Chapter Corner

Contractor Excels in Customer Service, Customer Retention, and Customer Reviews

Posted in: Marketing Matters, January/February 2014

Dixie Electric Company is certainly not new to the electrical business, having been in operation since 1908. Until recent years, commercial and construction were their mainstays, and residential service was viewed merely as a side business.

Now the tables have turned a bit, given disruptions in the economy, and their attention on the residential market has proven to be a sound investment.

contractor_insights.png"The residential market itself has continued to grow and has continued to be a big part of our business. It's a consistent source of revenue," said Noble Yelverton, Dixie Vice President. "Construction has been up and down. Our service was our one consistent area."

To turn this refocus into its ultimate potential, the Dixie team keyed in on customer service. "There was a void in our market of people that gave good customer service," Yelverton said. "There are so few people who do that in the services industry. We've been able to accomplish that."

As they started to exceed expectations in how well they treated customers, Yelverton said customer after customer was pleasantly surprised that Dixie Electric took good care of them, that their techs used booties, and that they went in and did what they said they were going to do. Not surprisingly, residential service kept growing.

"Our goal every year is to grow 15 percent. This year it's 16 percent," Yelverton said. "Even in a bad economy, we kept growing 15 percent."

With a strong customer service program in place, a sound foundation is laid for customer retention and referral marketing. "We try through direct mail to touch our customers seven times a year," Yelverton said. Two times through their customer newsletter, which has proven to yield a higher return rate than other direct mail pieces.

"We track all of our calls. We've got it down to a science. We get a higher response rate from a newsletter ad that has a similar call to action on it." To explain, he cited the example that if the newsletter ad has a $20 coupon, it gets a better response rate then an offer with a $35 coupon from another mailing.

"The newsletter is big for us," Yelverton said. "It's a great way to reach customers."

With strong customer service and a solid customer retention program in place, Dixie has also added a push for customer reviews on sites such as Facebook, Google+, and Superpages.

"That was a great idea," he said. "Word of mouth is more online now than it is out of someone's mouth."

Word of mouth about Dixie is spreading quite well online. In their first year of requesting reviews, they had 411 reviews posted across multiple sites. "There are 30 or 40 places where customers post." Dixie is now just at the start of their second year in a review program, but it is definitely making a difference."

"We get a lot of reviews online," Yelverton said. "We have had other customers say they saw our reviews." And, he added, "It's helped us with Google."

As more reviews are posted, Dixie rises in search engine results. "It's the best of both worlds. It helps us on the technology side and helps us gain other customers. It helps us look even more reputable."

Of course, it all goes back to their initial goal. Dixie Electric wouldn't be able to push for customer reviews if they hadn't laid the groundwork by providing excellent customer service. "That's a key element of doing business," Yelverton said. "We're completely comfortable asking for reviews."

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a national marketing firm for contractors and an IEC National Bronze Industry Partner. Insights readers can get the free report "17 Ways to Exceed Expectations" and a free subscription to the industry's top training resource, the Sales & Marketing Insider eNewsletter, by e-mailing a polite request to INSIGHTS@hudsonink.com or by calling (800) 489-9099.