How important is Customer Care to Your Business?
As a consumer that interacts with other businesses and a business owner, I would say this is the one area of your business that defines your success. Expertise in your field is vital, but if it you cannot connect with your clients, that expertise will be ineffective at best. The way your company is perceived by the potential consumers on their first interaction is key to your getting new business.
It may seem remedial, but simply having someone answer the business phone during normal work hours makes a huge difference.
For example, while trying to do some work on my own home, we had to call up to eight companies to get one who would answer their phone. Few called back when requests for bids were left. I was shocked at what I perceived to be lack of concern on the part of these companies. This also gave me the impression that they would not take care of the details of the project if I hired them to do the work. The message was loud and clear, “I don’t care to work for you!” Personally, it made me thankful for the outstanding customer care team that works for Integrity Roofing and Painting.
Having a warm, intelligent person answering the phones will give the best first impression. When this is missing in a company, many potential clients will continue to look elsewhere. If they get a sense that the person answering the phone is annoyed by having to take their information, they will interpret this as “this company does not want my business.” It will not occur to them that the customer care representative is having a bad day or not feeling well as they have their own issues with which they are dealing. The person you hire to be front line on the phones must be able to separate from their personal problems when they walk through the door or pick up the phone to greet clients and potential clients with what I call a “smile in their voice.” Government offices and large corporations can get away with flat, depressed, monotone customer care representatives, but when you own a small to medium size business, it will vastly reduce new sales and client satisfaction. No amount of expertise will impress an offended client who has a negative experience from contacting your company.
Likewise, when the person answering the phones does not know enough about the company, it sends a message of inability to perform the work well. Hiring and training new customer care representatives is a necessity. However, during this transition and training time, it would be better to have the new representative cheerfully explain that they are new and will get the answers from someone who has more information, giving reassurances that the company is able to meet their needs. Everyone understands being new on a job and will not hold that against the person provided they know someone in the company has the ability to serve them. Cheerfulness goes a long way here, as it is hard to be upset with someone who is being cheerful with you. Cheerfulness, however, will not cover lack of follow through in promised callbacks within an appropriate time frame. Having someone say that they will get back to you in a specified time is still great customer service when they follow through with the future contact in that specified time. If not, this is the first big strike against your character in the eyes of the potential client.
When I am looking to hire a company to build a fence or resurface my driveway for example, I want to know that the company will be available to answer questions or address any concerns I may have after being trusted with my projects. When no one is available to take the initial call, I will move on the next company that can meet that need. I rarely call a second time. Having the right person on the phones during the right times is crucial to success of a small business.
Good customer care does not stop at the phones. Setting up appointments should be done as soon as possible. To address the source of frustration or anxiety of the client who has been unable to secure an appointment before contacting you, will cause a sense of peace and start the interactions off on a very positive note.
Showing up to appointments early or on time will make a huge difference. The millennial generation does not always understand the importance of time to their potential clients and this can be a source of disconnect. Respecting someone’s time shows respect for them as a person. My dad is of the generation that believes that if you are not fifteen minutes early, you’re late. While I have never been accused of being early to anything personally, when it comes to business appointments, even I have a high expectation that they start on time. If you find that you are running late to a meeting, call far enough in advance to let the person know and make sure they can still meet with you. Never offer excuses for why you are going to be or are late. Traffic, weather, other appointments going longer are not valid excuses. Offer an apology, own that you are late and did not plan appropriately and try to earn back their respect. This may seem harsh to some, but it will make a difference in how your company is perceived by the client or potential client who has just as many demands on them for their time.
Do not over promise or over sell. If you set realistic expectations from the beginning and throughout the process, you will have many happy clients. The last thing you want to do is have clients think you are taking advantage of them or lying to them because you did not set clear and realistic expectations. Do everything in your power to fulfill those expectations once they are set. Again, avoid giving excuses. For example, If a vendor runs out of product, let them know the job will be delayed, but you will stay in touch with the vendor to prioritize their project as soon as the materials are available and be looking for other vendors who may be able to get the product sooner. Call them and/or email them on a regular basis to assure them that you are still working on their behalf and their satisfaction is important to you. Document those interactions or attempts to follow up so you can refer to them if needed. Follow up and follow through will always lead to happy clients, repeat clients, referrals…
Make excellence part of your company’s culture. Let workers go who don’t have this mentality. They will misrepresent you and your company. If they can be mentored, actively mentor them. If they don’t have the mindset to adjust to your expectations of excellence, do not be afraid to bless them to find a new job that is more filling to their personality. Seek to hire people who understand the value of communication and follow through. Treat them with excellence so they feel like these qualities are desired and rewarded within your company. Respect their personal boundaries and support their creativity and personal drive that they bring to your team. Continue to grow together professionally. It will naturally be transferred to how they serve your clients.
Be fair, honest and work with integrity with all your clients. When a misunderstanding happens, seek to first see it as they do. Try to keep strong emotions out of it, even if they don’t. You can deescalate a situation by remaining calm and lowering your voice. If they do not have a full or accurate understanding of the situation, address the gaps in understanding or perception in a caring way. Accept responsibility for mistakes and lack of clear expectations. Seek a resolution that will benefit both sides. I am not suggesting being a door mat or being taken advantage of by a client. There is usually a way to find a solution that will meet both the needs of your client and your company when you objectively discuss the situation. Try to remember that difficult to please clients usually make very strong references and great referrals if you can find a way to please them.
We are blessed to have found a professional, powerfully pleasant customer support team here at Integrity Roofing and Painting. I encourage you to not stop short of this for your own company.
Written by Teresa Fristoe