Handling The Surge
How To Manage The Influx Of Customers After A Big StormStan Bastek, Director of Marketing and Sales Development
A big storm rolls through your town hitting everything in its path with golf ball-sized hail, torrential rain and high winds. While the storm lasts only a few hours, its devastation can be very hard to overcome for homeowners — and contractors. While a big storm’s arrival often means an explosion of new business, the influx of new customers can do more harm than good unless you have a proper plan.
What's The Plan?
Having an action plan that specifically addresses handling a wave of new customers can mean the difference between weathering the storm and thriving with your newfound success. Action plans help you identify potential problems and map out appropriate solutions. Here are a few of the common problems you might face if your business is suddenly booming after a big storm.
Organization will be the key to your success when you have a flood of new customers.
Lacking Resources: You risk putting a strain on your finances and your reputation when you stretch your staff and equipment to take on too many clients. Finding good help in normal circumstances is difficult. Vetting subcontractors ahead of time is a good way to bring on new workers as business picks up.
Networking is also a great idea. Roofing conventions are the perfect opportunity to establish relationships with roofers from other areas of the country. Bringing in hands from out of town is a great way to balance the increase in demand.
Getting Burned: Being over prepared is just as troubling as not being prepared at all. If you go out and hire extra crew members and purchase new equipment, be sure you will have the cash flow coming in post-storm to support the spending.
You can learn a lesson on how to not overspend from the failures of others. Zirtual, a company that provides virtual personal assistants, grew from a blog to a multi-million-dollar business with more than 500 employees in just four years. Because of the company’s success, Maren Kate, the owner, made a bold move to switch her independent contractors to full-time employees without factoring in the increased costs that come with the transition, such as health insurance and paid time off. Before she knew it, Kate's company was looking at an unfavorable burn rate (cash receipts minus cash expenses). Unable to raise enough capital to cover the debt, she was forced to sell the business she created to prevent the company from completely folding.
Zirtual's story is just one example of what happens when a company ignores the bottom line. If you plan for the future, and not just the immediate circumstance, you can avoid overspending — even if it means turning down business. Think about the long-term effect of hiring contractors, buying equipment and purchasing vehicles. What will your business volume look like after you clean up the storm’s mess?
Preparing For Competition: Beware! If the storm is big enough, the spike in the number of homeowners needing repairs will attract roofing contractors from hundreds of miles out. The competition will be fierce, but you have the ultimate advantage against outsiders — you’re the home team.
When you are providing estimates to clients, be sure to remind them you are a local business. As a neighbor, you have a competitive advantage that outside companies cannot claim. You will still be around to answer homeowners' questions long after the storm is gone. Out-of-town contractors may be looking to undercut the competition and their work often reflects their eagerness to move on to the next house. By reassuring potential customers you are there for them, now through their roof’s lifespan, you can put them at ease while giving your business an edge.
Presidential Order: Organization will be the key to your success when you have a flood of new customers. Divide your jobs into two categories: urgent and important. President Eisenhower put it best: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Urgent jobs are those that involve crisis, problems and deadlines. Important jobs are projects that help you build relationships or have long-term value.
Handle urgent jobs before all others. Urgent clients won’t wait in line — they will move on to a contractor who can satisfy their needs quickly. Taking care of existing clients is also a priority. Giving them preference, especially in a time when they need you the most, can help strengthen their loyalty. Keeping your existing customer base happy is crucial. You are more likely to get a sale from an existing customer than a new one.
Big Storms Mean Big Business
Storms are unpredictable. They come and go before you know what happened. The same is true about big business opportunities if you are not ready. There is no better time than right now to set your company up for success. Create an action plan to exceed your customers’ expectations and blow away the competition.