Where do most new customers come from? Do they appear magically with every ad you pay for? Do they come from sponsorships? I am not saying that these methods don’t ever pay, but that referrals from friends and neighbors are almost always the most cost-effective. Here is an eye-opening experiment you can do to prove this.

Go into your software and find your newest 20 customers. (Good software keeps track of the date and time that every record is created.) Then, give each of those people a call. First, thank them for their business, and second, ask them how they found you. Or, to phrase it differently, why did they call you, instead of one of your competitors? After you tally up the results, I bet you’ll find that the vast majority called you because of a friend or neighbor’s referral. Try it! You’ll have fun talking to your new customers and you almost certainly will find that we are right. This test has been done many many times. And the results almost always are the same: “We found you because a friend or neighbor recommended you.” My point here is that these recommendations are incredibly valuable to you, and are one of those high priority things you must focus on to grow your business.

So, today’s question is, “How can you encourage these referrals, and how can your software help you do it?

Number one, on the list, is always treating your customer well. Be friendly, listen well, and make sure that you DO provide the absolute best service for a reasonable price. Whether you are providing one-time service, or are setting up ongoing repeating service, take the time to answer all their questions and concerns. When you drive away, you want them to be saying to themselves, “Wow, that is great service!”  or, “I like those people!” or, “Those guys are real professionals.”  Leaving them with such feelings will encourage them to share their experience with their friends and neighbors. So, before you look at your software or lay any other plans, make sure you are consistently taking great care of your customers. Your goal must be to delight them. You must be the best in your trade area. No amount of marketing can come close to the value of friends and neighbor referrals that result from quality service provided.

Number two, is to routinely schedule tentative Future Work Orders. Stating the obvious, the pest control business is seasonal. This seasonality suggests a way you can use software to delight your customers. Since many pests tend to reoccur annually in the same season, you have an opportunity to anticipate your customer’s needs. Lets say a customer calls you because of ant trouble in July. There is a pretty good chance that the same customer might have ant trouble next year at about the same time. So, as you post this year’s invoice, go ahead and quietly create a tentative Work Order (WO) for next year with an approximate date. This future WO will have the same service type, location, and price. This WO is ‘tentative’ with no obligation. Next, a key feature of good software is that it should be easy to view and print call sheets for all upcoming unscheduled WOs for any date range. (Typically you’ll print a month at a time.)  So, from that call sheet, you’ll be able to call your customer next June. “Would you like us to come out and ‘nip the problem in the bud’ before the ants get out of hand again?” and then, “Does next Thursday work for you?” Way over half of your customers will be delighted that you ‘remembered’ last years issue, and they will quickly agree to your service suggestion! Future scheduling with WOs a year out (remembering their service anniversary) is a brilliant technique for providing excellent customer service, while growing your business. Why is this excellent service? Because you made the effort to anticipate their need.

Number three, is to use ‘Welcome Letters’. We all wish we could always send a ‘Thank You’ to our new customers. Your gracious appreciation can lead to delight. Not only do you extend your thanks, but you will want to include a ‘$10 or $20-off coupon in the envelope. The hard part, normally, is finding the time to do it every day. The interesting twist here, is that good software can print them automatically each morning with no work by you! Then, all you have to do is sign them and stuff the envelopes each morning! How does it work? The letters are generated (behind the scene) when any new customer pays his/her first bill in full for any of your services. Then, they print out, automatically, the following morning at system start up. This is one of those things that only software can do. Indeed, without good software, these mailing are almost impossible. What do these mailings do that help with referrals?  Here is the key: Sometimes your customer will use the coupon themselves, to try another of your services. Obviously, this is a win for you. But other times, they’ll be talking to one of their friends or neighbors when bugs or other such problems come up. Your customer will then say, “Hey, I’ve even got a coupon you can use….” And so you get another new customer! This is double win for you!  This is that referral boost we are hoping for.

Provide excellent service, remember their anniversaries, and always send ‘Thank You’ notes. Sounds like something your Mother would say! But when you want to encourage referrals…. it is spot on.