Your company lives and dies by its reputation, and its ability to create lasting relationships with customers. At a time when online reviews can destroy your company and every lost customer becomes profit for your competitors, it should be your company's priority to make sure that each and every customer you have is satisfied with the work you completed.
But, you know that's not always possible. You're bound to have some unhappy customers. There are plenty of opportunities for something to go wrong when you're in someone's home, trying to repair an important part of their comfort.
Sometimes it's going to be the fault of you and your company. Sometimes it's going to be the fault of the customer's unrealistic expectations.
Sometimes it is nothing more than a misunderstanding on both ends. Regardless of the cause, you'll still have an unhappy customer on your hands.
On a macro-level, no single customer should matter that much. You likely lose and gain customers all the time, and losing one extra customer because of a poor experience shouldn't, in theory, cause your bankruptcy.
But we don't live in a macro-world anymore. With online review sites like Yelp and Angie's List, a single bad review can cost you thousands in future business. People are no longer looking to the Yellow Pages for their recommendations. Instead, they're looking to their friends and online, and if you're not providing top tier service to each and every customer, the consequences can be dire.
You're going to have an unhappy customer, and you have two options: You can ignore it and just write it off as a lost customer, or you can address it directly, and do whatever it reasonably takes to satisfy that customer.
Many of the strategies you use to address unhappy customers involve careful planning and knowledge about the customer's issues.
Even more important is simply being available, because most customers are going to call, and when they call they do not want to talk to an answering machine.
Imagine the mindset of an upset customer who is calling you on the phone. Making sure someone is available 100 percent of the time will give you an opportunity to:
Letting an upset customer get to an answering machine — or worse, no one picking up the phone — is a recipe for disaster.
Before you make any decisions, find out all of the information you can on the customer's experience. Find out what technician visited the customer, what the problem was, how much it cost, if they were late, what their experience was like with the customer and so on.
The more information you have on the customer, the more you'll be able to communicate with that customer.
Keep in mind — especially if you're calling them back — they're already upset/frustrated and they don't want to explain to you who they are and what they had done.
You should already have customer service solutions in place to help address any issues right away. Having a game plan before the customer calls or before you call the customer can play a powerful role in your ability to provide excellent service right away.
Make sure your customer service team knows what to do already. They should have an idea of what they're allowed to offer, what they should say, and how to direct the call if the customer becomes stressful or has any special needs.
No matter what the customer says, apologize and admit your faults. Do not try to tell the customer what they did wrong or how they were misinformed or contributed to the error.
Make sure they genuinely believe you're sorry for what you did, whatever it may be.
There will be times the customer is wrong. That's okay. You don't have to pretend you made a mistake where no mistake was made. But the truth is that hidden in every customer's reaction is something you DID do wrong.
For example, perhaps your technician did a great job repairing an air conditioner, but the part that was used has a 1 percent failure rate, or was a risky install because the original part was not available, or the problem wasn't fully diagnosed so they were working off hunches.
Even if the customer was made aware of these situations and the technician did the best they could to explain the risks, it's likely that the customer wasn't given adequate information about what should happen if things go wrong, how to be careful, where to call and how quickly they can get their air conditioner re-serviced.
You'll notice a small step is skipped —actually solving the problem. That's because every problem is different. You do need to solve their problem and address their needs, almost as if they are a new customer, no matter what the problem may be.
But once you've solved the problem, you'll also want to ensure the customer that the problem will not happen again. Explain what you're doing at your company to prevent it from recurring, and how you're going to help future customers even better than you did previously.
Customers want to believe their phone call matters, and if you explain how the phone call will affect your business in the future, the customer will feel better about their call.
Both unhappy customers and happy customers deserve to be treated like they are your only customer, especially in the HVAC world — a service industry that customers rate on their service. Make sure you try to keep the business of every unhappy customer and you'll not only save clients — you'll potentially get more customers for years to come.
Gere Jordan writes for Continental Message Solution (CMS), an award-winning call center serving the HVACR industry. Be sure to visit his blog and learn about CMS at www.continentalmessage.com.
Both unhappy customers and happy customers deserve to be treated like they are your only customer, especially in the HVAC world.
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