SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
15 Dec

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Home inspection volume on a national level continues to be softer than normal compared to recent years around this time. Mortgage rates have nearly tripled since this time a year ago, yet housing prices remain high, and according to the National Association of Home Builders, which publishes the Housing Market Index, the housing market is officially in a recession.

As many of us brace for the chillier months of winter, countless home inspection business owners are bracing for future inspection volume challenges due to sustained issues in the housing market and an uncertain economy in 2023.

Turning the corner

We all know the late fall and winter months are traditionally a slower period for most inspectors across the country. However, if they aren’t careful this year, they could easily see a slower season turn into an economic blizzard for their business.

There will continue to be no shortage of speculation on what our housing market is going to do next year, but most housing market prognosticators do agree that things are going to be a lot slower in 2023 than they have been in the past few years. And yes, that downturn will obviously have an impact on inspection volume. Yet, it’s what inspection business owners do during this downturn that will truly separate the success stories from the failed and forgotten. Here’s how to pivot now and improve your odds of becoming a success story when the tale is told.

CX & Speed

As incoming leads become scarcer and home inspection business owners are forced to compete more with each other, they must:

  1. Close more leads and keep customers sticky by leveraging the power of customer experience (CX)
  2. Focus on this primary approach to improving the customer experience - SPEED

We know inspectors have heard a lot of perspectives and ideas on what they can be doing right now to help their businesses manage through this slower inspection cycle. And there’s some solid actionable advice and insights out there – including the other methods and approaches we cover in this series that can help home inspectors not just survive during these slower times, but actually thrive. However, a lot of it is tactical. This is helpful when looking for specific actions you can take to help your business better cope with what we’re experiencing right now, but never as effective and impactful, long term, as when they are associated with a comprehensive plan. A strategy behind those actions. And one strategy for truly changing your future as a home inspection business owner from questionable success to a rock-solid, thriving brand, is to sharpen your focus on: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Uncovering your competitive advantage

When the housing market was going gangbusters, there was more than enough inspection volume to go around. However, as the housing market continues to correct to better fit with current affordability, demand and supply, inspectors are struggling to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive landscape.

As difficulties persist, some inspectors start thinking about price. Maybe charge a bit less for an inspection. Or they start thinking about their services – offering up free ancillary services and creating more promotions to entice customers. Or they even think about quality – potentially altering or refining their approach to how they perform inspections, the reports they provide, the manner in which they provide them, and more. These approaches aren’t necessarily wrong, but the tough reality is, it is extremely difficult to build and sustain a competitive advantage rooted entirely in price, services, or even quality. However, it is entirely possible for an inspection business to be the best at how it makes customers feel. And THAT is the game-changer for your business that you’ve been looking for.

The game-changer: CX

Just how likely is it that you’ll close more leads and create more loyal customers simply by focusing more on customer experience (CX)? Extremely. Could it really be that simple? Absolutely! Here’s why.

You might have seen some of these statistics in an earlier post in this series, but they definitely bear repeating:

  • 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services – McKinsey & Company
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer FEELS they are being treated – McKinsey & Company
  • 67% of customers say they would definitely be willing to PAY MORE for a great customer experience – McKinsey & Company
  • 51% of customers will never do business again with a company after just one negative experience – Forrester Research
  • 33% of Americans say they will consider switching companies after just a SINGLE INSTANCE of poor service – American Express 2018 Customer Service Study

At this point, some of you might be thinking, “We always provide great customer service to our clients. It’s something we really pride ourselves on.” And it’s at this point we must make a brief, but critically important, distinction between customer service and CX.

The main difference between CX and service is that experience incorporates every touchpoint a customer can have with your brand, and customer service is one single touchpoint. CX doesn’t require interaction with a representative, but customer service usually does.

Experience is also proactive, while service is reactive. With experience, you can delight your customers without them even having to reach out to you. While service usually begins when a customer initiates a conversation when they need a home inspection or other ancillary services you might provide.

When you start to think about the difference, you realize it’s much easier to provide great customer service than a great overall customer experience. And we often hear many business owners speak highly and confidently about the quality of their customer service. But why then, according to a 2018 report by New Voice Media, is poor customer service costing U.S. businesses more than $75 billion a year? Is it possible those businesses who think they are crushing customer service, really are not? The answer is “yes” and “no.”

Many home inspectors do an outstanding job performing inspections. And the reports they ultimately provide can be well-organized, insightful, comprehensive, and easy to digest. Many inspectors also quite often interface with agents and customers on-site – and do a fantastic job interacting with those agents and customers. But those three important touchpoints don’t make up the entirety of the home inspection process lifecycle. Meaning, it’s possible to positively crush those three customer service touchpoints, but absolutely fold like a cheap suit on other fronts.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) reported this year that customer satisfaction in the U.S. is at its lowest level in 15 years. So, when you think about all those statistics that clearly outline the massive benefits to businesses simply by focusing on providing a better experience to their customers, why do businesses continue to do it so badly? The more important question we pose to home inspectors is, “Don’t you see a massive opportunity staring you right in the face?”

Whether referencing studies done by the Temkin Group, research performed by SuperOffice CRM and Walker Information, or a dozen other sources that cite data about the importance of customer experience for businesses, the conclusion is crystal clear: Investing in CX initiatives can dramatically increase your revenue.

And where does this revenue come from exactly?:

  • A great experience leads to customers spending more: When customers feel comfortable and confident with a brand, they tend to spend more.
  • A great experience creates loyalty: Creating a “sticky” customer means repeat business. And retention can be a powerful boost to your bottom line.
  • A great experience results in customers sharing their experiences with others: Word-of-mouth marketing is arguably one of the best ways to grow a business.
  • A great experience builds trust: The cornerstone of fostering long-term relationships and repeat business.

The need for speed

As we noted, knocking it out of the ballpark when it comes to providing great customer service on a case-by-case basis is a far shot easier than providing an exceptional, end-to-end customer experience every time. But if you’re REALLY looking to gain a competitive advantage right now and set your inspection business up for success in the near future and beyond, then it’s time to really up your game by investing in CX.

If you accept that CX is the best way to close more leads and gain and retain customers, then the next step is to determine what processes you must stop, start, or change to markedly enhance CX. But candidly, that can be a tall order for any business. There are nearly infinite ways a business could alter its behaviors and approaches to enchant customers and prospects, but it turns out…there is just one that matters most: SPEED.

But first…the “must-haves”

Before we dive into why “speed” over all else, let’s make sure you have some basics in place when it comes to optimizing for customer service at multiple touchpoints. It’s investments in these basic initiatives that will serve as the foundation for dramatically altering your CX and bolstering your competitive advantage in your market.

  1. Know thy customer: Understand and document your customers’ needs, and those of critical partners such as real estate agents
  2. Be helpful: Make sure to position yourself and your staff as helpful experts – especially on the phone
  3. Automate: It’s important to find the right balance between automating appointment follow-up and logistics support as much as you can while leaving room for the human element. Your customers still want to speak to a live person in many cases.
  4. Get data: Track, analyze and understand data about call types and order close rates
  5. Get feedback: Make it easy for customers to provide feedback so you can act on learnings
  6. Make it easy: Create multiple contact methods for your customers – phone and text, social media, your website, referral sites, etc.

The state of speed

Responsiveness. Your customers want you to be responsive to their outreach and requests. And they want you to be quick about it.

In many scenarios, business responsiveness has been imperiled by the pandemic and its aftermath. Thankfully, this isn’t a scenario that is overly prevalent in the inspection industry. Nonetheless, customers have been forced to wait in ways that would largely have been unthinkable pre-pandemic. And now, customers are, well, over it.

According to a national Consumer Patience Study performed by StatSocial this year, nearly three in 10 customers expect businesses to be MORE responsive than before the pandemic, at least in terms of response time. This includes when a lead or customer contacts a business via email, text, live chat, social media, or messaging applications. Just how responsive? According to HubSpot Research, 90% of customers rate an "immediate" response as essential or very important when they have a customer service question. And 60% of customers define "immediate" as 10 minutes or less.

How speedy do you need to be when you’ve got a lead or customer on the hook? Speedy!

Speed and revenue

Being faster than your competitors isn’t just a nice attribute to possess. It can be the difference between success and failure for an inspection business owner. Why? Because your potential customers are voting for fast when they make purchases, or when they choose not to do so. In fact, 64% of customers say speed and responsiveness are as important as price when they decide where to make a purchase. (The 2022 Consumer Patience Study)

Consider the following. How likely is it that someone who calls your inspection business and gets a voicemail will simply move on to the next inspector or inspection business on their list? According to a study by Consumer Reports, 75% of callers who can’t reach a live person at a business will not leave a voicemail. Maybe this number is less for your business, but do you know what that number is? Your repeat customers and agents are more likely to leave a voicemail, but will new business leads?

More than half of all customers (52%) have willingly paid more when making a purchase to work with the business that responded FIRST. (The 2022 Consumer Patience Study). That number alone should be a huge motivator to enhance the rapidity of responsiveness for any inspector.

Speed and loyalty

Customers will come back again and again to those inspectors that are consistently fast. According to research performed by Salesforce, an overwhelming number of customers (85%) say that speed and responsiveness are key components of their brand loyalty. Conversely, that same study shows brands that take longer to respond than customers believe they should face a meaningful loyalty decay.

The impact of speed on loyalty covers the full range of the buyer’s journey and home inspection process lifecycle. Whether answering questions for a new business lead, addressing issues during the inspection process, or responding to inquiries about a report, speed becomes a critical factor in making a customer “sticky.”

Speed and how it makes your customer feel

One of the main reasons speed or lack of speed correlates to revenue and loyalty is that being faster (or slower) than your customers expect creates strong and meaningful feelings within those customers.

Face it, we’re in a time where customer service is often mediocre at best. So, when we get immediate attention to our customer service needs, not only are we a bit surprised, but we’re often downright giddy. It feels great. Refreshing for a change. When asked how a customer feels toward a brand or business when they respond to you faster than expected, 56% said “appreciated,” 53% said “valued,” and 41% said “respected.” (The 2022 Consumer Patience Study).

CX & Speed: 5 ways for improving business now

  1. All inspection companies should track their actual average response time per contact mechanism, and work to reply faster than customers expect.
  2. Don’t focus solely on digital channels. Customers still prefer telephone over all other contact channels. Also, customers expect replies via email and contact us forms within one day; so, do not allow those communication methods to have sluggish response times.
  3. Look at how fast (or not fast) your business is at all stages of the customer journey and look for areas to speed up. It should be in several areas. Customers care deeply about rapidity at all stages.
  4. Determine all the scenarios when customers have to contact your business more than once to effectively resolve an issue. Work to eliminate these, as a second contact is the single most frustrating situation for today’s consumers.
  5. In any competitive situation, place great emphasis on being the first responder. Nearly half of the time, customers buy from the first business to reply, even if the price is higher.

ACC (America’s Call Center):

ACC is a fully integrated customer service and communication-handling solution exclusively for home inspectors – no matter if you’re a sole proprietor or a multi-inspector firm.

ACC has 25 years of experience and knowledge of what it takes to successfully navigate more challenging economic cycles. And when budgets are tight, it’s good to have a partner that has a history of producing an increase of 15% – 30% in revenue after inspectors begin services while only paying an average of $2 – $5 an hour for those services. That’s a big boost for such a small investment! We are inspectors’ smartest approach to growth and the essential partner that will make all the difference for your business. During this shift in our industry, make a shift for your business. Make a shift to ACC.

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: MARKETING & LEAD MANAGEMENT
17 Nov

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: MARKETING & LEAD MANAGEMENT

As we previously noted in the first post of this series, home inspection volume on a national level continues to be softer than usual this time of year. Now, with winter around the corner, combined with sustained challenges in the housing market and an uncertain economy, home inspectors remain concerned about the future of their business.

 

Shifting gears

We all know the late fall and winter months are traditionally a slower period for most inspectors across the country. However, if they aren’t careful this year, they could easily see a slower season turn into an economic blizzard for their business.

While there’s no shortage of speculation out there about what our housing market is going to do over the next year, most housing market prognosticators do agree that things are going to be a lot slower in 2023 than they have been in the past few years. And yes, that downturn will obviously have an impact on inspection volume. Yet, it’s what inspection business owners do during this downturn that will truly separate the success stories from the failed and forgotten. Here’s how to pivot now and improve your odds of becoming a success story when the tale is told.


Driving & delighting

As incoming leads become scarcer and home inspection business owners are forced to compete more with each other, they must:

  1. Drive more new business leads by refining and dialing up your marketing efforts
  2. Close more leads and delight more customers by having a comprehensive lead management process in place

We encourage you to explore the other methods and approaches we cover in this series that can help home inspectors not just survive during these slower times, but actually thrive. However, there’s little debate that engaging in the right marketing efforts while having a strategic plan for managing the greater customer experience, are always things an inspection business owner should be doing. No matter if economic times are lean or fat.

 

Upping your marketing game: A list of “must-dos”

It’s simple. When there’s less inspection volume, you have to compete more for leads. And marketing is all about promoting your brand in the market to drive more of those leads so you can convert them. However, these days, there are a dizzying number of methods for reaching your audience. But when budgets get tight, it’s time to narrow your focus on where you get the greatest ROI. Here are a few key areas you’ll want to make sure you’re investing in right now:

  • SEO: At its core, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a long-term strategy. So, it’s our hope that you’ve already been investing in this acquisition process. If you haven’t, it’s time! When there are fewer people actively searching for information related to your inspection services, your website and content have to be showing up online sooner and more often than your competitors. Period.
  • Social Media: Social media marketing (SMM) is a tremendous way to connect with your audience and differentiate your brand from the competition. The key is to create engaging content that’ll resonate with your customers. Don’t quite know what this is? Then spending time to discover the answer is not a wasted effort!
  • Email: Now is a critical time to make sure you’re staying connected to previous customers and agents. By sending the occasional email – sharing relevant content, important/interesting updates about your brand, or even a simple holiday greeting – you’ll remain top-of-mind when they’re ready to engage the services of an inspector.
  • Content: Content marketing is a strategy that allows you to attract potential customers by providing them with informative and valuable content. Each of the three previous items in this list is part of content marketing, but as a strategy, it can be very effective. Additional content marketing media examples to consider creating for your inspection business include:
    • Blogs
    • Newsletters
    • Videos
    • Infographics

As you engage in promoting your business and services in the market, it’s important to remember to do it all in a clear, consistent, and branded way. Whether your audience interacts with or has exposure to your brand on a website, on social media, in a marketing flyer, or in an email, you must present it in a way that is unique to your brand’s voice, its look and feel (color pallet, logo, tagline), and that it produces the perceptions you wish to convey to your audience.

 

Managing your leads: A comprehensive approach

Now that you’re successfully promoting your brand with your target audience, expanding awareness, and building interest, you need to ensure that every lead crossing into your brand territory is closed, delighted, and ready to return for another round of awesome – hopefully in the near future. Here’s how to greatly improve your chances of nailing this most highly coveted trifecta of business-building outcomes.

Incoming

These days, potential customers expect to find your business and request to engage in the services and products you provide quickly, easily, and in a multitude of ways. Phone, email, text, business and referral websites, social media, and more. The convenience this provides to a would-be customer is immeasurable, but for the inspection business owner, it means you MUST have a process in place to manage those incoming leads as they flow in from those many sources.

Every incoming lead is always important and should be handled strategically and with care. But right now, especially so. You simply cannot afford to lose a customer because you let an incoming call go to voicemail. Or maybe you missed a text message and then forgot to respond until the next day. Or perhaps you didn’t see an email until several hours later because you were on an inspection and then it got pushed down further on the list as the day went on.

The simple act of responding quickly to an incoming lead in our industry is a business imperative. Did you know it’s been estimated that as much as 85% of callers who can’t reach an inspection company on the first try will not call back? And according to Consumer Reports, 75% of those same callers will not leave a voicemail. It’s also been proven that companies who contacted leads within an hour were seven times more likely to qualify a lead than the companies who decided to contact a lead just an hour later and sixty times more than the companies who waited 24 hours or longer.  

The bottom line is...if you don't respond immediately or soon after to an incoming lead, the odds of you converting that lead decrease dramatically. If you haven’t already, make the investment in establishing a thorough process for managing incoming leads so you can be as responsive as quickly as possible.

Closing

Just because a lead comes knockin’, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the job. Some inspectors answer their own phones and emails, respond to messages on social media and from their website, and more. They often feel there’s no better person to speak to and interact with a potential customer about the services they provide and how they provide them than the owner. And this may be hard for some inspectors to hear, but in most cases, they would be wrong.

The simple fact is you shouldn’t be the inspection business owner, the inspector, AND the sales manager. We know this because after a quarter of a century serving inspectors, we’ve closely analyzed the lifecycle of small- to medium-sized inspection businesses; and our experience overwhelmingly shows that the most successful ones are those whose owners focus more on doing inspections and growing the brand – NOT managing leads.

An inspection business can and should automate certain aspects of its lead management process. Automated email and text responses, chatbot integration for websites, and more. Consumers have embraced these technological advancements in communication and are willing to complete simple steps in the transaction process. However, according to a survey performed by research firm Clutch, nearly 90% of your customers will still prefer to talk to a real human being at some point. And it’s absolutely in your best interest for this to happen!

For example: A call comes in and they need a home inspection. Ah, the beginning. This is your opportunity to upsell your ancillary services. To educate, if needed, the caller on the process. To ask key questions about property specifications, access, utility considerations, client attendance, and more. To turn each and every lead and inquiry into an actual inspection – while showcasing what’s unique about the inspector and the brand. Can a form or chatbot do all that? Of course not.

Delighting

Your lead management process should be bound together by a strategic thread. A simple idea that guides each step and activity during the entirety of the lead management process and even through the inspection process lifecycle. To delight the customer.

The good news is, if you’ve established a comprehensive and thoughtful lead management process, you’re most of the way there. But it’s important to listen, learn, modify, and improve your process over time.

While the bulk of what we covered here was about active leads and turning them into inspections, you must also have a process for leads that don’t convert right away. Establishing a process for following up with these leads is just as important as the active ones. And just as you want to delight those converted leads all the way through the inspection lifecycle process – including the final delivery of the report, that last follow-up email, and even a thoughtful holiday card – you’ll want to determine how to do the same for those non-converting leads. Some simple follow-up communications include:

  • Email to see if they might still be interested in your services or if you can answer any questions
  • Email with content about your process and what makes you unique
  • A call or text to see if they still need an inspection or if you can answer any questions
  • Email about promotions you’re having or new services you provide

ACC (America’s Call Center):

ACC is a fully integrated customer service and communication-handling solution exclusively for home inspectors – no matter if you’re a sole proprietor or a multi-inspector firm.

ACC has 25 years of experience and knowledge of what it takes to successfully navigate more challenging economic cycles. And when budgets are tight, it’s good to have a partner that has a history of producing an increase of 15% – 30% in revenue after inspectors begin services while only paying an average of $2 – $5 an hour for those services. That’s a big boost for such a small investment! We are inspectors’ smartest approach to growth and the essential partner that will make all the difference for your business. During this shift in our industry, make a shift for your business. Make a shift to ACC.

 

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: UPSELLING
04 Nov

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: UPSELLING

It’s not exactly breaking news that home inspection volume on a national level has been on the decline for the past several months. Now, with winter around the corner, combined with sustained challenges in the housing market and an uncertain economy, home inspectors are rightfully concerned about the futures of their businesses.

The successful pivot

Late fall and winter months are traditionally a slower period for most inspectors across the country. However, if they aren’t careful this year, they could easily see a slower season turn into an economic blizzard for their business.

While there’s no shortage of speculation out there about what our housing market is going to do over the next year, most housing market prognosticators do agree that things are going to be a lot slower in 2023 than they have been in the past few years. And yes, that downturn will obviously have an impact on inspection volume. Yet, it’s what inspection business owners do during this downturn that will truly separate the success stories from the failed and forgotten. Here’s how to pivot now and improve your odds of becoming a success story when the tale is told.

The hook: Creating more opportunities

As incoming leads become scarcer and home inspection business owners are forced to compete more with each other, they must:

  1. Improve their odds of closing more leads than the competition
  2. Increase the average ticket price to compensate for fewer overall leads

While there are many methods and approaches we’ll explore in this series on how home inspectors can survive and even thrive during these slower times, one surefire method for improving the odds you’ll close more leads and increase your average ticket price is by diversifying your services.

Think about it. A lead comes in and they need a home inspection. OK, great, but many times, they really need or want more than that. That’s why offering additional ancillary services can be very attractive to customers, as they represent more of a one-stop solution for home buyers. Not only is it a great way to attract and retain more customers, but it’s a great way to boost your bottom line and grow your business. And during a time when you need to close more leads than the competition and boost those average ticket prices, you don’t want to lose one because you don’t offer radon testing or termite inspections.

The lineup: Diversified services

As a home inspection business owner, you might already offer a set of ancillary services. Some of the more popular ones being offered by the top businesses in our industry today include:

If you’re an inspector who doesn’t offer some or all of these ancillary services, now is the time to invest in adding them into your offering. You already recognize so many issues that affect homes — yet many of these issues aren’t technically within your purview as you write your report. So, now is the time to consider additional certifications in areas you’re already likely well versed in, or which are popular in your area. Worried about the extra investment right now to add in those services? Don’t be.

Too often, when home inspectors begin to experience much slower periods in their businesses, they mistakenly end up cutting out critical business initiatives – sacrificing long-term growth and stability, for short-term financial comfort. Sure, trimming back on some business costs during leaner times is a smart strategy for sustainability, but certain initiatives need to be bolstered, not clipped.

The experience: How vs what

Truly maximizing every lead and upselling your diversified services in a way that feels more helpful than salesy, isn’t always easy. And it can get even tougher during a down economy. But it’s the businesses that have a thoughtful approach to customer service, and a strategic plan for managing the greater customer experience, who will always win the day.

We’ll explore this in greater detail in another blog post, but as leads present themselves, how you market and sell your inspection services becomes just as important, if not more so, than what you sell. Consider the following statistics:

  • 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services – McKinsey & Company
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer FEELS they are being treated – McKinsey & Company
  • 67% of customers say they would definitely be willing to PAY MORE for a great customer experience – McKinsey & Company
  • 51% of customers will never do business again with a company after just one negative experience – Forrester Research
  • 33% of Americans say they will consider switching companies after just a SINGLE INSTANCE of poor service – American Express 2018 Customer Service Study

According to a 2018 report by New Voice Media, poor customer service is costing U.S. businesses more than $75 billion a year. And the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) reported this year that customer satisfaction in the U.S. is at its lowest level in 15 years. So, with so many upsides to providing a great experience for customers, why are so many businesses doing it so badly?

Most home inspection business owners understand the concept of providing great customer service and the benefits that come from its application. However, the customer experience is a little harder to wrap your noodle around. Because it involves how your agents and clients perceive your brand from the moment they first interact with it, all the way through the inspection lifecycle process – including the final delivery of the report, that last follow-up email, and even a thoughtful holiday card. That’s the “experience.” But bottom line, too few inspection business owners are placing enough importance on customer experience management. During slower times, this will be a costly mistake for some, but an opportunity for others.

The shift: Making the investment

Maximizing every lead. Upselling more ancillary services. It all starts by focusing on creating a greater, overall customer experience. Have you spent the time and made the right investments to ensure every new lead and customer will have a great experience with your brand? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How often are your agents referring business to you? Has that been increasing over time or decreasing? Either way, do you know why?
  2. Does your website give the impression you will provide them with a great experience, or does it overwhelm them with details?
  3. When their call is answered after a few rings, does a friendly voice greet them, giving the time to answer all their questions about one of the biggest purchase decisions they may be making in their lives?
  4. Are your marketing materials friendly and engaging?
  5. Are you handling leads, offering your services, and booking inspections in a helpful, easy manner?
  6. Is handling special requests a non-issue?
  7. After the inspection, how would you describe the reaction of your customer?
  8. How are you addressing questions or concerns they may have?
  9. What are you doing post-inspection to make sure the agent and client received the best possible experience?

Not every home inspector is a natural marketer or salesperson. In fact, very few are. Becoming an inspector, performing thorough inspections, creating insightful and valuable reports for clients, keeping up with continuing education requirements, and trying to run a profitable and sustainable home inspection business…all that is hard enough. But when an inspector chooses to trim back on business costs that are actually critical business initiatives – like lead management and upselling by highly trained professionals – they are jeopardizing their ability to provide an exceptional customer experience for your clients.

ACC (America’s Call Center):

ACC is a fully integrated customer service and communication-handling solution exclusively for home inspectors – no matter if you’re a sole proprietor or a multi-inspector firm.

ACC has 25 years of experience and knowledge of what it takes to successfully navigate more challenging economic cycles. And when budgets are tight, it’s good to have a partner that has a history of producing an increase of 15% – 30% in revenue after inspectors begin services while only paying an average of $2 – $5 an hour for those services. That’s a big boost for such a small investment! We are inspectors’ smartest approach to growth and the essential partner that will make all the difference for your business. During this shift in our industry, make a shift for your business. Make a shift to ACC.

5 PROVEN MARKETING TECHNIQUES THAT WILL HELP GROW YOUR INSPECTION BUSINESS THIS YEAR
25 Mar

5 PROVEN MARKETING TECHNIQUES THAT WILL HELP GROW YOUR INSPECTION BUSINESS THIS YEAR

Starting a new home inspection business is no easy task and requires a lot of time and effort. And even after you’ve achieved some success from some steady, reliable clients who kick you some business on the regular, it can become difficult to get to that next level of growth. You need to perfect your inspection service offering, select the right sales channels, research your target customers (no, you can’t simply default to “realtors”), and more.

However, no matter how good your inspection services are or the expanded ancillary services you provide, people won’t know about your business unless you market it. That might seem like a no-brainer, but marketing is an essential part of establishing your brand and generating sales leads for your inspection business. In this post, we will discuss a few of the best marketing techniques that will help you grow your inspection business both in size and reputation.

1. Tell Your Brand Story. Be Authentic. But Maybe Not THAT Authentic.

This may be the most important technique to remember from this post. For any business, it is critical to connect with its target audience and form a distinct brand image. Telling your brand story is one of the best and most effective ways to achieve that.

Brands that are authentic – honest, transparent, up-front, and proud of their unique(ness) – and have a good story about how they came to be, are often more memorable and form lasting impressions. So, if you want people who hear about your brand for the first time to remember it, tell them your brand story.

Let’s be clear though. Brands are like people. And just because someone is “memorable,” that doesn’t necessarily mean they are memorable in a good way.

For example, we all know that guy who is loud, often over-the-top, sometimes crude, fun to hang out with occasionally, but just not for everyone. We’ll call him “Bob.” It probably takes a special type of person to tolerate Bob for any extended period of time, and even those more charitable individuals grow weary of Bob’s antics and behavior after a while. However, there are a lot of colorful stories Bob tells. He doesn’t really care what people think – he’s just “keeping it real” and being his authentic self – and while we cringe, roll our eyes, and occasionally chuckle during Bob storytime hour, we’re really laughing more at Bob than with him. This is bad memorable.

Conversely, we all know that other guy. Let’s call him “Tim.” Tim is kind, responsible, funny, always positive, and you just feel great being around him. He also integrates well into your network of family and friends. He’s thoughtful – calling or sending a text on your birthday, picking up the occasional check for lunch or dinner, and giving you his full attention when you’re talking. Tim has some colorful stories too – equally entertaining as Bob’s – but he never crosses any inappropriate lines and he’s careful not to throw other people under the bus to make himself seem better in some way.

Now, if you think of Bob and Tim in terms of a brand, which do you think will appeal more to a broader audience? Tim of course.

So, when you present your brand and tell your brand story, do it in a way that is authentic and memorable, but not in a way that is “too colorful” or off-putting. Think about your broader audience and provide details that place a spotlight on what makes you and your business unique, but only in ways that generate a positive lasting impression. This is the feeling you want your audience to have – and when it’s done well, and you combine that with great overall service – you will have increased your leads and the desire for repeat business. Be like Bob!

2. Build an SEO-Friendly Website

The first thing any inspection business needs is a website where people can learn about your business and buy your products or services. If you build a website that is optimized for both the search engines and conversions, then you’ve already crossed the first hurdle. Way to go!

Now, getting organic traffic to your website should be your first priority before you start investing in other marketing tactics. NOTE: This isn’t always an easy task. So, unless you already have some experience here or are a gifted wordsmith and capable of generating quality, relevant content that connects with your audience, you probably want to get some outside assistance.

Here are some things that you should consider:

  • Create good-quality content on trending topics in your niche.
  • Do extensive keyword research before creating your website content.
  • Incorporate your primary keywords into all your website landing pages, titles, meta descriptions, etc.
  • Use structured data to get better SERP rankings for your web pages and make your SERP listings stand apart from others.
  • Focus more on local SEO and long-tail keywords.
  • Don’t forget to take care of technical SEO aspects like page-load speed and website design.

There is a lot that goes into building an SEO-friendly website, but these tips should get you started on the right path. However, if this all sounds like Greek, don’t be afraid to call in the experts!

3. Leverage Social Media Marketing

As a small-business owner, one of the cheapest and most effective forms of marketing that you can invest in is social media marketing.

If you’re willing to invest time and effort into it, you can do this in-house with minimal expenditure. And, as your business grows, you can start leveraging social media marketing tools to manage your accounts.

Just remember to keep your brand in mind at all times. It’s easy to default to a more relaxed or casual approach to marketing on social media. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t let relaxed and casual translate to sloppy and inconsistent. Whatever you post, make sure it’s consistent with your brand image, identity, and the messages you wish to convey to your target audience.

Here are some social media marketing tips to get you started:

  • Select the right platforms where your target customers are active.
  • Find your brand voice and stick to it.
  • Be regular and consistent in posting social media content.
  • Use high-quality, eye-catching visuals to attract audience attention.
  • Add your website link in your social media bios.
  • Use tactics that drive social media traffic to your website.
  • Use popular and relevant hashtags to reach more people.
  • Create your own branded hashtags to track your campaigns.

For any home inspection business, there can be a lot that goes into formulating a winning social media marketing strategy. These are just some tips to get you started. Once you have mastered these, you should dig deeper, upskill yourself, and try more advanced social media marketing tactics.

4. Establish Your Expertise in Your Niche

Not all home inspectors are created equal. That’s right. We said it. Some inspectors have years of experience while others are just inspecting their first dark and dreary crawl space for the first time. However, determining how to establish your expertise in the home inspection industry is one thing that can help you distinguish yourself from other inspectors and their businesses while building your brand image. Everyone else is probably using the same marketing tactics as you are; so, you need to find additional ways to set yourself apart.

Focusing on establishing yourself as an industry expert is one such tactic.

Here are some of the ways in which you can do that:

  • Start a blog and create informative and useful content on topics within your niche.
  • Join community forums like Quora and answer questions there.
  • Engage in discussions on industry association sites like InterNACHI or ASHI.
  • Engage in discussions on social media on relevant topics within your areas of expertise.
  • Host webinars and podcasts on useful and relevant topics. Invite other experts to get more visibility and reach.
  • As you start making waves in the inspection industry, people will start inviting you for interviews and podcasts. Make time to participate in these things as it further enhances your reputation.

5. Create and Promote Explainer Videos

This tactic, while relevant for most businesses, is especially important for home inspection business owners looking to spread brand awareness.

Even the best of businesses with amazing products and services can struggle to gain that initial momentum and get people to learn about their brand. And, if you launch an innovative product, then it is even more difficult to make people understand what it is and how it can help them.

Just as we said earlier that not all home inspectors are alike, neither are all home inspections. We know that comes as no surprise, but it’s often frustratingly true for too many inspectors who really want their customers to understand everything that goes into performing an exceptional home inspection. And how much potential time, money, and headaches a great inspection and report can save anyone looking to buy that most expensive and personal of investments – a home.

For inspectors, some great explainer videos can really help to remove any of those initial hurdles where most businesses fail to make their target customers truly understand the value that they’re providing. And these videos are a great way of demonstrating an inspector’s knowledge and understanding of the home inspection process – while also giving a little exposure of the people involved in the process and the thinking behind it.

Two examples of inspectors doing a great job on the explainer video front are Christopher Murphy with A-Action Home Inspection Houston and Rose Buckley with US Inspect.

Christopher and his team have been providing explainer videos, and a host of other video content, for several years now. Here’s a taste of some of that great content

Rose established her presence in the industry several years back – expertly creating and distributing her video content, which has helped to serve as a critical foundation for her growth and brand awareness. You can see some of this great content HERE

Bottom line, if you’re not creating and using explainer videos for your business, it’s time to start. And don’t get frozen into inaction overthinking your videos need to be Oscar-winning pieces of content. They don’t. They do, however, need to be short, to-the-point, on-topic, and have relevant value to your audience. Focus on the latter and you’ll be surprised by the positive reactions and boost you get from their production and dissemination.

What Next?

If you have a small home inspection business and are struggling to meet your marketing goals, try the tactics outlined in this post. These are tried-and-tested marketing techniques that can give you the push you need to ace your marketing game.

Try these out and see the results for yourself!

How Customer-Centric is Your Home Inspection Business?
21 Dec

How Customer-Centric is Your Home Inspection Business?

In today’s home inspection industry, competition for customers is more intense than ever. And there exists a multitude of marketing tactics any inspector can employ to reach a variety of demographics. However, while marketing is incredibly important, studies continue to show that an enhanced customer service experience quite often surpasses those marketing tactics — and serve as a powerful marketing tactic in its own right. In the following, we’ll take a look at the importance of providing exceptional customer service — and how it can actually boost your home inspection business and its bottom line.

In an article on Forbes.com, contributor Shep Hyken states that customers expect above-the-bar service with every experience, and they make decisions such as repeating business or taking their patronage elsewhere based on just one subpar experience. Hyken writes, “Your customers no longer compare you just to your direct competition. You are being compared to the best service they have ever received… Customers now know what great customer service looks like, and they expect it from you.” Sound a little unfair? Sure does! But if your customer is riding high off of their amazing meal from last night at that local five-star restaurant with the best, most charming, attractive and attentive wait staff in town, well…you better be ready to meet (and maybe exceed) those customer service expectations they now have fresh in their mind and will be comparing to your approach to customer service.

Excellent customer service even outranks quick service. Shocked? I mean, who doesn’t love quick service? We’re Americans! We want everything yesterday. However, turns out, we’re willing to sacrifice a bit of time for excellence.

After being faced with an onslaught of “potential spam” calls on their smart phones, automated call services that give them the runaround, and online chatbots, Glady.com’s 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey found that customers prefer a personalized customer experience far more than speedy service: “Sixty-one percent of the people surveyed felt they were treated like case numbers rather than people. The survey found that 59% of customers said being treated as an individual was more important than how fast the issue was resolved (53%).”

Is it any surprise that after so many years of companies making “progress” on how fast we manage the sales and service process – sacrificing that personal touch and those basic human interactions called “conversations” – that we’re now experiencing a shift back to a more human-to-human approach?

As customer service continues to evolve, staying on top of (or rather ahead of) what customers want most when it comes to their experience is extremely important. Meeting and exceeding the needs of your customers will often land you in a strong position to charge more for your services. How so? Because consumers are even willing to pay a premium to ensure they receive the kind of high-quality, no hassle customer service they expect. In his Forbes article, Hyken notes that customers will “reward the companies they enjoy doing business with by coming back – and paying more.”

And the Glady survey results back that claim, indicating that 68 percent of survey responders would pay more to the company that provides great service. The majority of the surveyors (27 percent) would pay 10 to 20 percent more and eight percent would even be “willing to pay over 20% more if the service was great.” Another study performed by McKinsey & Company reported that 67 percent of customers say they’d definitely be willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

So, ask yourself this: What would it cost you in time, money and resources to better ensure that your inspection company could provide exceptional customer service at every interaction and impression point your customer has with your business? Are you doing it already? Is it completely effective or do you need to make some improvements and tweaks? Whatever the case, once you’re truly dialed in, not only would you be able to charge more, but you’d immediately set yourself apart from the competition who believes they are already providing exceptional customer service – when in fact, they quite often are not. And that “not,” can come at a high price.

One of the biggest issues saddled with not providing superior customer service in today’s world of online reviews and social media, is that word spreads like wildfire…

According to the American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer, “Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor experience, versus the 11 people they’ll tell about a good experience.” That same study also reported a whopping 33 percent of Americans will consider switching companies after just one single instance of poor service. More alarming yet, Newsvoicemedia.com reports that “U.S companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service.” A lot of inspectors today can’t afford to take the risk to lose even one customer due to poor service – let alone experience a wave of new or repeat customer losses as a result of crushingly negative online reviews.

Whether it’s the home inspection industry or not, companies that interact with customers in any capacity should consider themselves in the business of people — of making them happy and retaining them. This in itself can make a vast difference in a business’s bottom line. Bain & Company reports that “increasing customer retention by five percent increases profits anywhere from 25 to 95 percent.” There’s likely not a company out there that couldn’t benefit from increased percentages like that by refocusing their efforts on providing excellent customer service.

Now, back to that question of how much time, money and resources should you invest to ensure you are providing an unparalleled and consistent customer service experience with every customer interaction. The benefits of providing awesome customer service are clear, but the time, money and resources required to make it happen are probably still a bit muddy. The answer is: It depends.

There are many shapes and sizes of home inspection companies and no one inspection business owner operates completely the same. Further, depending on what business lifecycle phase (the progression of a business in phases over time) your inspection company is in, will dictate what kind of approach to take and/or changes you should consider making on the customer service front. In addition to that, you must really examine the severity of the issues that may or may not be hampering your ability to provide beginning-to-end exceptional customer service. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a far better idea of just how much time, money and resources will be required to make critical alterations and course corrections.

Now more than ever, home inspectors need to be providing a level of customer service that is truly exceptional. Your customers demand it, are willing to pay more for it, and they’ll tell others all about it. In today’s highly competitive, highly automated world, good old-fashioned customer service is king. And to achieve long-term, sustained success…you must do what’s required to earn the crown.

5 Proven Customer Service Tactics to Level Up Your Home Inspection Business
10 Aug

5 Proven Customer Service Tactics to Level Up Your Home Inspection Business

Providing excellent customer service has become one of the most highly effective ways to increase business. Consumers have time and again recognized the value of this component — and are willing to pay a premium for the kind of customer service they have come to expect, and nothing less. While it may sound like a daunting task, providing unparalleled customer service can be easier than you think. Here are five customer service tactics to help you take your business to the next level.
Read more »

Not so Fast Revenue… Profit is Just as Critical for Your Inspection Business to Succeed
15 Feb

Not so Fast Revenue… Profit is Just as Critical for Your Inspection Business to Succeed

Every business owner knows revenue is vitally important to the success of any business. Without revenue, there is no ongoing business or continued growth, no way to pay the costs of running the business…and ultimately, without sufficient revenue, no viable business to speak of at all. Read more »

On My Mind: Answer the Phone  –  by ASHI President, Tim Buell
26 Mar

On My Mind: Answer the Phone – by ASHI President, Tim Buell

To answer or not to answer your phone? This has always been one of the million-dollar questions in our industry. Here’s some context to help you make the right decision for you and your business.

Did you know it’s been estimated that as much as 85% of callers who can’t reach a company on the first try will not call back? And 75% of those same callers will not leave a voicemail. So, for home inspectors, it’s safe to assume that if you are out on an inspection with a client and Realtor® and the phone rings, if you don’t answer it, that person will most likely hang up and the business will be lost. On the flip side, if you do answer the call, you run the risk of upsetting your client and the Realtor® because you are being paid to complete their inspection and not answer the phone. Given that challenge, what exactly is a successful, in-demand inspector to do?

Click here to download this highly informative article from Tim Buell, President of ASHI

or

Click here to access the entire March 2018 ASHI Reporter