By Dorothy Skinner
Prioritizing is a skill. It is not something we are born with but it is something we need to know how to do.
I’ll give you some examples from our own business.
Our company does plumbing service work. By nature much of what we are called to do is, in the eyes of the customer calling, an emergency.
But by a little bit of ongoing conversation we can usually determine the degree of emergency we are dealing with. Often the drip or leak or sound has been going on for several days, if not weeks, and the person calling in has just “had enough” and it needs to stop now. On that particular kind of call, with a bit of finesse, it would be possible to explain we do have time to take care of diagnosing and repairing the issue and can get them on the schedule on a day that works out for them.
First, put them at ease:
“Does Thursday work for you? OK, great. I have you on for Thursday and if you give me your email address I can let you know an approximate arrival time once I get the day arranged on Thursday. We will also call you when the plumber is 30 minutes out.”
Then let them know you will take care of their larger problem:
“While I have you on the phone, do you have any other issues you would like the plumber to look at while at your home? It just makes it easier to have everything on board that you may need. OK then. Thanks for your call and watch for that email confirming Thursday about 9.”
So you have put a call on, but off for today. Why? Chances are pretty good that some real emergency will come in today. Like a water heater is leaking through a ceiling- that is an emergency. But it too can be dealt with calmly and efficiently. Our first priority is to get the leak stopped and water heater shut down. Once the customer has followed the instructions, the emergency is under control. We may not have a plumber available at the moment, but this customer gets the next available time.
Prioritizing can be learned over time if you set your mind to it. Outside leaks, for instance, are not as apt to damage property as an inside leak.
A slow draining bathroom sink has to play second fiddle to a completely stopped up house.
Then you have weather forecasts. Some outside jobs need to wait til inclement weather has passed. Sometimes they are off but for the most part you can quote the weather broadcast to set up an outside job.
One benefit of prioritizing jobs is the ability to have a day lined up with jobs by zip code. This allows for less time on the road and more productive days.
Another reason to prioritize is to look at the jobs that will require more time to complete. If you can put two plumbers on a job so you can complete it faster, it is going to make for a happy customer. So when you see that would be beneficial for the job, it would be wise to put off new work for a future date. It is a matter of how you explain to your caller that you are involved in a job that needs to be completed and will let them know as soon as a plumber is freed up. Let them know you realize that they have a problem that needs attention as soon as possible and you will get it taken care of as soon as you possibly can. Feeling their pain of being put off is part of making it work for you.
Sympathy and understanding go a long way when dealing with an unhappy customer.
Hopefully this little review will be helpful to you in prioritizing service calls as they come in and make your day less stressful. Remember, you can’t make everyone happy all the time but you can be happy knowing that you are doing a good job by prioritizing the needs of your customers.
Dorothy Skinner is the owner of Gary’s Quality Plumbing, serving the north Dallas area, Wylie, McKinney, and Allen, Texas. Dorothy and her husband, Gary, raised six children in the plumbing service industry and have built their company of almost 50 years on customer service and fair pricing. Find their ad in The OffBeat Business Magazine.