It’s that time of year. You’re likely being inundated with potential customers pleading, “I NEED my backflow device tested. When can you be here?”
One of our customers stopped by yesterday and during that short time, he received several texts from unknown numbers asking, “Can you get out here today?” His response to us was that when he gets texts like that he simply replies with “No.” Why? Because, “I’m swamped!” It’s nothing new in the backflow testing industry. When a 2nd notice arrives from the Water District, people start clambering to contact anyone who can show up to test their backflow devices.
During this week C3 has directly been asked to test a dozen different backflow devices. (We don’t test: never have, never will. – but people don’t like hearing No.) We’ve also had a phone call inquiring if we know how much it costs to get backflow certified. The caller was tired of trying to find someone to test their backflow and then have to pay for it. When we told him the time and cost involved, he got quiet and said he’d hire someone.
Required backflow testing isn’t new – most of the people who contact our customers directly have had their devices tested for years. But still, they procrastinate getting the device scheduled.
So, What can you do with the inevitable procrastinator? Well, several things.
1. Send notifications to customers early.
If you’re not sending out notifications earlier in the season, start now. You probably have an annual test list – contact all those customers long before their tests are due to the water utility. If you’re using C3 notifications, you’re in luck since it’s easy to batch email folks. Even if you’re not, make sure you send out an email or postcard a month or two before tests are due. On a similar note make sure to have an annual test list and incentivize people to be added to that list.
2. Keep track of water districts test due dates.
Some areas within a short distance have drastically different due dates; in our area the due dates vary from March to October. Keeping track of this allows you to schedule them ahead of time and sort out backflow testing year-long, instead of huge rushes the two weeks leading up to July 1st.
3. Don’t be afraid to say “No.”
If you’re over-scheduled, don’t be afraid to say no to potential customers. Sure, it’s not great turning away business. But what happens when you always say yes-yes-yes and you’re burning the candlestick at both ends? You risk submitting late backflow tests for customers that have stuck with you for a while. Simply put, it’s unfair. I have a caveat though. Inquire if they’d like to be put on an annual testing list for next year and let them know you’ll contact them early 2018. If you’re using C3 customer portal, direct them there to be added directly to an annual testing list.
4.Say “Yes, and…”
What do I mean? When you say yes to a last-minute backflow test charge more. The easiest answer is, “Yes, and the price will be base price+emergency cost.” Your time is important – bill accordingly. Have a set test price, and have a separate test price for a “done this week.” I’ve seen the prices of last-minute backflow tests vary from $15 to $75 extra. You’re not going to lose customers by charging more – you’re going to gain that one because you fit them in. And next year, you can notify Mr. Procrastinator you’ll be out to test his device early, so he can rest easily in 2018.
It’s great to have new customers – ideally your backflow testing company grows each year. However, handling the stressful season well is imperative. Your current and future customers will thank you, even the procrastinator.