Club memberships are the life’s blood for a residential heating and air-conditioning company. They tie customers to the business, and they provide service opportunities during traditionally slower times of the year. Of course, they also serve homeowners by keeping their equipment running longer, stronger, and more efficiently.
The sale of a club membership is not easy. Most homeowners must be educated on the features and benefits. One of the very best in the industry in getting customers onboard with her company’s club-membership program is Alma Moore, a customer service representative and dispatcher, with Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning in Redlands, California.
In 2019, Alma sold a stunning 729 club membership. Her incredible production awarded her first place in all of AirTime’s “Club Memberships Sold by a CCR” Scoreboard category. The COMPASS had an opportunity to talk with Alma. We talked about her background, her approach to every call, how she relates to homeowners, and we explored her other responsibilities at Russell’s.
Let’s see what makes Alma one of the very best in this issue’s “Learning from the Best”!
Have you always worked in customer service?
No, I did not. I used to work for an aircraft company before I moved to this job. I used to commute two hours, so I decided to make a change. And this is totally new to me. I’m happy, I’m glad that I’m doing it.
How long ago was the change?
It was almost three years ago.
What was the training like when you started?
Well, the general manager, Angel Morales, is a great trainer and a great motivator. I also worked with Paige Hewitt, our office manager—she’s also a great trainer. She such a role model. I look up to her. I just listened closely to everything they said, and I watched everything they did. She’s great at what she does. I learned from the best.
How long was your onboarding process?
It was about a month. But to get good, it took me a while, probably about a year. But thanks to them, and their patience and training, I got to where I am right now.
Of the 729 memberships you sold last year, were they more inbound our outbound sales?
Most were inbound calls.
Let’s explore how you handle each call. I’m sure many homeowners are upset when they call because their A/C isn’t working. How do you get them to calm down?
I treat every call as if I would be on the other end of the line. I listen to what’s going on. They tell me their problems, and I tell them right away, “I’m going to do everything I can to take care of you today.” Then, they usually ask me right away what the service fee is. And I tell them. Sometimes they’ll say, “Ugh, that much money? Does it go toward repairs?” I’ll say to them, “It doesn’t, but we have another option, which is our club membership. And then, I’ll explain all the benefits, the discounts, and that’s when most people will say, “That sounds a lot better. Yes, why don’t you sign me up.”
What benefits of your club do people seem most attracted to?
Most people like the discount on the service call. We charge $99 for the service fee, but as a member, it brings it down to $39. And then, I also tell them about the after hours and weekends discount. People usually will say, “Wow!” They really like that. Also, they get 15 percent off all parts and repairs and two tune-ups every year.
What’s the after hours discounted service fee?
Normally, the after hours service fee is $150, but for club members, it’s only $65. So, it’s a big difference.
How do you handle callers that seem hesitant moving forward with the club?
Sure, we get people who say, “Let me think about it.” I’ll say, “Absolutely, I understand. You can talk to the technician about it.”
We also try our hardest to get to customers the same day, so that’s a major benefit we can offer. People are surprised when we say that. If we don’t have any availability today, I’ll say, “Let me go ahead and get you set-up for the next day. Let’s make sure and save you a spot. But if anything cancels or reschedules today, I will call you and get you on the schedule.” People love that.
Is cost pretty much the only objection you get to the club?
Yes, mostly. I’ll tell them, “You can break it up monthly, which is another option.” They’ll say, “Oh, I can do monthly, I can do payments. Yeah!” So, that’s another benefit we offer. But the biggest objection is cost.
How much is your club annually and how much monthly?
It’s $159 annually. Monthly, it’s $13.25.
By mentioning to the caller that the technician will talk to them about the club, if they’re hesitant, it creates an expectation without being pushy.
Correct. I don’t want to sound pushy. So, I just say, “If you have any questions, you can go ahead and talk to the technician. He can go over the membership.” Most people say, “Perfect! I’ll go ahead and think about it.” Then, I’ll talk to the technician. Most of the time people sign up.
So, you personally talk to the tech afterwards?
Yes, I do. I also do the dispatching. I let them know this customer is interested. Just go ahead and explain it a little bit more. And they’re onboard and will take care of it. Our techs do a great job, too.
When talking to customers, how much information do you try and accumulate about the problem they’re having?
We try to get as much information as we can. We get the age of the unit, where it is located, and what’s wrong with it. We give the technician as much knowledge as we can and the problems it is having. That way, they’re prepared for the call.
For customers shopping around for, say a tune-up, why do they ultimately go with Russell’s?
I think it’s our pricing. If they’re really shopping around, especially if it’s a new customer, I can offer them a really small discount to just try and get them to use us for that first time. Then, when we do outbound calling, getting them to sign up for the club membership a second time is much easier because they liked our work and our service.
How much are you able to discount on a tune-up?
How often do you make outbound calls?
We do it every day.
Are you calling club members, people who still have a proposal on a new system, people who were thinking over other work, like IAQ?
We call all of those people. Even our new customers, within six months, we try to call them again to get them on the schedule for their second maintenance. So, we’re outbounding every day.
Is there a set time every day for you to make outbound calls, or do you outbound every time the phone isn’t ringing?
It depends upon how busy the day is. I don’t have a specific time.
Are you given a list of homeowners you need to contact?
Correct. The office manager prints out a report—it’s a list of customers and that’s when we outbound to those customers.
On outstanding equipment proposals, how do you approach those outbound calls?
It’s a very soft sale. We just want to make sure that they’re comfortable with the price and our service. We just want to make sure that if there’s anything else we can do to provide more information, or anything else, they can call us back. We try to make them comfortable with whatever they decide to do. But we’re here, and we’re willing to help in any way.
Do you outbound-call customers for other services like IAQ?
We do, but I don’t personally. I only call out for club memberships and replacements.
Why do people ultimately decide to buy from you, Alma?
I like to treat everybody like I would treat a family member or a friend. I always try and make them feel comfortable. I understand they’re frustrated at that time, because most people are calling when something is wrong. So, I want to make them feel as comfortable as possible. I really try to put myself in their shoes.
What advice might you have for person who is new to the CCR position?
Don’t get discouraged! People will say no. But there’s nothing you can do about it. Just try your best. As long as you always mention those club memberships—whether it’s in the beginning or the end of the call, that’s all you can do is offer it. Then they can say yes or no. The decision is yours. You at least offered it.
For all SGI members, don’t forget about our Dispatching for Profits course through Learning Alliance, and all of the Club Membership scripts located on The HUB for your CCRs! If you’re not a member yet, check out our schedule of upcoming Profit Days.