Webinar-Inspired Change Boosts Online Reviews, Delivers Leads
Text messaging clears the line for better communication with customers and techs at Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service in Baton Rouge, La.
Until January, the plumbing company rarely sent text messages to customers, and only did so when all other forms of communication failed to elicit a response. Customers also seemed reluctant to leave reviews, even though Roto-Rooter techs routinely asked for them.
That all changed after Operations Manager Shane Spiller watched a ServiceTitan webinar featuring Travis Ringe, co-owner of ProSkill Services in Arizona, giving tips on how to get more 5-star Google reviews to ultimately boost your company’s bottom line.
“We never got reviews,” Spiller says. “We didn’t really utilize text messaging at all, until after that video about reviews. I wrote down all sorts of notes about what he said and what we’re doing. I thought, first we’re going to do text messaging.”
Texting makes it easier to do business with Roto-Rooter
Using ServiceTitan’s built-in text tool, Spiller customized a personal message to customers and simplified the review process by sending a text message with a direct link after every job.
“I started seeing customers were extremely willing to talk about (the reviews),” Spiller explains. “So, I started utilizing text messaging for customers who don’t answer the phone.
“Before, customers never answered the phone, so we were canceling the job three days later, after calling them back five times,” Spiller says. “We have very little of that now.”
Even when a potential customer cancels with Roto-Rooter because they’ve hired a competitor, he still sends a text thanking them for the opportunity and asks them to think of Roto-Rooter for any future needs.
“I’m in their phone now. I’m the last person they talked to,” Spiller says. “Hopefully, I’m the next person they talk to when they have a plumbing-related issue.”
Text messaging leads to more reviews, and more job leads
Text messaging a link for customers to easily leave a review appears to be working for Roto-Rooter, despite Google’s decision to temporarily pause publishing reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As of mid-May, the Baton Rouge Roto-Rooter franchise boasted 108 Google reviews with a 4.1-star rating, nine Yelp reviews with a 4-star rating, and more than 37,000 Facebook recommendations.
“I started the reviews in January, and March is when Google stopped publishing any reviews,” Spiller says. “But, we were getting a solid three or four reviews a day (before). I think we built up 100 reviews over two-and-a-half months, which to me is a huge deal, because we used to only get three or four a year.”
Improving the plumbing company’s Google ranking from 2 stars (with about 25 reviews) to more than 4 stars (and more than 100 reviews) in just a few months also means more leads for the Roto-Rooter franchise.
“It was very surprising to see new customers calling in so much. Maybe, five to 10 a day, before all this started,” he says, referring to Louisiana’s stay-at-home order during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“After all of this is over in the next few months, I think we’re going to see that really build up.”
“It was very surprising to see new customers calling in so much. Maybe, five to 10 a day, before all this started. After all of this is over ... I think we’re going to see that really build up.”
Managing online reviews in today’s digital world gives plumbing companies another opportunity to provide great customer service. But how, exactly, does Spiller utilize text messaging and other technology to better communicate with customers and increase leads?
Switching from ‘internet tickets’ to ServiceTitan software
The Roto-Rooter franchise switched to ServiceTitan in 2019, after previously using JaRay Software, a fleet accountability management system acquired by ServiceTitan in 2018.
Spiller says JaRay built the first basic software specifically for home services, and he worked with the owners to develop some of the first “internet tickets,” a system designed to help his techs communicate with customers online.
“They didn't believe me that (the internet ticket) was the next step to go,” he says. “I got some guys in the area to make a website that was nothing more than a form filler. … It automatically sent the customer an email with just a text file of what we did. Then the paperwork would be automatically done by the office, by inputting in everything.”
Once Spiller proved his “internet ticket” idea worked, he helped JaRay incorporate a more professional version into the software. Then ServiceTitan bought JaRay.
A year later, Spiller added ServiceTitan’s all-in-one field management software to his digital toolbox at Roto-Rooter.
“I did look at some others … but nothing else really came close to what y’all do,” Spiller says in his friendly, Southern-gentleman accent. “It’s like the difference between a four-wheeler and a car. They both have four wheels, but they don’t do the same things.”
After working the past 14 years to streamline his plumbing company’s operations, Spiller knew Roto-Rooter was ready to make the move to ServiceTitan, but says it was still scary.
“I just knew that every process we had in place was going to change,” he says. “It was moving from this 1980s-looking system to something truly modern, and realizing how good this can really be.”
ServiceTitan sent a training crew to the Roto-Rooter franchise to help onboard the office staff and service techs to the new software system, which Spiller says “really, really helped.”
They did, however, experience a glitch on the first day they went live out in the field.
“If you put the iPads in training mode, you have to delete and reinstall the whole app. Nobody knew that until you went out for your first customer, so the first day we had to get every technician to come back to the office and reinstall the app,” Spiller says.
“It was interesting. But after that, everything was nice and smooth.”
With only Spiller and an assistant manager handling dispatching duties for 30 service techs, the mobile field software automates business processes for better efficiency and gives his staff more autonomy to handle the day-to-day operations.
“The (techs) who take pictures of the jobs and upload the pictures all on their own, the guys who use notes, who look at the previous bids and the history, the ones who utilize it, they’re the people who really do a great job,” Spiller says.
Roto-Rooter outshines competitors with text messaging
Like many plumbing service companies that close on the weekends, Roto-Rooter often missed 30 calls from customers waiting until Monday morning for a response.
Once Spiller realized customers liked talking and asking questions through texts, he decided to use the ServiceTitan text tool to quickly respond to all of those weekend calls, starting at 7 a.m.
“I’m the first plumber who called them back on Monday morning, in any way,” he says. “And if it’s a text message, it’s not going to wake them up. I’m not getting people who are upset that I’m calling them at 7 a.m.”
Previously, it would take Spiller more than an hour to get through all of the calls. By that time, the customer might have already moved on to a competitor.
“I’m getting a lot of good things from that, too,” he says. “A lot more communication, but it’s good communication, I think.”
Spiller even sets a timer on his phone to do the 7 a.m. text messaging, again at 9 a.m. to follow up on any open bids, then a final 4 p.m. text at the end of the day to check in with customers and answer any questions.
Texting also helps to address any customer complaints before they send a bad online review, Spiller says.
“It’s just giving a bigger opportunity to communicate, without having the customers stop their whole day,” he says. “It’s been really helpful.”
Use technology to grow, and teach techs to go the ‘second mile’
Spiller, who considers himself digitally savvy, says the ServiceTitan reviews webinar really hit home and made him rethink Roto-Rooter’s operational processes.
“It's kind of like we don't know this dark stuff is happening over here, because it's just off in Google-land,” he says of the impact online reviews make on a plumbing company’s reputation.
“So many people are less technical than me, and they wouldn't know where to even start on this,” he adds, explaining how he taught the owner of his Roto-Rooter franchise how to text a couple of years ago.
The webinar video also put a name to the kind of customer experience Spiller wants Roto-Rooter to be known for: Second-mile service.
In the webinar video, Ringe explains how his CSRs and techs go above and beyond by always offering to do more, such as providing ladder service to help elderly customers change lightbulbs or smoke detector batteries, or simply bringing the trash can from the curb.
“The second-mile thing changed everything,” Spiller says. “That has changed how I talk to customers, how the technicians talk to customers. A lot of guys already kind of did that, but we didn't have a name for it.
“Now there's a name for it, and everybody's like, ‘You didn't go the second mile. You need to do this, this, or this,’ when they critique each other. So it's good.”
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