It Takes a Team
Maureen Venitelli of One Call Electrical Services in South Plainfield, New Jersey, Finished First on the ESI Scoreboard Last Year for CSR Call-Booking Ratio at 97 Percent. The Superstar’s Understanding & Appreciation for Everyone’s Roll within the Company Makes Her an Incredible Success.
By Bob Houchin
Maureen Venitelli posts staggering Scoreboard numbers every month. Last year, the Customer Service Representative for One Call Electrical Services in South Plainfield, New Jersey, finished first in the Electricians’ Success International Call-Booking Ratio by a CCR Scoreboard category with her stunning 97 percentage.
Maureen quickly deflects praise. She understands her success hinges upon the work her technicians do in the field and how the company’s owners, Mark and Toni Hollain, perform as management. They’re the ones who ensure the company retains an incredible reputation and the phone continues to ring.
“I recently had someone write on a Google Review, ‘I went with this company because of how Maureen answered the phones.’ That was a wow for me,” Maureen said in a flattered tone. “But I want to be clear. We’re a team. It’s not just me. My technicians are very good to me. Mark and Toni are very good to me.”
Mark and Toni took a bit of a chance on Maureen three years ago when they hired her. Maureen had never worked as a call-taker or even in an office all day. She was a seasoned business-to-business, on-the-road salesperson for 20 years. “I’ve always been with customers, but it was always face-to-face. This is my first job I ever dealt with customers entirely over the phone.”
Maureen will admit learning and acquiescing to a script took some time and patience. It’s been a great move for her and the company. In fact, what makes Maureen unique isn’t just the fact she appreciates her role in the One Call team; she fully understands how much power her position as a CSR has, particularly as a CSR who operates as a dispatcher, too.
“I definitely know my guys and what they’re good at. If someone wants lighting, I know who is best on those. And I tell people that over the phone. ‘I’m going to send you Brandon. That’s his expertise. You’re going to love him. He’s great.’ When our guys walk into the home, they’re excited to meet our techs. They have confidence in them,” Maureen explained. “That way, our guys can say to the customer, ‘Maureen told me all about you. She said you were this or that.’ By giving them that type of information, it helps them begin to create that relationship with the customer. Relationships drive sales. I definitely know that from my time as a salesperson.”
Still, Maureen never loses site of her first responsibility. She clings to it with the utmost sincerity. “Oh yes, nothing stands in my way when that phone rings,” she laughs. “It’s the most important thing I’m doing at that moment—answering it and getting that call booked.”
How has Maureen managed to book so many calls? How does she handle certain objections? Let’s take a look in this issue’s “Learning from the Best.”
Did you have any concerns moving into an over-the-phone sales position, considering you had always done outside sales?
I thought it would be a fun, new challenge especially because of my background in sales. I had a job with Yellow Pages where I was scripted. So, I wasn’t afraid of the script, but I can’t lie—I fought Mark on it a little bit in the beginning. However, it comes so naturally. The interaction over the phone doesn’t faze me.
Did Mark give you a premade script, or did he give you more of an outline for you to follow?
It was one he provided, and he wanted me to follow it completely—at first. Moving forward, now, I’ve made it my own. I adjust it a bit for each client. You really have to be a Chameleon. Find the common ground, find what their concerns are, then put their mind at ease. Then you move back into the script.
How long did it take you to feel comfortable with the script?
I’d say it took me a solid six months to feel completely comfortable. You have to remember, it was just me. I was running the office at the same time. And I was reluctant in the beginning. But through repetition, it got easier and easier. Now, it’s second nature.
How long did it take you to get to that 97 percent mark?
I never recorded or followed what I did prior to learning about [ESI Scoreboard] last year. So, I set a goal for myself. From February to December, I made it my goal to win. I finished at 97 percent.
What did you do differently to hit that goal? Was it just motivation?
Coming from door-to-door sales where I didn’t have a single lead provided me, my mentality is now: when that phone rings, that’s a hot lead. I don’t want to let it go. They’re engaged. They need us, and they’re ready to buy. I will sell myself, my company, and my technicians to get that appointment. I won’t lose it.
How do you disarm upset customers? I mean, most people are calling because they have some type of unexpected problem.
I always try to find some common ground, or I try to get them to laugh, even when they’re stressed out because they had a fire. In those cases, especially, I want them to know—as sincerely as I can communicate over the phone—that we are going to take care of them, and they’re going to be okay.
How do you go about finding common ground over the phone? You’re not able to see the person or their home, after all.
In my opening, I’ll always say, “It’s a great day…,” and for example, people will say, “Well, I wish it was a great day here!” I’ll reply, “Well, how can I make it great for you?” If you follow the [ESI script] it defuses people. Let’s say someone tells me they had an electrical fire. I’ve had that happen to my mom. I share that with people, and I empathize with them that I know how scary that can be.
It comes down to asking questions. In a previous career, I traveled the whole state. When people tell me their location, I use that knowledge. I’ll say, “Oh, you’re right by that restaurant such and such. That’s a great place.” To get them to stop thinking about their problem for a moment. And then they know that I’m a local person, and people like that.
Do you sell Home Protection Plans over the phone?
I just started. After going to Expo in Vegas, I was amazed how these CCRs can sell so many. At the very least, I always plant the seed during every call. I tell them the benefits of it and sell the value. And it truly is a value. I can speak to it because I was a member before coming to work here. I tell people that. Now, you can tell when someone is brushing you off. In those situations, I don’t push. I just explain my technician will go over it and explain how you can save money today.
Do you ever get any pushback on your service fee?
Sometimes. When I mention the Service Fee, I go right into the benefits we provide. I’ll say, “I’m sending out a drug-tested, background-checked, fully trained-once-a-week technician with 18 years of experience driving a fully stocked truck and so on. If they interrupt me, or after saying all that, they question our $69 service fee, I lead right into the Home Protection Plan. I’ll say, “There are ways we can waive that fee today. If you sign up for our Home Protection Plan, you don’t pay dispatch fees, along with… and I list all the benefits. For example, if you need us to come out on the weekend, that’s $139. It’s waived as a member. You’re immediately getting your money’s worth.”
What do you say when people don’t want to pay the fee because they just want an estimate?
I tell people, “We’re going to provide you with three estimates. You don’t have to call another company. We’re going to show you options on every repair.” That’s the new thing we preach here: “We’re going to show you options.” I say that to people: “We’re going to provide you with options; we’re going to show you how to save money today, and we’re going to take care of your problem today.”
What if people say, I already have an estimate, and I didn’t have to pay for it?
I ask, “Was that company full licensed, bonded, and insured? Did you know if the technician was background checked, drug tested, and fully trained? My guys are going to come to your home in a professional uniform driving a marked truck. You’re going to get an estimate right then and there—there’s none of this going back and forth stuff. If you need us on the weekends, we’re here. Bottom line, you’re getting a company that’s local, and that’s going to take care of your problem—the right way—while saving you time.”
Why do you think you’ve had so much success booking calls?
The sales background and knowing the importance of that phone ringing are a big part of it. I’m fully engaged when I talk with them. I personalize everything. I want the customer to feel good. And I believe in constant communication—especially when explaining something as small as permit procedures for the larger jobs. You need to be able to explain those processes [so the customers always understand what’s going on and why.]
But I really believe I’m successful because I believe in the SGI way. You must believe in it—from the moment the phone rings to how my guys handle the job. The SGI way holds us to a standard as a team. I’m truly blessed to be a part of this great organization.
What piece of advice would you have for a new CSR?
Learn the script, and say it bubbly. Have a mirror on your desk to remind yourself to smile on every single phone call. And do not bring any drama to this office. I don’t care how bad my day is, that will never show in my voice—ever. That’s so important. You have to be confident and believe in yourself. Yes, if you’re new, you’re going to stumble. That’s okay. You’ll get through that, but at least be bubbly and positive.