Exceeding Customer Expectations

March 17, 2008
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Why do customers call us? What do they want? Answer: Customers call us for one reason. They want our help.

Customers need service. Customers are uncomfortable. They feel unsafe. They have a question. They need a part (filter, water panel, etc.). In other words, customers need h-e-l-p.

So the next question needs to be asked: Are we helping our customers or are we making it hard for them to get the assistance they need to make their family safe and comfortable at home?

Your customers want to know that they are getting a fair price and priority service. They want to know we will let them know all the things they need to know when they need to know them. They want happy, eager, willing individuals who are ready to meet their needs.

They expect us to be consistent, to be there when they need us, to always use quality products, and to perform quality service with a professional image. Deliver when we promised, and know what we are doing. Understand their needs, and give them our uncompromised commitment to be available for them, no matter what.

Keep in mind, they keep us in business, pay the bills, and have the power - just as a board of directors does - to elect to use our services, to reorder from us, or to tell a friend about our services.

So, how do we exceed customers’ expectations? Simple. Be friendly and helpful. When we perform our job with empathy and show them how much we truly care, customers will help us help them.

BOOKING CALLS

When a customer calls, you must determine his/her needs quickly and be prepared to book the call properly in your computer system while the customer is on the line. To determine the customer’s needs, you need to begin by being who the customer needs you to be - meaning, having the attitude of helpfulness and a true desire to make a difference in the customer’s life.

Remember: The customer called us, not one of our competitors.

Customers have chosen to give us the opportunity to earn their business and we had better be up to the challenge. To be who the customer needs us to be comes to light in how we interact with the customer.

First, our greeting. What does it say to the customer? Are we saying “How may I help you?” (A receptionist asks this in order to know who to transfer the call to.) Try this instead: “It’s a great day at XYZ Heating and Air Conditioning. My name is Mike. I can help you.” Now you are telling the customer that you can take care of their every need and will only transfer the call when you have exhausted every avenue to take care of the customer’s needs.

Once we established with customers that we are willing and able to help them and earn their trust through the words, tone, and friendliness of our greeting, then we can begin to listen to them, to determine why they called. To truly listen, you must perform active listening when interacting with the customer.

Active listening means to be quiet and focus totally on the caller. When listening, you will not interrupt the customer, assume he/she knows what is wrong, or make judgments about the customer or the customer’s situation. When we act with empathy and truly listen, we then will have all we need to properly book a call that reflects the need of the customer.

GENERATING LEADS

Customer service representatives generating leads? You know they reply, “That’s not my job,” but, in truth, it really is. When you ask the right questions and determine that the customer has a 20-year-old air conditioner and a furnace that is at least that old, it is your job to help the customer understand that keeping that old dinosaur will cost them more than the customer should be paying in energy and repairs.

When armed with the right information, you will be able to help customers in many ways by educating them about their comfort system. Like you, your customers make decisions to take care of their family based on what they know. Sometimes, they have a solution in mind, like getting the furnace fixed, until they are educated about the benefits of a different solution, possibly replacement. It is up to you and your team to get you, the customer service representative, the information you need on old equipment and energy costs, and then role-play, using the proper words to be able to convey this valuable information to the customer.

GENERATING MAINTENANCE AGREEMENTS

When we receive a call from a nonagreement customer, we need to educate that customer about the benefits of the agreement. The hardest part is to bring up the subject so that the customer says, “Yes, I want to hear more.”

If you’ve been waiting for a “silver bullet,” here it is. Simply ask, “Do you pay full price or do you qualify for a discount?”

Think about it. Is your customer more interested in getting his/her furnace tuned up, or saving money? We are a nation obsessed with discounts. We will drive across town to save a $1.50 on a simple household item, spending $5 on gas in the process.

Your customers want discounts. Try referring to your maintenance agreement as your “discount program.” You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

If you want to really generate maintenance agreements, have your technicians ask the same question when presenting the price of the repair. It works, almost guaranteed.

In conclusion, a customer service representative’s job description should read: “To be of service to customers.”

Your entire focus must be customers and their needs. Decisions on how to take care of the customer must, of course, include long-term profitability for the company as determining factors in the process. However, when “the customer comes first” is our motto, the customer will know that we care.

Publication date: 03/17/2008

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