Keeping customers happy and content is not always the easiest thing to do. I think it’s because customers measure time differently than you. To customers, time is waiting ... mostly for you and your crew to show up. To you, time is moving way too quickly. If you have two rain days in one week, time is mostly lost. However, there is common ground. Time may be the most important thing you have. In many surveys I have read, people often say time is more important to them than money. I guess it all depends on how it’s spent.
As I talk with contractors, I hear of long backlogs. That’s usually a good thing. There is less pressure on pricing; your bank and insurance company feel good about your future; and for the most part, you can have confidence in investing more into your company. It’s times like these that new trucks and equipment are purchased.
But every time a backlog of work gets extended too far, customers begin to feel devalued. And a happy customer becomes discontented. But customers are caught in a paradox. They don’t want to hire a contractor who is not busy because something surely must be wrong with the company. They want to hire a busy contractor because busyness is the very thing that authenticates their choice. That is until the wait becomes too long.
So how do you keep customers content so they choose you instead of your competitor? The first thing you can do is set the most reasonable expectation possible. Disappointment is the gap between one’s expectation and reality. The wider the gap, the larger the disappointment. The gap between your promise to deliver and the actual delivery date can vary because of circumstances out of your control. Step one is to set up a realistic schedule for every new sale. I know salesmen want to promise the moon, but unmet promises can become your headache a few months down the road.
The second thing you should do is communicate regularly. Maybe you told someone her roof system would be installed next week. But three rain days later, things have changed. So call her again and calmly explain her business matters to you and you will stay on the job until it’s complete, just like you are staying on and finishing the projects you currently have started. The customer may not be happy, but you are resetting expectations. The key here is to honestly communicate when your crew is likely to arrive.
Next, make sure you send a full crew to the project and get the work done as expeditiously as you can while never compromising quality. Keep the job site clean and disruption to a minimum. Once again, keep the lines of communication open. Make sure your customer knows you care just as much about his or her job as you did the previous one.
Finally, after the project is completed and the customer is satisfied, send a small thank you. A little bit of company swag can go a long way. A coffee mug or golf shirt with your company logo can be a great reminder of the good work you did. Anything that communicates their value to you as a customer can go a long way to refresh the relationship. That may cost you a little time, but it will be time well spent.
Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.
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