“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” That famous line from Coleridge is very emblematic of the strange paradox that home improvement company owners are experiencing today.
Many of them report literally being awash in “data,” the term for all manner of inquiries from diverse sources, from Facebook ads to Home Advisor and everything in between, and they cannot keep up with the flow. From that flow, owners and their call-center staff are generating the appointments they need to keep their sales teams in the field each day. Business is good. But a lot of water, and the dollars it costs to create that flow, is going over the dam in the process.
Here’s a startling fact: Amid the surge in consumer demand for home services, the average price of an issued lead rose again in 2020 to a whopping $426, according to a survey of 300-plus large home improvement companies conducted annually by Dave Yoho Associates. Demand is everywhere, but the cost of issued leads continues to rise. Good quality appointments with full demonstrations that lead to sales are as scarce and as valuable as they have ever been, even when demand was weak.
Increasingly, home improvement company owners are turning to third-party call centers such as the one operated by John Pohl, owner of the Springs Connect call center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Having started as a call-center employee when he was 21 and having managed call centers for some of the biggest names in home improvement over the past 30 years—15 with Pacesetter Corp—Pohl, now 62, is grounded in fundamentals of the call-center business, which remain very effective today. According to Pohl, those skills are proving very useful to his many home improvement company clients, which are some of the biggest names in the industry.
“Amidst all of the technology available today, these are the same type of people in the same type of room that you would have seen 20 or 30 years ago,” Pohl says. “You have to get them motivated. You have to get them excited. You have to teach them to be disciplined, work hard and sell somebody on the phone. It’s the same everything, and it still does work.”
Pohl said home improvement company owners today are using software such as Improveit 360, MarketSharp and LeadPerfection to become increasingly sophisticated about the “data” they manage. There are lists of people who did not buy the first time (or rehash leads). There are names that were never reached. All these lists are viewed as assets by owners. They are coming to work each day and are actively looking for ways to convert those assets—inquiries that are anywhere from 30 to 90 days old—and turning them into appointment and sales.
Pohl gave the example of a company owner in Florida who has been a Springs Connect client for many years. Since April 17, this Florida client has sold $603,000 in installed business on an investment of $28,000 using existing assets, Pohl notes. They are turning “data” into dollars, which lowers the overall cost of leads for the company.
Many Firms Now Engaged
Citing company confidentiality agreements, Pohl is not able to release the names of his client companies, but they range from the very biggest firms to up-and-comers and are from all regions of the country. Typically, clients will not require a specific script. Pohl’s team will work with company leadership to understand their various key differentiators in their local market and any specific offer points in order to create a script with his team.
One exception happens to be one of the largest companies in the industry, which requires Pohl’s team to follow its exact script. This client also independently records each call and then goes back and grades each performance. This type of arrangement is not practical for every client. At the end of the day, Springs Connect gets paid based appointments set. The current going rate for using old contacts to generate 100 appointments is $14,000, Pohl says.
Today, there are a handful of independent call-center companies out there doing what Pohl’s firm is doing. Those firms are in high demand, says Pohl, who is a little bit surprised at the way the lead-generation and appointment-setting part of the industry has evolved in recent years. Beginning a decade ago with the advent of new and highly efficient lead sources from the internet, the conventional wisdom was that third-party call centers would be in less demand, but the opposite has been true, Pohl notes.
“I thought at one point that I was going to be on the outside looking in,” Pohl says. “That was probably seven or eight years ago. Companies got better at marketing and were getting leads from Facebook and the internet and other new sources, and they were able to take those leads and skim off the top and more efficiently get a lot of sales. I found out that my expertise in the cold-call atmosphere, having been trained to try to squeeze as much as possible out of customer contacts, that our services have become more and more needed.” QR