Imagine waiting all day for a return call from a repair service—a premier repair service with which you have been dealing for a month. You are attempting to get in touch with them to determine some dates when they can come in to finish up repairs on your home from one of those home-repair nightmares known as the “defective new hot water tank.” (You know the one: it splits and floods the lower level of your home and leads you into home reconstruction…)
It’s About the Customer, Not Your Convenience
You finally get the call after six on Friday night: “I’ve scheduled the painters for Tuesday.” Not “I’m hoping Tuesday would be convenient for you, because the painters are available on Tuesday” or “Would Tuesday be convenient for you?”
Yes, as a business owner I know all about resource scheduling. I know about efficiency. I also know about communicating with clients. I also know that customer service and satisfaction surveys give customers opportunities to provide feedback. Simple courtesy goes a long way to improving customer satisfaction ratings. The ultimate question becomes, “would you recommend the company you are doing business with based upon your interaction with employees and the service?” In this case the answer would be a resounding, emphatic, and definite “NO!”
Attitude makes up for a lot. Courtesy goes a long way. Perfection isn’t expected—or even necessary—when attitude and courtesy are present. For instance, with this same company and situation, during the initial mini-disaster when the furniture needed to be moved above the sponge that once was a carpet, having the workers listen as to the safest way to move certain pieces would have prevented ripping the sides off…splitting the top off a piece…and so on…Simple little things…
Listening… Courtesy… Service…
Sometimes people are in a hurry, maybe most of the time. They are sure they know how to get things done. They are in a routine, doing the same things day in and day out. They forget that these aren’t really the same things, because there are different people they are serving. Instead of SSDD (Same Stuff Different Day) think SSDC (Same Stuff Different Customer). Also, think about what you don’t know. For instance, YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SCHEDULES. What are you thinking when you go ahead and set up appointments without even checking to see if a customer is going to be available? If that were you on the other end of the phone, could you make yourself available on a certain day with little or no notice?
Your Big, Your Busy, Your Growing …
Aren’t you something to be proud of? You are doing so many jobs every month. This is just so routine. You are taking each job for granted. Churn them. Burn them and burn the bridges of customer service. Lose the contracts and the contacts that got you growing. See how fast the business can S-L-O-W-D-O-W-N, you won’t be the only company doing what you do in town. Don’t forget what it takes to keep customers coming. Attention to details and customer service sustains a business. You can grow and then you can go down again. It matters how you handle growth and how you treat each new customer (and the old ones too).
Value in the Customer: Referrals
In my case, my insurance agent made the referral to the reconstruction company to address the cleanup. She will also get feedback on their performance. So will the insurance company and the reconstruction company. Premier service? It has definitely not been that … or if this is premier, I don’t want to know about what comes below. I’ve had broken furniture, bad attitude, wrong information, bad attitude, delays, bad attitude, mix-ups, poor communication, and now I have bad attitude. I admit it: I can own it. I have a bad attitude about the situation. I want courtesy. I want to be asked if someone will be available to have the painters in. I don’t want the house measured three times for carpet. I don’t want furniture broken because they won’t listen and take the hutch off the top of the computer center before they try to move it. I like listening. I like courtesy. I like customer service. When my neighbors asked if I would recommend the carpet place or the reconstruction company, I have to say no. (The carpet installers also didn’t listen—personally I prefer not to have my furniture put outside the house uncovered with stuff getting all over it while they lay carpet. I also prefer that things not get piled on top of the new carpet while they lay it because they decide to install the carpet in the room in front of the door first and work their way to the back of the house…doing the smallest room last. I don’t know.)
The value of doing things right and making customers happy comes not just from the money you make from that project, but also from the projects that come in from the referrals to friends, colleagues, and the family of the happy customer. The profit you made on a project of an unhappy customer is never enough to cover the cost of the lost projects and the negative word-of-mouth from the “don’t use them” referral, especially if a negative referral goes back to the insurance agent, the insurance company, and the other service providers, and everyone else the dissatisfied customer has the chance to talk to.
One More Thing: How Can We Make It Right?
Sometimes all it takes is an admission that things haven’t been handled well. However, if you have a new project manager, and your company says”We apologize that our team wasn’t prepared to handle the project in the manner it should have been handled. We apologize and how can we make it right?” then this is a problem. It is never the customer’s responsibility or role to be the learning curve for your team—especially if your business is well-established and “premier.” If you don’t have internal processes that ensure the quality of customer service and care that is provided by new employees, then be prepared to experience loss of revenues and some backsliding in your growth. If you can’t maintain customer service and quality levels while you grow, you are growing too fast and the market will correct that for you.
Customers don’t expect perfection. They expect courtesy, professionalism, and if things go wrong, for you take responsibility and say “I’m sorry. We’ll make it right.” After all, they are the customer. They pay our bills. They are the reason we are in business. All of us need to keep that in mind.
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