“What separates us from our competition and has a lot to do with our growth is that we really pride ourselves on our customer service,” says Dorian Wilson, partner with Damian Wilson in Seal of Approval, Wading River, NY. “The last couple of years we made a big push to increase our presence on Google and other social media sites, and the result has been more work and a lot of five-star reviews.”
The way they’ve increased their social media presence and generated reviews is by putting in place an automated system that makes communicating with the customer simple and that keeps the customer in the work loop from beginning to end.
Started in 2007 as a residential sealcoating business, Seal of Approval has become a full-service pavement maintenance operation, generating 60% of sales from residential work, 30% from commercial work and 10% from what Wilson terms “town work” – primarily recreational surface maintenance for local Suffolk County townships.
Seal of Approval does sealcoating, striping, cold patching, and hot patching using a hot box reclaimer. They run two commercial trucks and two residential trucks, with the hot box on a trailer brought out as needed. Each truck supports a two-person crew, giving the company 8-10 people during peak season.
Automatic Customer Updates
Wilson says Seal of Approval wanted to become more involved with social media, but they wanted to make that involvement meaningful to the customer. So after much research, Seal of Approval put in place a system that makes it easy for the company to stay in touch with the customer, that keeps the customer informed throughout the entire process from bid through job completion, and that makes it easy for customers to review the contractor. The process – which is automated – keeps everyone in touch and makes answering customer questions and communicating schedule changes simple.
“It’s technology that really keeps the client informed and up to date on where we are in the process,” Wilson says. “We took a business that a lot of people do out of the back of a pickup truck with buckets picked up from Home Depot and who write their bids by hand on a piece of paper and we upgraded it.
“At the end of the day it’s just customer service. We just want to treat people the way we would like to be treated and when we do that, we have customers who give us great reviews.”
Customers – residential, commercial and town – who accept a bid from Seal of Approval receive an immediate text message and email thanking them, confirming the bid details and providing the date and time the job will be done.
“It’s just like when you schedule an appointment at the doctor’s office. You get a confirmation with all the details,” Wilson says. “We know people’s time is important to them and we don’t want them wondering what day we’re going to show up and we don’t want them sitting there waiting all day for us to show up. So, we give them a date and a time within the hour when we’ll be there.”
And that’s just the first step in the process. Twenty-four hours before the scheduled start, the system automatically sends another e-mail and text message reminding the customer of the date and time and asking them to respond. If they don’t respond they receive a phone call. To make it even easier for customers, e-mails contain a “message board” where customers can communicate back to Seal of Approval if they have any questions or concerns throughout the process of if they just need to change the date of the work.
“All they have to do is type in their message board and send it to us and they get a response almost immediately,” Wilson says. “They don’t have to call in.”
Wilson says all trucks are equipped with GPS, which is tied directly into the customer communications system. When a crew is finished with a job, they simply click a “finished” button in their system. The system then calculates the distance from that job to the next one, factors in traffic, and sends an e-mail and text to the next customer, telling them Seal of Approval will be there in “X” minutes.
When Seal of Approval arrives at a job, one of the first things they do is take a “before” picture. When the job is done they take an “after” picture and upload both to their system. When the job is closed out, the system automatically sends both pictures to the customer. Beneath the photos are links to all of Seal of Approval’s social media sites, making it easy for customers to click and leave a review and rate the contractor.
“We don’t actively seek reviews, we just do high-quality work and provide a very good customer experience,” Wilson says. “Then we make it easy for them to review us if they want to.”