CHICAGO, IL — If you are getting complaints about the job you are doing, be happy for several reasons.

“Complaints are our friend,” Jim Whelan of Contractor Success Group told attendees here at one of CSG’s quarterly conventions. “A friend is not someone you only put up with. You seek them out. The alternative is to ignore them.”

Whelan contended that customers “give us feedback because they want us to succeed” — that is, succeed by doing a good job on their mechanical equipment.

He cited a statistic that for every customer who complains directly to the contractor, “26 others complain to family and friends.” Such a message can spread quickly, he said. “One complaint can lead to 2,000 negative feelings. That’s like taking out an ad in a local paper and saying, ‘Our company rots.’

“You’ve got to do it right the first time, and you’ve got to do it right every time.”

The Role of the Customer

Whelan considered customers “active participants and not passive observers. The trick is to translate the wants of customers into something more than they expect.”

In an ideal world, pleasant, effective customer service people work for respected, effective companies. But in a less-than-ideal world, there are tradeoffs.

“Would you rather have a pleasant rep who doesn’t meet your needs, or a rude rep who meets your needs? Customers today want action.”

For Whelan, that action translates into superlative customer service.

Sidebar: Whelan’s Words of Wisdom

“Show me a company policy, and I’ll show you the enemy. The only policy is to meet customer needs.”

“Is the customer always right? The question isn’t a matter of what’s right or wrong. The question to ask is, ‘What’s the best long-term decision to make based on a current situation.’”

“Most employees don’t grasp what we offer. They are just doing their job.” Employees on the front lines with customers need to understand more about the business.

“Wearing carpet savers, driving a clean truck, and having groomed technicians are now givens and expected. How do we go above and beyond that?”

Publication date: 09/18/2000