Five ways to provide outstanding customer service

As part of the Installer Business Support Series in partnership with Vaillant UK, job management software company Commusoft gives their top tips for good customer service:
When it comes to customer service, the numbers don’t lie. 80% of companies think their customer service is excellent. Yet, according to a Bain & Company study, when you ask their customers, only 8% agree.
Ouch. Where’s the disconnect? Why isn’t our customer service as good as we think it is? And where do you start going about improving it?
For us, at Commusoft, we’ve learned a thing or two over the years about providing remarkable customer experiences (just check out our Capterra reviews!), as well as how our best clients go about making their own customers happy.
So, to get you started, we’ve put together five ways you could improve your customer service, right away. First and foremost, try to:

Keep your customers in the loop.

Don’t ever think you’re being too clingy when it comes to customer communication during a project. This being said, daily newsletters are still a no-no, but providing regular updates should be the norm.
It’s always good to take inspiration from the best, regardless of what industry they’re in, and try to apply the same principles to your business. For example, many people applaud Amazon for their excellent customer service, so think about your latest order and how they kept you in the loop when:

  • the order was received
  • the item had been despatched
  • the courier picked up the item
  • the item was out for delivery
  • the courier was supposed to arrive between 2 and 4pm
  • the item had been delivered

All in all, that makes for about 6 notifications and, if it’s a pricey item, you’ll be happy to see each and every one because it gives you peace of mind. Fundamentally, that’s what excellent customer service should achieve.
Now, ask yourself: do your engineers and admin team work together to offer customers peace of mind at every opportunity?
For example, your customers will definitely appreciate it if you can let them know when their appointment has been booked in. On top of that, if you remind them two days before, as well as on the day, and then keep them in the loop for the engineer’s window or arrival, you’ll be on to a winner. This way, you’ll also likely see a reduction in no-access scenarios and save some time and money of your own.

Make it as smooth as possible by offering multiple options to suit people’s preferences.

You won’t be able to make everyone happy but you can at least try to offer multiple possibilities to increase the odds; especially in instances where people could have different preferences. For example, a study has found that 81% of their Millennial respondents were apprehensive or downright anxious about making a call.
This means that, if faced with a choice between your company, which only offers booking requests via phone, and a competitor with an online booking portal (or any other of these five portals), email requests, Facebook messages, and a website chatbot for good measure, all in addition to phone calls, their choice is easy to foresee.
Booking an appointment via phone is obviously not a lot to ask for; you could argue that customers these days are simply being spoiled, and the fact of the matter is that they are spoiled, but they’re spoiled for choice. The same goes when it comes to payment options (cash is, most certainly, not king anymore) or accepting quotes (we’ll get to those in a second, so keep on reading!).
The field service industry is a business like any other: you win some, you lose some. However, if you knew that all it took to win over those 81% was to read your Facebook messages more consistently, then why not put in the effort?

Hire for empathy and soft skills.

I’ve got a personal example here for you. I know a friend (I know how this sounds, but I promise she’s real!) who ripped out her kitchen right before the pandemic lockdown started – ready for a remodel. Obviously bad luck with the timing. Everything was put on hold, and she got creative with an electric wok for a few months.
When she finally got the company to send out the engineer, he spent most of the time complaining about her walls being uneven. He also damaged a few parts of the furniture, and even installed part of the kitchen backwards.
No one expects perfection, but he only owned up to the damage and mistakes after she pointed them out. She was also frustrated that he wasn’t courteous and rarely tidied up. Fortunately, this engineer is the exception, but the experience can unfairly impact the rest of the company’s employees since my friend is certainly not going to go about recommending it.
The vast majority of companies I know take great pride in their work, and bend over backwards to meet customer expectations, but the fact of the matter is that an engineer is most likely the only face-to-face interaction a person will ever have with your company and that’s where they’ll be drawing their conclusions from: for better or worse.
It’s a management fact: you can teach skills but you can’t teach personality. So why is it that some companies still struggle with being represented by engineers like the one my friend hired?
We all know it’s not a great time to be hiring for the trades, with an aging workforce and fewer people choosing it as a career path, but at the same time, keep in mind when you’ll be in a situation to hire someone, that you’ll be able to teach anything to a person who likes to learn. However, love of knowledge, curiosity, team spirit – these are all intrinsic qualities that even the greatest expert might lack and if they don’t want to learn, well, good luck teaching them.
It sounds cliche, but sometimes, all it takes is a smiling face to put a customer at ease. I know a company that set-up their mobile app so that when an engineer checks “Arrived on location” , a short joke pops up which relaxes them and works as a reminder that regardless of the situation, a positive attitude will show the customer that everything is under control.

Follow through promptly with any promises.

You know the early bird catches the worm so why give the competition an advantage and take a week to send a price quote? Depending on the size of the job, that’s enough time for a customer to call another installer, book an appointment AND get it done.
In an ideal situation, unless it’s a very special project and you need some expert advice yourself (let’s say, how to install pipework in a 16th century frescoed castle), you would send the customer a quote on the spot, using tools that are easy to get a hold of nowadays like quoting or management software.
Are you dealing with a difficult customer that complains about price? Try sending them 2 or 3 tiered quotes (budget, comprehensive, or premium service) so they can feel in control of the price and not tempted to pick up the phone looking for a counter-offer from a competitor.
Also, for the love of all that is good in this world, don’t ask people to print, sign, and scan. No one owns a printer anymore and digital signatures are considered legally binding anyway, so why subject a potential customer to this kind of hassle?

What do you consider good customer service?

Can you tell the one thing that’s missing from these tips? Doing a great job. Not because it doesn’t matter – because no amount of good customer service will ever save a job if an installer didn’t know what they were doing. It’s missing because you have to acknowledge that a good install is expected of you. It’s not a bonus, it’s not an extra, it’s a given. No customer hires a company hoping they’ll finish a job.They hire it knowing they will finish it.
What they do hope for and what will make them happy (as opposed to indifferent or, worse, dissatisfied) is a company that: treats them well, finishes on time – or even early, and cares about details like politeness and cleanliness.
It’s good to take pride in your workmanship as an installer. After all, you’ve worked hard to hone your skills and you deserve to be appreciated. However, more often than not, it’s only your peers who’ll be able to tell a great job from an average one. Customers, on the other hand, are not experts and they will judge using metrics that make sense to them (How many days did it take? Was the installer nice to them? How easy was it to get the booking, quote, and invoice? Did they leave muddy footprints all of the shaggy carpet?).
In an ideal situation, the best customer service would be the one that strikes a good balance between good workmanship and a pleasant, empathetic experience.

The Takeaway

If there’s one conclusion to draw, it’s that it doesn’t take a lot to start improving customer service right now. More often than not, it’s about small details that you could iron out in a matter of days with a few forward-thinking decisions, which will pay for themselves in the future.
For example, customers are willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that have better customer service, according to American Express. So, be sure to take the time to treat your customers better and dedicate time to improving customer service. It could be the best investment you ever make in your business.

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