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How to Get Clients on Your Schedule
by Bill Compton, Inspector Call Center
The phone rings. But you’re on a ladder or the roof of a home in the middle of an inspection. Or maybe you’re underneath the home in a crawlspace. It’s probably a call from an interested homebuyer. What do you do?
A home inspector can’t afford to miss phone calls and lost opportunities—and lost revenue. Missing that one opportunity might mean missing a steady flow of business from a real estate agent. At the same time, taking a call while balanced precariously on a roof adds too high a level of risk. No amount of revenue makes up for falling off a roof or ladder.
But the problem goes beyond your personal safety, though that remains most important. You also run the risk of upsetting the person paying for the inspection. Clients get upset when a home inspector stops in the middle of the job to take a call about another job. They depend on the inspector’s attention-to-detail and timely delivery of the home inspection report.
Interruptions create distractions that might cause an inspector to miss something. Performing a home inspection requires your complete attention.
In today’s hurry-up world, you can’t afford to put off potential customers. Those callers need immediate attention and demand getting on your schedule right away. But you’re busy, so what do you do? How can a single-inspector business, or an inspection business, keep their schedules full and organized?
Some home inspectors believe that only they can sell their services and set their schedule. That will cost them many opportunities. Today’s norm is that every company have a backup solution for taking calls. Sure, it’s nice when calls come in one at a time and you’re not busy. But we all know they often come in batches. When you’re on one call, you’ll miss several other opportunities. And when caught in the middle of an inspection, how many times will your client put up with you delaying their inspection? They have schedules to keep, too.
We’ve discussed handling your own scheduling and its pitfalls. The control is nice, but the lost revenue is disastrous for your business. What other options do you have?
• Hire a full-time employee
• Contract with a call center
Having full-time call center support for all of your back-office functions (scheduling inspections, managing the database, scheduling 3rd party vendors, etc.) can be a great enhancement to your business if that level of support makes sense for you. But all businesses, even one-person shops, can benefit by having someone to answer the phone when you can’t. If you don’t have that in place, it’s not a question of whether you missed any calls, but rather, how many calls and how much opportunity you missed.
Employee or Call Center?
Let’s evaluate the true cost of hiring in-house. You’ll pay an employee somewhere between $15 and $20 an hour. In a 40-hour week, that’s $30,000 to $40,000 annually even before figuring in employer taxes and benefits. And they’ll have vacation/sick days you’ll need to cover.
Also, it takes time to train an employee who likely knows nothing about real estate inspections. This means time away from inspecting for you, which might mean lost inspection opportunities. If this employee leaves, you’ll have to start from scratch all over again. Ask any business owner what is the most difficult part of running a business and they will tell you— managing people!
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A call center trains its representatives so they understand the inspection industry and the services your company offers. Supervisors keep them on task and work with them to improve their ability to upsell the services that you offer. For about the same cost as hiring someone who works five days a week, you can contract with a call center to operate seven days per week—approximately 72 hours each week. Anyone dealing with real estate understands there’s no such thing as a weekend off.
A home inspection call center can take over all scheduling. Inspectors update when they are available for appointments. Calls to the business get routed to the call center, which takes over appointment creation. These call center representatives know how to handle your incoming calls, so your clients get the best service. Your time in the field remains uninterrupted while more inspections get scheduled.
Many people still prefer speaking with a person rather than making commitments digitally with no human contact. A real person can sell add-on services to the client also. And they can get answers from you to get the information they need for a call back.
Just like a full-time employee, call center representatives can:
• Schedule inspections
• Sell inspections
• Provide customer service
• Sell add-ons
• Arranging 3rd party services
• Reschedule appointments
• Collect payments
If you use or want to use the ISN Real Estate Professional Dashboard to allow real estate agents to add inspections to your calendar directly, a call center helps you follow up and confirm. If you are out on an inspection it’s easy to miss completing the order, even with notifications set up in ISN. That’s where a call center helps keep everyone happy by contacting the agent to upsell, if possible, and to quote a price for the inspection. At the conclusion of the call, the inspection is on the schedule.
How Can Taking Calls Hurt Your Business?
Getting many calls asking about home inspections sounds great for your business—unless you are taking them all yourself. Every call disrupts the rest of your workday. This puts you behind on inspections already on the schedule. Expect another late night writing up the day’s inspection reports. A professional call center can screen your calls and messages, adding home inspections to open slots in your schedule. By doing this, you and your team can focus on the inspections and building the business.
About the Author
Bill Compton owns and operates several companies in the home inspection industry including the Inspector Call Center. Prior to the home inspection industry, Bill owned a construction company building high-end, luxury homes. He holds a degree from the University of Richmond and served proudly in the United States Navy.
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