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Let's face it: Service contractors get phone calls from irritated people because the customer on the other end is usually: a) very hot or b) very cold. Usually, an untimely breakdown has happened, and the caller's panic button is on full alert.
From this point, the service you provide can either soothe - or increase - these feelings of panic and irritation. That's why a better understanding of common complaints from customers about contractors can help you a lot. But some bad news first.
Human nature reveals that a customer whose expectations were met gives zero word-of-mouth advertising. Those contractors who exceed the customer's expectations get on average four mentions in 30 days. Yet for those customers whose expectations are dashed, an alarming 22 negative mentions about you filter into the marketplace. Just imagine the damage this could silently be causing you every month.
Here are the top reasons customers do not recommend contractors to others.
1. Not scheduling the appointment fast enough. Think about it. The customer has a problem. The fact is, if you can't provide quick relief, your customer will provide a quick hang up.
Sure, you may have real scheduling issues in the middle of a busy season. But you've got to explain the scheduling to your customer and offer assurance that you'll get there as soon as you can. Give a specific time, and keep it.
But you may not get to solve anyone's problem if you commit this next error...
2. Not showing up on time or at all. Chances are, you've got a customer who is sitting in his home and waiting for you to get there. The longer he waits, the more irritated he gets. So, if you're late, he's not going to be happy. But if you don't show up at all, he's going to be really, really steamed. I'd go so far as to say that's the last call you'll get from him, but his friends and neighbors will get all the updates they can stand.
Your time is valuable, and so is your customer's. When you make an appointment, keep it.
Call ahead to confirm the appointment and/or reschedule if running behind. No one expects you to be 100 percent punctual, but this technique is a dramatic improvement beyond the current lowly expectations. Be a standout, be prompt and be quick.
This brings to mind another no-no...
3. Not finishing on time. Your customer hasn't got all day to wait for you to finish, so don't dawdle. Don't waste time by being too chatty. Get your work done, go over the invoice with your customer, and offer options to maximize your and the customer's time.
Customers want the problem solved and, at that moment, they are most likely to be receptive to avoiding the problem in the future. And that's when you offer the savings of a maintenance agreement. This No. 1 upsell can provide a locked-in customer who will bring you guaranteed sales in the "slow" season.
But before you leave this customer, make sure you avoid the careless habit of...
4. Not cleaning up. Ideally, when you leave, your customer won't even be able to tell that you were there - except for the comfortable environment. Cleaning the equipment and the surrounding work area is an essential part of good service. Don't let your customer down by leaving the place a wreck. Besides, telling your customer the importance of keeping the equipment clean is an open door to discussing the importance of service and maintenance agreements.
Remember, your customers are calling you because they've got a problem. Your job is to solve those problems - not add to them.
Adams Hudson is the president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. You can reach his company at 800-489-9099 or fax your letterhead to 334-262-1115 to get his free "Sales & Marketing Insider" newsletter. Or visit www.hudsonink.com to read more free marketing solutions.
Publication date: 11/15/2004