Business Tips from ASTI – a glimpse into Mrs. Samurai’s notebook

Most of Team Samurai was in Nashville last month for the Annual Service Training Institute put on by United Servicers Association. We had a booth at the trade show and enjoyed chatting with many of our students and business owners. It’s great to be able to meet folks face-to-face!

I always attend as many of the Business track courses as I can while I’m at ASTI, as they are always filled with interesting and useful information.

Here are some highlights from my ASTI notebook for you:

Be friendly!

“Friendliness” is very highly ranked as an influence on how a customer rates their experience. Many business owners report that their most popular tech is not necessarily the most technically proficient.

So – take those friendly techs and give them more appliance repair training at Master Samurai Tech to make them a powerhouse!

Friendliness is also critically important for the Customer Service Representative who answers the phone.

Google continues to keep everyone on their toes

So there’s Google My Business, which is a free listing, and Google Ads (pay-per-click), and now a new feature that Google is rolling out called Local Services. It will show up at the top of a Google search results listing, and is meant to be like Home Advisor. You can be “Google Guaranteed” – for a price. You’ll pay a fixed price for leads, and you only pay if they actually contact you.

I acquired the slides from 3 presentations given by a Google trainer on many aspects of using Google to market your business. You can download them here:

Reach Customers Online with Google

Get Found on Google Search and Maps

Using Data to Drive Growth

Algorithm, Shmalgorithm

Like it or not, the vast majority of people (over 80%) use Google for search. So, when they release an algorithm change (that is, when Google changes up the secret way they determine who will rank highly on search results pages), if it negatively impacts your website’s search results it can be a big hit on your business.

In a presentation on digital marketing, Christina Kraker of Servicer’s Web talked about how to “algorithm change-proof” your site

  • Get online reviews (should have 50+ Google reviews) and keep them as positive as possible.
  • Have a diverse online profile – claim all those directory listings out there!
  • Have an active blog (at least one post per month)
  • Make sure your search-engine-optimized pages are good quality and diverse. (For example, if you create different pages for different towns, they actually have to have different content.)

Email Marketing

Email services like MailChimp are an easy way to communicate with your customers, especially if you set up “work flows” where pre-written emails are automatically sent when you add their email to the mailing list. Initially you can thank your customer for their recent service call and ask them to leave a review (with link(s) to make that easy). Then, send out a monthly newsletter (can mostly be the monthly blog post that you are going to write at your website blog.)

Entice visitors to your website to sign up for your newsletter by offering a coupon in exchange for their email address.

Expect the Unexpected

I sat in on an interesting panel discussion where several business owners described a sudden, devastating event and how they dealt with it.

  • Technician death while on the job. First takeaway: OSHA requires that you notify them of a work-related injury or death. There are fines if you fail to do so within a certain time period. In the case of a death, that time period is 8 hours. Second takeaway: while these types of events are very rare (this was the result of improper electrical installation by someone else), train your techs on basic safety precautions and how to spot warning signs.
  • Ransomware. Several companies have fallen prey to this, and lost valuable time and income while recovering from the data loss. Takeaway: BACKUP YOUR DATA and keep one copy off-site (or in the cloud). If you don’t know much about cybersecurity, hire someone to help assess your vulnerability.
  • Natural disaster. Similar warning as above in terms of your data. If your computer equipment got destroyed, do you have a backup somewhere else? Also, having enough cash on hand to help you and your employees to survive until work can resume can increase the odds of getting back to normal more quickly.

Inventory Management for Fun and Profit

1. Having the part you need when you go on a job can increase your First Call Complete rate

2. On the other hand, minimizing your parts inventory can prevent wasting money on parts that sit on the shelf for years.

The trick is balancing those two realities by effectively managing your parts inventory. Eventually this will help you to cut costs, save time, and effectively budget and forecast.

The typical way companies have dealt with parts was to have storage in the shop in order to replenish the vehicle as needed.

Michael Noe of Mr. Appliance said that increasingly their franchisees are going to a zero shop inventory model. This means there is only truck stock of the most commonly needed parts – those that you tend to use 3-4 times per year. All other parts are ordered as needed. This generally results in about 100-200 parts on the truck worth about $2500-3000. No more needing storage space for parts in the shop or ending up with money tied up in parts that don’t move on a regular basis.

Consider drop-shipping special order parts. This takes away the handling on your end, and if the part takes awhile to arrive (or the wrong part is sent), the customer will not blame you, but will see that it was the fault of the supplier.

The fastest way to keep up with your inventory is to scan the codes with a laser scanner. Note: the bar codes on Bosch and Miele parts will not give you a proper part number, so you’ll need to create labels for those. There is inexpensive software and label printers that allow you to do this.

Inventory should be scanned on a regular basis (quarterly, at a minimum) to determine what should stay on the truck, what should come off, and any restocking that’s needed.
Did these suggestions give you any ideas for your business?

UPDATE: Our friends at Fred’s Academy posted the slides from their two dynamic business presentations at ASTI. You can check them out here: https://fluid.services/asti/