Chem-Dry Franchise Owners Branch Out With Call Center Scheduling Arm

Service boosted their own revenue, but also proved valuable to other Chem-Dry franchise owners looking to capitalize on leads and book appointments

When Randy and Erika Herman met in 2002, they were two successful Chem-Dry franchise owners — he was in Seattle, and she was in Dallas. Over the next several years (and a lot of frequent flyer miles) their feelings deepened and eventually Randy sold his Washington State operation, moved to Dallas and the two were married. And what do two inspired entrepreneurs do when they get together? Start a new business, of course.

“Erika began Cornerstone Chem-Dry, the operation we have now, in 1994, and I also started mine in Seattle in 1994,” Randy recalls. “When I sold and moved to Dallas, we were focused on growing her existing franchise. We were asked if we would consider opening in another city and said no, but after doing some research we came up with the demographics of what we thought would be ideal for us. Based on that, we were offered Oklahoma City, and ended up buying some franchises there — and they’ve turned out great.”

Growing operations lead to call center

With multiple trucks running in all their territories, things were going well for the Chem-Dry franchise owners. But a good business operator always has ways to improve margin and boost revenue, and Randy is no different. He’d considered opening a call center before, but early in his relationship with Erika he saw how tethered she was to her phone and the idea really took root.

“She had a schedule book and a cell phone with her at all times, and would have to duck out of events and activities to book appointments,” he says. “I told her I was going to handle her calls on my servers in Seattle through a VPN line, and despite her initial hesitation after two weeks she thought it was the greatest thing ever. Our motto for what would be the call center operations became ‘giving you the freedom to succeed,’ because I really think to be successful you should be working on your business instead of in your business.”

Randy drew up a business model that he said would appeal to him as a client, such as paying per booking rather than per minute, as well as making confirmation and follow-up calls, handling some paperwork, and database chores. He incorporated Virtual Office Solutions, the operation in Washington State in 2003, then moved the business to Dallas and reopened in 2005.

Successful model lures in other franchise owners

The operation has several customer service representatives, and given the volume of inquiries and appointments generated in Oklahoma City and Dallas, they stay busy. Still, Randy began thinking of ways their time could be maximized, and at the same time help other franchise owners with their booking-related costs.

“Nobody wants to have a customer service representative who’s just staring at the computer, so we started looking at ways we could take the call business for our fellow operators,” he explains. “We handle the inbound calls for appointments and estimates, and also do some outbound calls around rebooking, such as a six- or nine-month reminders.”

The center is now handling business for around 90 other franchises, and usually has eight to fourteen people on the phones, working various shifts to cover phone calls from 6 am to 10 pm CST on weekdays with shortened hours on weekends, including Sundays. It has helped many new Chem-Dry franchise owners get free of their phones, but also been beneficial for longtime operators as well.

“We hope to continue adding services, so it’s of even more value,” Randy says. “We are working on a way to help with marketing campaigns, where a set phone number on unique pieces of collateral would come to us, so they could track how many calls came in, were answered and got booked. That kind of information is really helpful to owners.”

Chem-Dry is the world’s largest carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise with nearly 3,500 franchises in 52 countries, serving 10,000 homes and businesses a day. Chem-Dry has been Entrepreneur magazine’s top-rated carpet cleaning franchise for 29 straight years.  The Chem-Dry Hot Carbonating Extraction process delivers a faster-drying, deeper and more environmentally friendly clean that appeals to both home and business owners. In addition to carpet and area rugs, Chem-Dry provides tile and stone, granite countertops, leather and upholstery cleaning.

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