Give Customers an Opportunity
Originally published: 09.01.08 by Traci Purdum
Giving customers an opportunity to voice their opinions makes good business sense. It can also help you "snatch victory from the jaws of defeat."
Meet the $30,000 handprint. No, it’s not the handprint of Babe Ruth immortalized in cement. This handprint is the one your service technician left on the wall of a customer’s house. This is the same handprint that annoyed the customer and kept them from recommending the contractor for a $30,000 job. And the worst part, the contractor had no idea that he had lost future work because a careless technician placed his dirty hand on a customer’s pristine white walls.
This handprint is also the marketing mascot for BlueLink LLC (www. bluelinkdirect.com), an Atlantabased growth-management partner for companies serving homeowners. BlueLink designs and executes surveys for contractors and offers contractors a nifty Internet-based dashboard to track all the results, thus allowing them to see what areas (or people) need attention. And by being a third-party vendor, the survey results can be parlayed into powerful marketing tools.
Indeed, “Homeowners struggle with how to tell the good contractors from the bad,” according to John Dyslin, CEO of BlueLink. “Are they professional and clean? Do they show up on time? Will they take advantage of me? No matter what a contractor claims, a homeowner will trust the word of customers who have actually used the contractor.”
And while the main goal of customer-satisfaction surveys is to ensure your entire company is performing at its best — from the person who answers the phone (a rude receptionist can lose as many sales for the company as a grimy handprint) all the way down to the service technicians, offering customers an opportunity to vocalize kudos or complaints is a priceless tool in the battle to win customers.
On the kudos side, you can use these comments on your Web site and in your mailers — just be sure to obtain permission to use the comments and customer names. On the complaint side, you can use these remarks to immediately fix what is broken. Oftentimes, customers don’t mention dissatisfaction because they feel their complaints will fall on deaf ears. When specifically asked, they will more than likely let it all hang out. The key here is to respond immediately.
Indeed, SCORE, Counselors To America’s Small Business, notes that if you discover that a customer is dissatisfied, take action immediately to win back their confidence in the services you provide. “People like to know that their opinion counts and if they feel like you care about what they think, they will think positive thoughts about you and your business,” according to the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs nationwide.
SCORE suggests that you listen carefully to your customers’ complaints without interrupting. Acknowledge that there is a problem and empathize with upset customers. Let them know what you can do for them and make them aware of all of their options. It’s best to have procedures in place for these instances, and make sure you empower employees to take necessary action to immediately diffuse the situation.
SCORE also points out a seemingly obvious point: Always treat your customers with respect. While this may be a no-brainer, many folks forget this step. Instead of serving the customer and offering reverence, some companies choose to serve themselves instead with lessthan- stellar results. “Customers should sense that you are calm, but concerned. Your attitude when dealing with upset customers should be professional, mature, pleasant and reasonable,” explains SCORE.
Once you determine the problem and how it originated, you can take steps to ensure that it does not happen again. Learning about a problem can actually help improve your business if you make sure that the problem is avoided in the future.
And if complaints are addressed properly, contractors can “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat,” says Dyslin.
Traci Purdum is a former editor of the HVACR Business Magazine.