we help protect our companies from losing customers? Maintenance contracts.
With this worsening economy, consumers are far more cautious about making new purchases. Instead, they are sprucing up their homes, which means there is a need for window coverings maintenance. Whether they are replacing their windows to be more energy efficient, painting or wallpapering, it doesn’t make sense to put dirty window coverings back up on the windows.
Now, you may be thinking, “If they’re going through a home makeover why don’t they just buy new ones?” I’m sure they would like to, but the window coverings that are there may not be all that old to begin with and aren’t in need of replacing, yet. Also, the expense of new window coverings has gone up every year since the initial purchase, so today’s consumer mentality is to maintain, protect and extend the life expectancy of their original investments by having them cleaned.
SERVICE AFTER THE SALE
What does this mean to you? If your customers are looking to protect their investments, then it’s equally important for you to protect the investment you have made in your customers. You have invested countless hours, days and possibly even weeks designing the perfect homes for your customers, and in some cases you even may have developed a friendship. Well, if you’re not careful, you may lose that business. The market is so competitive today that you need to maintain your presence in front of your customers after the sale, so when those window coverings have met their life expectancy, you are there to replace them—not your competition. The best way to accomplish this is to provide your customers with a maintenance contract to service the products you sold them.
Service after the sale. How often do you follow-up with your customers after the sale? Over the years, I have discovered that many individual companies do not follow-up effectively with their clients after the initial sale. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you didn’t follow-up immediately after the sale to ensure that everything is satisfactory. What I’m referring to is providing service after the sale so you maintain your presence in front of them as well as continue an ongoing dialog for years to come.
In the window treatments industry you may not see or hear from customers for at least seven years after you’ve sold them, so what happens in between? Some free-lance cleaning company may come in to clean and do minor repairs, but they end up recommending a replacement by a company that they have an allegiance with. However, if you’re the one providing the maintenance, then this doesn’t happen and you won’t need to put in a claim on that lost customer insurance.
I often have begun seminars by asking the following question: “How many in this room would buy a $40,000 car from a dealership that does not have its own service department?” Of course, no one raises a hand. Any one of us would opt to go to a different dealership that provides full service, as we would be more confident in the initial purchase from a seller who knows that vehicle better than anyone else.
The way I see it, the same applies to the window coverings industry. Nobody knows more about the products you sell, or that customer, better than you! Don’t forget, you already have invested the time and sold that person on your knowledge and expertise and have gained their trust. With the hard part over, it should be easier for you to sell the concept of a maintenance contract.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT A MAINTENANCE CONRACT
So what does a maintenance contract include and how does it help you and your client? The type of maintenance contract that you’ll offer will have a far greater value than those offered in a lot of retail establishments today. Those are strictly profit centers for the seller and offer no real benefit. While a maintenance contract definitely will be another profit center for you, your customer does get something of value to show for it.
The typical maintenance contract will include cleaning, adjustments and minor repairs for things like brackets coming loose or lubricating traverse rods. There will always be a few maintenance issues that crop up after the initial installation, as well as those that occur from normal wear and tear. Taking care of these minor issues will keep your clients happy and aware of the value that you and your company provide.
How do you implement a maintenance contract? When your potential new customer or existing client comes in to make a new purchase, you charge a little more (or don’t discount as much) for the products, but explain it comes with a built-in maintenance contract that includes the first cleaning and adjustments within the first year at no extra charge. This insures that purchasing through your company will have a greater value than your competition, as more than likely they do not provide this type of service. This will help increase the customer’s confidence in the purchase of expensive window coverings through your company. In more than 30 years of being in the service industry, I have found that most high-end clients care more about quality and service than the price they pay.
Maintenance contracts can be designed in many different ways, but the idea remains the same. Within the first year of the initial sale date, you are back in front of your customer for cleaning and maintenance. When you have finished the service, customers will see how clean and bright everything looks and they will be more apt to service their window coverings more often to keep them looking this way.
This keeps you in front of your customer regularly so when those window coverings have met their life expectancy, you’re the one available to replace them—with a new maintenance contract, of course. So my question to you is, “What are you doing to protect your investment?”
Jeff Berkowitz has been vice president of research and development for On-Site Drapery Cleaning & More since 2000 and has conducted all the On-Site training sessions. Prior to that he was a drycleaner for 30 years as well as owner of his own On-Site drapery cleaning business.