3 Tips for Engaging With Customers During Uncertain Times

3 Tips for Engaging With Customers During Uncertain Times

[Updated 4/13/2020]

You are NOT powerless right now. In fact, the more you communicate with your customers, the more power and control you will ultimately have over how your business weathers the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves. Now is the time to focus on doing more with less. It’s time to engage with the customers you already have. It’s time to seize new opportunities. It’s time to make lemonade out of all these lemons.

So here are some ideas to help you effectively communicate with your current customers through this crisis and set yourself up for a strong comeback, or even a remarkable present. Ready?

#1 Be honest with customers about what you can do right now and what should wait.

Many of us are in areas where the local government has issued shelter-in-place orders that require non-essential businesses to shut down. Obviously, we all need to do our part to flatten the curve and cooperate with local authorities, but many services that contractors and home service businesses provide are essential. 

Let your customers know what those services are, why they’re essential, and how you’re performing those services at this time. 

Are you a chimney sweep? Dryer vent cleanings and flue inspections are considered essential, because these services can identify and prevent fire and carbon monoxide hazards. Are you a plumber? Your services keep our homes sanitary!

Whoever you are and whatever you do, keep your customers in the loop via social media, emails, and your website. Let them know which services can wait until things return to some version of normal, and which services they should schedule before then.

And always make sure the messaging’s focus is on your customers and their well-being, not on keeping your business afloat and your techs busy through the pandemic. 

#2 Tell customers you know things like lockdowns and quarantines are affecting their decisions, and that these things are affecting your business, too.

Here’s the reality: your customers’ priorities and concerns are not what they were before the pandemic. A decision that may have seemed simple prior to COVID-19 is complicated now. 

  • Your customers don’t know what the future will hold, how long this pandemic will last, or if they’ll even have a job through it all. So many of them are wondering if they should be putting off services and stashing money away.
  • Because we don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19, carriers can be asymptomatic, and the virus can be transmitted so easily from person to person, your customers aren’t exactly thrilled about having people in their homes right now. As a result, a home service need that may have been at the top of the priority list pre-COVID-19 may now be at the very bottom. 

The only thing you can do to reassure your customers and get back on their radar is express empathy and demonstrate competence. 

They want (and need) to know you understand their concerns and that you can work with them. 

How do you do that?

  • Let them know what services you can do without even entering their home and what precautions you’re taking to protect them should you need to work inside their home.
  • Let them know what financial options you have to help them get the services they need, without using up their cash reserves. This may include a special no-interest payment program put together to help customers, or something similar.

The fact that you understand their concerns and hesitations and that you’re taking steps to serve them throughout these extraordinary times will give your customers the confidence to move forward with those essential services that simply can’t wait. 

And when they’re ready to schedule those non-essential services, you’ll be the company that gets the call because you were there for them during this crisis.

#3 Explain that this may be a good time to go ahead and get the estimate, even if the work needs to wait.

One of the biggest issues with scheduling estimates is time, right? Your customers don’t want to have to take off work or find someone else to get Tiffany to piano lessons just so they can be home to meet you for an estimate. 

Now, most people that are still working are working from home, and the kids are (unfortunately) not going anywhere. What better time is there to schedule that estimate and get a quote for the work they need to have done? 

Even if they’re concerned about finances and won’t be ready to book the job until things are a bit safer and more predictable, they can at least get the estimate taken care of while they have free time on their hands. 

Remind your customers of this “home” advantage and assuage their fears about having you in their home by offering contactless estimates or virtual estimates.  

You may also want to push pre-booking a soft appointment time to do the job in the coming months, so that you’re holding a place for them in line, but they still have the option of moving the appointment out if this pandemic goes on longer than currently expected. 

Don’t let your customers forget about you. Don’t let this time be wasted. This crisis will pass, and when it does, you want to be ready to bounce back. How quickly you bounce back depends on what you do now. So make communication a priority and speak to your customers’ current needs and concerns. We’ll make it through this!

For more tips on how to navigate these tough times, check out these great resources!

P.S. Are you a Closing Commander user? Now’s the perfect time to edit your templates to include copy that speaks directly to your customers’ concerns and needs during this time of crisis. We’d love to help by providing you with specific copy ideas for you to add to your email campaign. Just ask for it in the chat inside your account! 

Home Service Businesses & Contractors: Resources to Help You Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis

Home Service Businesses & Contractors: Resources to Help You Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis

We’ve been a part of countless webinars, office hours, and emergency calls with contractors and home service businesses over the past few weeks, and we’ve seen the immense impact COVID-19 is having. 

Most of us were not prepared for a crisis like this, and making tough decisions and keeping up with the changes daily — even hourly —  is exhausting. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like everything is out of our control. 

But it’s not.

Although we can’t change the circumstances, there’s always something we can do. Here are some resources to help you navigate these tough times and lead your business through to the other side. Together, we’ll weather this challenging moment in time. 

  • Sales & Marketing During COVID-19  A chimney industry discussion on sales and marketing strategies that you can use during times of crisis. 
  • 10 Principles for Contractors During Extraordinary Times + Free eBook – Taylor and Carter share helpful info from their book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love, to help you lead and build a better business, even in extraordinary times. Plus, they share a link to get the book for free!
  • In-Home Sanitary Technique Procedure – Keeping your employees and customers safe has never been as important as it is right now. Clinical microbiologist L. Joseph Ochal III of The Chimney Scientist put together this awesome in-home guide to help service businesses reduce COVID-19 risk while serving customers.
  • Restart Ready Marketing Guide – Spark Marketer and HeatShield worked together on this guide that covers everything from how to communicate with customers and employees during times of crisis to what you need to be doing and planning in order to come out on top. You’ll even find templated social posts and phone scripts you can use right now.

We’re committed to standing with and supporting contractors and service businesses — now, more than ever. You are the backbone of our society and we need you to come out of this stronger and better. 

Check back periodically for more helpful tips and info. Stay safe – we’re rooting for you always! 

A Hopeful Response to COVID-19

[VIDEO TRANSCRIPT] Hi everyone, it’s Carter with Closing Commander here. I want to quickly provide you with information about our COVID-19 response and plan. We are monitoring the situation closely, and are staying in regular communication with the vendors that supply the backbone of our service and operations. We do not anticipate any service interruptions, but we have continuity plans in place should this change. Our team is now working 100% remotely, and we are following all the recommended “Safer at Home” guidelines provided by the CDC and federal government agencies. If any of our team become ill because of the virus or for any other reason, our organization is robust enough to shift resources and temporarily cover essential roles and functions to preserve service for our users. So in short, we are prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best.

Which leads me to share with you on a more personal note. I have had the privilege of talking with many of our users about conditions on the ground and inside their businesses. Some of you have had to make difficult short-term decisions. Many of you are contemplating those decisions even while watching this message. As someone who has spent years in sales and marketing, and even started successful businesses during the bottom of the last recession, the one thing I know, to the very core of my being is this: The number one thing that is needed from you as a leader, as a service provider, and as a business owner right now is communication. That’s your number one job in this moment, to communicate with clarity and purpose, and if you do that job well, you WILL make it through this, and you may even be surprised to see that you not only survived, you thrived. In times of crisis, a lack of communication is all that is needed to create conditions for a runaway downhill slide. When employees and customers don’t know what to expect, they will start to tell themselves a story to fill the gap in information, and their story is not going to be nearly as accurate as the one you can provide for them. Right now, there is almost no possible way to overcommunicate. If you had to say things multiple times on a good day, then you have to at least double your efforts in extraordinary times. And if you do that consistently and regularly through this, your business will be on solid ground.

So quickly, here is a framework for thinking about what you should be communicating, how you should be communicating, and when you should be communicating it.

First, the WHAT. And this is simple. You should be communicating any decision you make that will impact others, whether employees or customers or suppliers.

Next, the HOW. Whenever possible, communicate with empathy and compassion. Your employees are scared.  The word you say and the tone you say it with can make the difference between sustained confidence and utter panic. Not used to choosing your words carefully? Now is a good time to get in the habit of running the message by others you trust, sticking to a script, and even rehearsing it to get it right. The more effort you put in to the HOW, the less time and energy you’ll spend clarifying and doing damage control in the days to come.

Lastly, the WHEN. And this is essential. You should be communicating always right now. A good rule of thumb for world-class communication is: Tell them what you’re going to do, then tell them what you’re doing, then tell them what you’ve done. If you’ve made a decision that will impact employees, customers or suppliers, do your best to prep them first by telling them what you’re going to do. Once the moment arrives, tell them what you are doing now. Once the decision is enacted, follow up by telling them what you have done. This kind of clarity is what military leaders practice in the heat of battle, and it not only saves lives, it brings clarity and reduces panic.

I know it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now. But I want to assure you that you are equal to the tasks ahead. You will navigate the challenges you are facing, and when this is over and done, you will be a better leader than you were a few weeks ago. Our job is to provide tools and ideas to help you succeed with the task of world-class communication, now and in the future. Thank you for your support.



Carter Harkins
Founder, Closing Commander

Introducing the New Team Stats Dashboard for Owner Accounts

Introducing the New Team Stats Dashboard for Owner Accounts

Drum Roll, Please… 

This may be one of the most requested features of 2019 – and we are so pleased to announce it’s finally here! ????

If you have an “Owner” account then you may have already seen the updated team stats dashboard in your account this week. (What’s an Owner account? It’s usually the first user account created for an organization with multiple salespeople, but we can also assign a salesperson account to be an “owner” to access this new dashboard, just ask us)  Cool, right? Just watch the 90-second video below to see it in action now!

Why is this so important?

Using Closing Commander to manage a team of salespeople who each use their own team account to manage their own customers and follow-ups has been more difficult than it needs to be. Until now, there hasn’t been a way to “see into” a salesperson’s account, and monitor how they are using it (or even if they are using it at all). Well, that’s all ancient history now. Because with the rollout of this update, you now have a quick and easy way to jump in and see your team’s top-level performance at a glance.

What can you do with this new dashboard?

  • Use the stats as a team follow-up leaderboard.
  • Use it to initiate coaching interactions with salespeople who may not be utilizing this important closing tool.
  • Use it to make sure team members are adding the right customers for follow-ups, and doing it in a timely manner.
  • Use it to see how well Closing Commander is performing for everyone.

Feedback welcome and appreciated!

Whether you’ve been telling us you need this feature, or you never knew you needed it until you saw it just now, we invite you to play with it, and then provide us with your feedback in the chat inside your account. We want to make sure it’s giving you all the goodness you deserve. Enjoy! ????

3 Undesirable Consequences Of Automation & How To Avoid Them

3 Undesirable Consequences Of Automation & How To Avoid Them

There’s never enough time in the day to get through your entire to-do list. Hey, that’s part of being a business owner, right? But what about the part that promised more freedom and flexibility? That’s every business owner’s dream and only the reality of a few, it seems. 

You’ve given it a lot of thought, and after hearing promising things about automation, you’ve decided that maybe that’s the key to having a little more freedom and a little more time. So you’re going all the way. 

You’re automating everything you can, and if an automation system or tool requires even the smallest action on your part, it doesn’t make the cut. Hands-off or bust.

You’re automating repetitive tasks, putting autoresponders on your email, and swapping your sales team for an automated sales outreach system. But is there anything you should be careful of when you go from a hands-on to a totally hands-off approach in your business?

Sure, automation can save tons of time and make it possible for you to consistently do things that need to be done (like ask for reviews, follow up on estimates, and connect with customers). But if you’re not careful, total automation can actually hurt your business, rather than help it. 

Here are three undesirable consequences of automation and how you can avoid them:

#1 A nonexistent or inconsistent brand

Sometimes automation takes your brand completely out of the equation. Maybe you’re sending emails that look like they could have come from anybody or you have generic, robotic reminder texts that don’t sound like your brand at all. 

You should never opt for automation that doesn’t allow you to customize things for your brand, because brand consistency is important for the growth of your company and the peace of mind of your customers. 

So if you’re automating communication or anything else, sprinkle little bits of your brand throughout — like your logo and your brand voice — and make sure that what your customers are seeing, hearing, and experiencing is consistent with your brand. 

#2 A frustrating, friction-filled customer experience 

A lot of companies make the mistake of prioritizing the convenience of automation for them over the experience of their customers. But if automation creates friction and makes life harder for your customers, it’s not helping the people who matter most — the ones who pay you. 

Let’s consider call centers. These can make things easier on businesses by making sure every phone call gets answered, without requiring someone at the office to manage overwhelming call loads or waste time on phone calls that aren’t necessarily good leads. 

What business owners don’t consider is that while they may be making things easier on themselves, they may also be making things harder on their customers. 

For example, my parents recently had their brand new car broken into in Selma, NC while on their way home from vacation. After hours of talking with the police and the hotel manager, all they wanted was to get home. But first, they needed to have their window sealed up for the drive back. So, they called a local SafeLite. 

Trouble is, that local number forwarded to a call center in Arizona. So my dad had to waste time explaining where he was located and which SafeLite he was trying to reach — even though he’d dialed a local number that presumably should have gone directly to that local shop

In the end, this automation wasted his time (and the time of the call center) and made my dad (their potential customer) even more frustrated. He was ready to hand over his money to these people, but they created so much friction and wasted so much of his time that he decided to drive to Home Depot, get some supplies, and seal up the window himself. 

#3 A decrease in customer loyalty

Insurance companies are notorious for boasting about their agents and the personal relationships you’ll have with them when you choose Company X. Instead of dealing with a massive, faceless insurance company, when you need help, your agent will be there, right? 

Not always.

Naturally, my parents were in a hurry to have their car repaired once they got back into town, so they headed to the dealership where they had purchased the car about a week and a half prior. 

From the dealership, they called their State Farm agent to file a claim. But when they dialed the number on his card, they were walked through an automated directory and the call was forwarded to a call center for claims. 

As icing on the cake, during the wait, my dad got to listen to a recording all about how great his agent was and how he would always be there for you when you needed him most. But he wasn’t even given the opportunity to speak to the agent being praised. Instead, he was sent to a total stranger at some call center. 

This was an opportunity for State Farm to confirm my parents trust in and loyalty to their company, but they totally blew it. If you’re paying to have an agent you can count on to be there for you, but you just end up getting handed off to some stranger at the agency, what reason do you have for being loyal to that company? There’s no real relationship — just the false promise of one. 

Automate Thoughtfully & Find Balance

Yes, automation can change your business and your life for the better, but it’s time for some tough love. As special as your business is to you, it’s not that special to those in your community if you take away your people, your brand, and your personal touch. 

The reality is that people do business with people they like. If you lose sight of what makes for a good customer experience and remove your brand, your people, and your personal touch because you’re hell-bent on automating everything completely, you’ll do more harm than good. You’ll create friction for your customers, diminish loyalty, and lose business rather than gaining it.

So when you’re looking at things to automate or researching how to automate them, think about what’s best for your customers and find the right balance of automation and personalization. Make sure the systems and tools you invest in allow you to keep things personal and brand consistent, and give you the ability to oversee what’s happening and step in where needed. 

Many of the best automation tools require a little bit of manual action for this very reason: it’s better for the customers and it’s better for the business. So don’t look at automation as something that allows you to be totally hands off — look at it as a helping hand that frees you up and makes life just a little bit easier for you and your customers. 

iOS Update for non-Gmail/G Suite Users

iOS Update for non-Gmail/G Suite Users

September Update

We’ve been hard at work, bringing new improvements to our service, and there’s even more to come!

But today, I wanted to make sure you know about one improvement for our iOS mobile app users. With the newest release out this week, non-Gmail/G Suite users can log in and use the app as well.


This update has been a long time coming (overdue, quite frankly), but changes to Apple’s policies with the release of iOS 13 have made the previous obstacle to this update much easier to clear. So if this would be useful to you, go download the app from the Apple app store!


This Fall, we are working on a general feature release that will include the ability for owners and managers in organizations with multiple salespeople to be able to see statistics for those salespeople with the release of your own team dashboard! It’s too early to show a sneak peek or announce the date, but we wanted to let you know we’ve heard you, and it’s coming.

More soon…