Best Suggestion for Owners: Lead by Example

January 26, 2001
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If you ask business people whether they care about their customers, almost everyone immediately answers yes to this question. In addition, they tell their employees that they have to care about taking care of the customer. However, many owners and managers act in such a way that employees can see that they really don’t care.

Just remember this: Actions speak louder than words.

Here’s what I am talking about. The next time you and your service manager get a complaint, how long does it take for you or your service manager to call that customer back? Do you call the customer back immediately?

I know of service managers and owners who avoid a problem and refuse to call back. Guess what? That is sending the wrong signal to your employees. If you don’t care enough to call a customer back, why should your employees care enough to be courteous, neat, etc., when they are at the customer’s home?

Resolving customer complaints immediately (within 24 hours) means that you truly care. Once the complaint is resolved, you may choose to fire the customer. However, don’t fire the customer before the complaint is resolved.



BE PROACTIVE

Is your shop neat? Is your truck neat? If you expect your service technicians to be neat on the job and take care of the customer, why would you have a messy shop or allow messy trucks? Again, the words must coincide with the actions that you take.

Simply put, you have to lead by example.

Your customers write your paycheck. It costs a lot of money to gain a customer. Why would you do work one time and not continue to contact a customer? Why wouldn’t you call after the work was done to make sure that everything went right from the customer’s perspective?

Your technician’s opinion doesn’t count. The fact that you didn’t hear from the customer doesn’t count. You have to be proactive to ensure that the customer was happy. After all, there’s a lot of competition and all a person has to do is to say, “I think I’ll try someone else next time and open the Yellow Pages.”

Surveys show that over 60% of the people who don’t use your company again believe that you just don’t care about them. I’ve personally done mailings to customers who haven’t used a company in the past 18 months to entice them to use that contractor’s service again.

The lowest response rate we achieved in all areas of the United States was 8%. The highest was 23%. Most of the comments we hear when previous customers respond are, “We just forgot about it and no one reminded us,” or “We didn’t know that you were still in business.”

After every service call and installation, a telephone call should be made. Make sure that everything went right. Even if the system is fixed perfectly, the customer may not have had a good experience with the service technician or installation crew. The only way that you can find this out is by talking with the customer.



Reach Out and Sell Someone

In one of the companies that we worked with, our follow-up calls revealed that one technician had a customer service problem. The person calling found that the customers were hesitating when answering the questions, so she asked what was wrong. The answer in most cases was a variation of “The system was fixed and working properly, but I wasn’t comfortable with the technician and would appreciate that you not send him back again.”

These people would never call to complain. They would have tried someone else next time, leaving you to wonder why you never heard from them again. However, since someone called and had the presence of mind to listen and ask questions that were not on the “script,” the customer felt comfortable talking about real feelings. The caller also alerted the service manager so that he could solve the communication problems with the technician.

When you listen to the tone of the customer in addition to what the customer says, you may hear hesitations, uncomfortable tones, etc. This is your clue that even though the system is working well, there was a problem. Questioning customers about their feelings and solving these problems will keep more customers coming back.

For installation jobs, talk with the customer one month after the installation is completed. The customer will have time to get used to the new system. When you call, customers are pleasantly surprised. This telephone call will have a greater impact than a thank you note sent after the job was done.

If you expect your employees to take care of the people who write your paychecks, you have to lead by example.

King is president of American Contractors Exchange, Inc. She can be reached at 800-511-6844; ruthking@acecontractor.com (e-mail).

Sidebar: Enter Our 'Grow Your Business' Contest.

Do you seem to be chasing your tail going after more work, yet your profits remain the same — or worse? If your main goal in 2001 is to grow your business, The News is willing to help. In fact, we’re putting our money where our mouth is.

The News is offering, for free, the services of Ruth King, president of American Contractors Exchange, to help you reach your contracting goals this year. For all rules and regulations, see our “Do You Want to Grow Your Business?” entry form on page 118 in the print publication.

Publication date: 01/29/2001

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