How contractors can build trust, set their teams up for success and keep customers satisfied
The hard costs of inconsistent service — lost hours of billable work due to no follow-up, or unbilled time spent correcting mistakes and oversights — add up quickly for service contractors. But the true long-term damage of inconsistent service is harder to measure. It’s not always obvious how to prevent or repair it, however hidden costs of inconsistent service frequently reveal themselves in predictable ways. Contractors who know the common warning signs can minimize loss, build better teams and keep their company on the winning track.
When customers don’t feel like they are a priority, the loss of trust is contagious. Some of the results are tangible, like a decrease in online reviews and referrals. Others are harder to see.
I often tell business owners I’m the most dangerous kind of customer to lose, because you’ll never know I’m gone. I don’t fight battles. I’ll just move on and find someone else. An angry customer who complains is giving you a chance to fix the problem. But how do you fix a problem you don’t even know about?
And it’s not just paying customers who are affected by poor service. In today’s employment market, where demand for qualified technicians and installers is at an all-time high, potential employees rely on the same search results and online reviews as customers. Considering the high stakes of the current labor shortage, it’s critical that contractors convey trust and reliability to service professionals looking for new opportunities.
Besides being alert for changes in reviews and referrals, business owners and leadership teams should always be on the lookout for signs that internal breakdown is leading to external service issues.
Personality conflicts are a visible indication of a culture needing improvement. When employees don’t get along, crucial pieces of information fall through the cracks. Conflicts between essential team members, like dispatch and technicians, can have a devastating effect on your team’s effectiveness. Make sure you have adequate training and other resources in place so employees feel comfortable discussing any issues with their managers and keep an eye on how team members get along.
Poor service also reflects a lack of training and tools. Clearly defined lines of communication help employees settle potential internal issues before they create problems. Telephone scripts set out concrete next steps for meeting customer expectations. (It’s also crucial that managers take advantage of recorded calls to monitor how those scripts are executed.) Setting standards and schedules for follow-ups ensures customers feel secure with your service and support.
In order to set the right steps for team members to keep service reliable, contractors must commit to the key principles of customer care.
- Follow up and follow through: The last thing we want to do is make it more difficult for the customer. If they have to pick up the phone and call us again, we’re not making it easier for them. Make it easy for them to work with us: Identify the next steps; make sure internal messages are passed on; follow up with a customer even if you don’t have the final answer. It’s OK to say, “Mrs. Jones, we still haven’t figured out the solution, but we’re working on it and didn’t want you think we’d forgotten about you.”
- Communicate effectively: Show empathy and generate rapport with customers when they call. If they call and someone is just giving out prices over the phone, they’re not going to trust you. We need to communicate the value of what we do, because they’re not calling just to ask for a price. They’re looking for a solution. They’re looking for the right fit, and if you invest time in building scripts that help them get there, they’ll trust you and build on that.
- Create a positive experience: There’s an actual scientific fact called the service recovery paradox. It says that you see an immediate surge in loyalty when a service failure is followed by a strong recovery that exceeds the customer’s expectations. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in or what you’re selling. There’s a huge increase in loyalty when you take care of someone after a service failure. They’re going to stay with you longer and give you more referrals because they know you’ll make it right.
Catherine Bares is a service coach and trainer at Business Development Resources (BDR) with over 21 years of experience in the HVAC industry. She is passionate about service and using great customer experiences to increase revenue while building long-term relationships within the community.