As every great football manager and coach will tell you, there are two components a team needs to be truly successful: a strong defense and a strong offense. For a company, the needs aren’t much different on the road to success. You need a dependable, hard-working offense and a forward-thinking, courteous defense. Your offense is your on-site staff: your salesmen, technicians, and installers. These are the men and women who work hard every day, making the company’s name memorable, so it stands out. Your offense is the face of the company and should represent your goals in everything they do.
But it’s the behind-the-scenes people, your defensive line, that are the linchpin of your organization. These are your owners, service managers, and warehouse managers. However, the MVPs of the business are the individuals who are seen the least but typically heard the most. They are your office staff, dispatchers, and administrative assistants. These are the men and women who are responsible for keeping the company moving smoothly no matter what. Whether it’s ordering parts, answering the phones, scheduling appointments, tracking the day-to-day operations and paper trails, or just simply keeping the peace in the office when the day is falling apart, your team relies on these people.
Over the 18 years I’ve been in the working world, 11 have been spent in the HVAC trade. While my lists of duties and responsibilities have multiplied over the years, I still hold to the core basics I learned early on in my career. The list is simple and yet can make the biggest difference when dealing with those around you.
1. ALWAYS ANSWER THE PHONE WITH A SMILE
I’m sure there are some out there who are reading this and trying to figure out: If I never see the customers face-to-face, why does answering the phone with a smile matter? Trust me when I say that your customers can hear your smile. With a smile on your face, you automatically put joy in your words, which can almost immediately calm down an irate or disgruntled customer, uplift a sad or upset customer, and comfort a nervous customer. With a smile on your face, you set the tone for the entire experience. Of course, I’m not always happy when I answer the phone; I, too, have stressful days, sick days, overwhelming days. But every time I lift up that receiver, I put a smile on my face and present my best to the person on the other end of the phone — it lifts me up as much as it lifts them up.
2. THE CUSTOMER MAY NOT ALWAYS BE RIGHT, BUT THEIR OPINIONS ALWAYS MATTER
Over the years, teachers and speakers across the world have taught the philosophy that “the customer is always right.” And while I’m sure many of us would like to believe that this is the case, we all know it can’t be further from the truth, especially if you’ve ever intercepted a call where a customer has pushed the reset button on an oil furnace five or six times trying to get it to light. There’s nothing worse than trying to politely tell the customer to please never do that again. Thankfully, it’s been my experience that if you take the time to educate your customers, you not only advance their thinking and actions, but you lessen the chance of needing to call the fire department for the oil bomb they’ve created in their system. Or better yet, the fun of talking down the customer who is expecting a house full of people for a party and either their a/c or heating system has failed, and they want you at their house now. It can be both difficult and challenging to deal with these types of situations, especially if you know that the customer whose system has failed should have replaced the equipment years ago. As the front line of the defense for the company, it is not our job to tell the customer what they’ve done wrong or how replacing their system three years ago would have saved them on the last-minute service call. No, as the front line, it is our job to be considerate, caring, concerned, and ultimately compassionate about the customer’s situation. Customers respond much better when you show you care about their problem rather than treating them as just another service call.
3. A LITTLE HONEY GOES A LONG WAY
I learned early on that the adage “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” was 100 percent accurate.
Whether dealing with that disgruntled customer whose part hasn’t arrived yet to dealing with the supply warehouse that lost the part or forgot to ship it, learning to control your anger and your tone can make a world of difference in your day-to-day interactions. I was once told by a fellow contractor that the moment they get yelled at or see the nasty side of a person, the harder it is for them to believe the nicer side. Once you have shown the dark, no one wants to believe the light. Have I been frustrated? Absolutely! Have I ever been angry? Of course! Have I ever been so upset that I wanted to cry or scream? Sure, who hasn’t? But, not once have I ever let the person I’m directly dealing with see that side. I learned that I can still smile through my frustration and maintain the working relationship.
4. ALWAYS LEAVE THEM FEELING SATISFIED
This is probably one of the hardest tips on the list to achieve because, as we all know, there are some people who are impossible to please. When a customer contacts your office, they are seeking a resolution to their situation. Your customers turn to you to feel comfortable and secure about their system. Telling a customer that you don’t know the answer right now is not the end of the world. But not taking the opportunity to find the answer makes the difference between a loyal customer and a former customer.
These are just a few tips that can make a difference in your customer interactions. Integrating these steps with your traditional training practices will benefit even those most veteran members of your staff. Try it, and you will be impressed at how quickly your customer satisfaction scores will rise.
Publication date: 3/18/2019