HVAC Residential Market

The Pitfalls of Poor Customer Service

Butch Welsch HeadshotFor many years I have felt that providing quality, timely customer service is the most important thing we as a contractor can provide. I believe its importance has gotten even greater because it seems the overall quality of service is deteriorating. I believe we all can gain from being more attentive to the type of service that we experience in our everyday lives. For example, if we stay in an extremely nice hotel, or have dinner at a top-notch restaurant, I watch for the types of things those places do that creates that feeling of exceptional service. And there is a lot that can be learned from those experiences. Unfortunately, it is also possible to learn things from a less than exceptional experience.

Here is a story about how not to provide service.

For the 33 years we have been in our home, I have been hanging the outdoor Christmas lights. Over the last few years, my wife insists that I have become crabbier and crabbier from doing it. In her words I’ve become an old f—t. This year, she talked me into calling “a guy” to put up the lights. We met with him, agreed on a price, and what work would be done two days before Thanksgiving. He promised the work would be done the week after Thanksgiving. I must say, I let out a sigh of relief; one less thing I would have to worry about this year. Little did I realize what lie ahead.

The week after Thanksgiving went by and no one showed up. Finally, Friday morning came and my wife decided to call to see when we could expect our handyman. The individual who answered the phone had never heard of us, or the work we had scheduled. Not a good sign. He said he would check on it and get back to her shortly. Since she called in the morning, she anticipated that his calling back “shortly” would mean at least by noon. Noon came and went and, 4 p.m. arrived, and still no call. She couldn’t take it any longer.

She called again. This time he said “just a moment” and put her on hold for 20 minutes. When he did return, he at least acknowledged that the job existed, and said we were being scheduled for the weekend. That seemed surprising to me because the company is a Union Electrical contractor and I was surprised they would be doing the work on a weekend. Nevertheless, I was satisfied. The weather forecast was great for the weekend and the timing worked well with me.

Well, as each hour of the weekend went by there was more discussion about what had happened to our handyman. We agreed that if they didn’t show up by Sunday evening it was my job to fight with them Monday morning.

Of course, they didn’t show up on the weekend. Therefore, on Monday morning, I called the guy’s cell phone. He answered and after I explained who I was, and why I was calling, he said, “Butch, you are in the service business, what do you do when your employees lose tickets and paperwork, and leave customers hanging?”

Well, to begin, I was very surprised he would say such a thing, but I did answer that our employees don’t do that. We employ quality employees and utilize precise, dedicated systems that make the customer the top priority. I also told him that if I were him, I would make haste to the office and get things in order before selling more jobs the office was incapable of taking care of.

Our 9:30 a.m. conversation continued, “I am about to take a shower, after I do so I will get dressed and check into your job,” said the handyman.

This is high on a list of things not to say to a customer. About three hours later he called back, apologizing profusely. He promised that the job would be taken care of, for sure, on Tuesday, Dec. 4. He also offered to put up more lights than we ordered at no additional cost, offered us a discount, and again promised that he would do whatever he could to make us happy. What would make us happiest would be to see the lights up on our house. After that happens, we will discuss some form of a settlement, I said.

Finally, to my surprise, at 5:30 p.m., the crew arrived and finished about 9 p.m. Although the look of the lights isn’t what I would have hoped, at least it’s done.

Through this story, I note at least eight things this man and his company did wrong when it comes to customer service. Just thinking about this scenario makes me even more proud of the level of service we provide. And, by the way, next year I will be calling a different “guy.”

Publication date: 1/14/2013

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