By: Steve Brown – IOPSA national operations manager
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) continues its campaign to help your business grow by helping you provide great customer service
Knowing and understanding your customers is the starting point, and key to delivering a good service. So the question is: how you get to know who your customers are or what customers you want to have? We believe that we are all experts at communication, but what is effective communication and how does this make the difference?
What is effective communication?
The process of sharing information either through speaking, writing or body language. With the result being that the instruction given was clear and precise and carried out as originally intended.
What is customer care?
Customer care is a chain of events designed to meet or exceed the customers’ expectations. In order to obtain this level, effective communication is a key element to customer care. As we are all unique, our level of interpretation of both good and bad service will differ from one individual to another.
We are quick to recognise fault in others and how we felt during this process. We are however slow to recognise these same traits in our own working environment or business. We therefore need to concern ourselves not with what we think, but how our actions will impact on those customers.
The buck stops here. I’m the ultimately responsible person in this organisation. Other people can pass the buck to me, but I can’t pass the buck to anyone else.
- Effective: ‘productive’ or ‘capable of’ producing a result.
- Communication: the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
- Customer: a person who purchases goods or services from another, buyer, patron.
- Care: to watch over, be responsible for.
Businesses are built on sustainable business. Keeping your customers happy by providing exceptional service is the key to having a profitable and successful business. Keeping the lines of communication open at all times goes a long way to securing a customer’s loyalty. To lose one customer is not acceptable. If you do not look after your customers, someone else will.
Are your staff on board? Are they aware of your expectations? Our technicians are skilled in their trade, but they’re not equipped or trained to deal with customers and communicate effectively. This can and does affect the clients’ perception of your business.
Finishing the service call
Call the client and, if possible, view repairs done. Test the repairs a few times in the presence of the client and show the client that the faulty item has been replaced.
When the client is satisfied that repairs are complete ask if they want the redundant spares. By doing this, you show it has no value to you, and set the client at ease that they indeed have received new parts.
Once the client is satisfied that work is complete, ask if there is anything else you can assist with whilst on site:
- Pack up and clean up. Ensure you clean up properly and remove all tools.
- In every service truck a small dust pan and broom should be available.
- Wipe down trap doors or clean area where excavations have taken place.
- In general, leave it the way you found it.
The invoice/job card
If you have a trip sheet ensure that the client signed time and time out and explain to the client that the warranty/guarantee on the materials is carried out by the manufacturer.
In the event of a new geyser/product, provide the client with all relevant booklets and ensure these are filled out correctly and include these on your invoice.
Dos and don’ts of service
1. Always keep the communication lines open.
2. No matter how bad your day has been, have a positive attitude towards the client.
3. Never run other contractors or supplier products down.
4. Whilst on site, ensure all tools are placed in your carry box and not left to dirty the clients’ basins.
5. Bad treatment of staff on site, shouting, swearing and altercations are never acceptable.
6. Foul language of any kind is not tolerable.
7. Borrowing globes and batteries from clients is a no-go.
8. Using candles instead of a leadlight does not work.
9. Cell phones: whilst in the presence of your customers, never answer.
10. Multiple trips to the vehicle show the client that you are unprepared.
11. When arriving on site to carry out a service call, starting with lunch will not land you in the client’s good books or make them feel as though you’re interested in their problem.
There are many pitfalls when running service trucks. The level of service you provide should be the same high level across the board, extended to clients both old and new. This should be well above the level of service you expect.
Dealing with comebacks
The money is in the bank, client is happy, service was great. But two weeks later, it’s the dreaded comeback. Just as in taking a call, the procedure and response should be exactly the same. We all have comebacks – it is a part of our business. How we deal with it depends on how we keep a customer or not.
A complaint or come back should be treated like a fire. The sooner you put it out, the better. Many companies undo all the good work they have done by not having procedures in place or ignoring clients, hoping that they will go away.
Identify the nature of the complaint
3. Lack of service delivery
4. Staff related
Deal with the problem. Make sure all correspondence has been documented and is available when dealing with a compliant. You will be better equipped to respond to the complaint and resolve it with factual information.
Playing the blame game
Passing the buck and blaming others does not bode well for good customer care. Take control of the situation if you are indeed at fault. Turn a bad situation into a positive PR exercise for your company.
Dealing with an abusive customer
1. Always be honest and upfront; don’t try and bluff your way through a problem.
2. Explain policies and point out references to warranty/guarantees in your terms and conditions.
3. If you are unable to deal with the problem, ask for help.
4. Abusive language: politely ask the client to refrain as you are there to help.
5. A helpful hint is to advise that you seek a ‘resolution’.
6. If abuse continues, advise the client that you will terminate the call or leave the premises.
7. Don’t try to out-shout a customer; let them vent and finish before you respond.
By ignoring these instructions, you may simply add fuel to the fire. Take a break and calm down.
Most importantly, deliver what you promise
Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. No matter the obstacles, frustrations and interferences your clients will support you if you deliver what you promise. Communicate effectively. If you’re late, let your client know.
Last but not least, making mistakes is okay.
We all make mistakes. It’s not the fact that we make mistakes; it’s how we deal with them. Sometimes we are embarrassed or those mistakes impact on our bottom line. Acknowledge your mistake, sort out the client straight away and most importantly, learn from the experience.