A New Year’s Customer Service Resolution

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“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” –Woody Allen

Woody Allen might have been talking about the home improvement industry—and home performance consultants and contractors. So many don’t show up, and that makes it hard to win. Show up, and you’ve already started to differentiate yourself. It’s a pretty low bar.

Showing up alone, though, won’t get you to the finish line. Let’s add some simple things you can do to further exceed expectations that your competitors have set. Show up on time, listen and respond to your customers’ needs, and do what you can to make it easy for them to say yes.

How about a resolution? In the coming year, strengthen your focus on the customer.

I’ll give a counter example—and one unfortunately that I keep hearing again and again (and again). A friend—and I’ll conceal the location so that you look around and see if it could possibly be in your neighborhood—who wanted to do the right thing hired someone to do an energy audit. He found someone through EPA’s website (should have asked me!) and scheduled an audit. And rescheduled the audit. Eventually, the auditor spent about 4 hours in the house, measuring things, and poking around. Then he disappeared. No explanation of next steps. No attempt to connect findings to what my friend was hoping for. Then my friend waited. And waited. 4 weeks. He called and asked for the results, leaving a message. He waited some more.

Finally he got a report. 64 pages worth of report. (BTW, that was not the longest report I’ve seen for a single-family home this year.) A lot of it was boiler plate, although not very well-crafted boiler plate. It included a REMRate report. It included almost nothing outside of energy speak. My friend couldn’t figure out what it meant. It was a chore even for me to read. He didn’t know what to do and the report didn’t help him figure that out. And so he did nothing, sitting on the report for 6 months before asking me what I thought. I obliged for a friend and out of morbid curiosity (probably not an option for most of your customers).

What a missed opportunity! Here was a customer who actually called looking for an energy audit. There aren’t many of those. But any excitement was squandered by delays and then further by a report that a smart layperson couldn’t understand.

I wish this were a rare occurrence. It doesn’t seem to be. I’ve heard these stories regularly for more than a decade. Frankly, I don’t get it. Good leads are hard to come by. It’s too expensive not to use them to their fullest. I’m an energy nerd at heart. But you’ve got to apply some basic business sense and some outstanding customer service if you want customers to take your recommendations and buy your home improvement services.

A Secret to Success? Make it Easy for Your Customers

Those golden leads? Your long term success depends on winning your customer over and making the project as easy as possible for them. On the front end, common sense (and experience) tells us the easier we make it for our customers, the more likely they are to do business with us. On the back end, happy customers mean referrals—and that means more business!

Let’s start with what’s so obvious, we often forget to do it, or train our staff to do it:

  • When people call, answer the phone.
  • Return calls when you say you will.
  • Show up on time, in clean clothes.
  • Protect your customers’ home and property.
  • For goodness sake, if you’ve done an audit, get the report back to the customer within days, a week on the outside.

Protect their home. This means don’t track dirt on the carpet, don’t scratch their car, and don’t kill the rose bushes. Do keep your customer informed and make sure you clean up after yourself, leaving the house at least as clean as you found it. Doing these simple things will beat out 90 percent of your competition, even if you have to pull out the cheat sheet to figure out how to do that CAZ testing with B-vent.

Beyond the obvious ones above there are many things you can do to make the diagnosis, sales, and installation process easier. Find them. Do them. Make it easy for your customer every step of the way. At every contact, what LeBoeuf calls a “moment of truth”, give the customer a positive experience. From a satisfaction, call back, marketing, sales, and profitability perspective, you’ll rarely go wrong with a happy customer. That’s good for them. And it’s good for you.

“Resolved, I’m going to make it easy for my customers.”

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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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