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Winning Customer Service (Part 1) Part 2 (Part 3)

By Chris Margarites, Technical Director for Eternabond®

I am not always the most thoughtful person. It is sad, but it is true, just ask Gail, my wife. Yet when I started dating Gail almost 30 years ago, I was on my best behavior. I saw every opportunity we were together as a defining moment, a chance to impress her. And it worked! It resulted in this tall, beautiful blond marrying a short dweeb like me!

When I took special care to show Gail how important she was to me, I was unwittingly making positive emotional impressions during what the best customer trainers in the world, people like Steve Toburen, Skep Hyken, and Jan Carlzon call, "Moments of Truth". In his book, "Moments of Truth" Jan Carlzon, the former president of award winning Scandinavian Airlines says the moment of truth in business is this: "Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business is an opportunity to form an impression." That moment is a "Moment of Truth" and that impression can be either positive or negative. I ask you, who has a greater number of opportunity's to form impressions about your company than the technicians who see the customers on a daily basis?

This is the first in a series of columns that are intended to help great roof repair technicians become even better. I will not refer to you as roofers, repairmen or mechanics. If you are able to diagnose roof problems and fix them, then you are a professional roofing technician and you have earned the right to be addressed properly. The fact that you are reading this column says something about the way you see yourself. You obviously must have a heightened sense of responsibility to stay informed and current in your profession.

Even though we are a manufacturer, we apply these customer service principles at EternaBond®. The result has been annual growth in the 75%+ range. At my last company when I was in the contracting end of the business these principles were the foundation of how we did business, and the result was two "Contractor of the Year" awards and the sale of the company to a national company. Here is my point, these principles work, and they are very profitable.

Today let's talk about "Moments of Truth" and "The first two minutes" of any customer contact, both in relation to developing what Toburen calls "Customer Cheerleaders". There are many moments of truth, but none are more important than those that happen during the first two minutes you are with the customer. We all have heard that first impressions are lasting impressions. It is in these first two minutes that the customer will make decisions about you and your company. Toburen says, "Every time the customer sees something they will consciously, or sub consciously form an opinion about it. These opinions can be positive or negative, and they add up. Consequently, the more positive moments of truth you can give your customer, the more likely they will become a customer cheer leader." Remember the "80% rule": 80% of how your customer feels about the job you did will be based on how they feel about the person who did the work, not on the quality of the work itself. Your customer knows nothing about repairing their roof. They do know how they feel about the experience you gave them. Use the 80% rule as the foundation for all you do, you will develop Cheer Leader Customers. Cheer Leader customers are the key to a good service business. They will act as unpaid sales people, recommending your company to anyone who will listen. Word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising, but cheerleader customers go beyond that. Cheer leader customers are your company's friend, and friends buy from friends. By now, you get the point, so, below are the procedures we use to make the moments of truth during the first two minutes positive. You may be doing some of these tips already, but the key is turning them into a "system" of how you and your employees do business. Here they are:

  1. Start your attitude, before you start your day. Evaluate yourself: Do I start my day grumpy, or do I see the day as an adventure? Do I have fun doing my job, or do my resent my job? Do I look forward to my day, or do I start my day by looking forward to the end of my day? If you look forward to the new friends you will make, the problems you can solve and the lives you can improve, it will show. You have to work so you might as well approach the day with an attitude that makes it fun. Allow yourself time so you are not rushing or fighting traffic. This may require things like getting to bed earlier, laying out your cloths and showering and shaving the night before; filling up the gas tank on the way home from work, rather than the way to work. All simple ways to change your attitude. OK, you've done this, and you arrive at the job with a good attitude for the day ahead.
  2. Next, read. Most likely you will be given a work order with all the information the customer gave to the dispatcher. Read it, and make sure you are clear about it before you leave. Evaluate the job: Do I need any special tools or materials? If this is a call-back, can I see the repair history? Does the work description or address make sense? Making the customer repeat them selves, arriving unprepared, or showing up late because you got lost is a negative moment of truth. Your company looks like they do not care; like they are indifferent to their customers needs, and "perceived indifference" is the number one reason customer's change companies. On the other hand, arriving on time, knowing the customer's name, repeating back to the customer what the problem is a very powerful positive moment of truth.
  3. Keep your promises. This starts when you arrive on your first job at the promised time. Time flies, so do not spend too much time on your paperwork in the office or shop, and plan extra time for reading the work order and for traffic. This starts the night before when you ask the dispatcher for a little information about your next day's first call. If you like a second cup of coffee in the morning like I do, plan for it. Being on time is a positive moment of truth.
  4. Unlike a person who works with the same group of people every day, you are more like an actor or athlete in that you "perform" for a different audience every day, therefore develop a self-check ritual you go through before presenting yourself to a customer. In my contracting business, we worked in dirty, hot conditions, but we still wanted to appear professional, so our technicians developed a list of principles to help them look as professional as possible. Here is the list we used:
    • Am I reasonably clean? Although our jobs are tough and the customer understands that, especially as the day progresses, a neat appearance cannot be overstated. Stopping by a public restroom or a fast food restaurant to wash our face and hands, comb our hair, tuck in our shirt, brush off our pants, clean our shoes and straighten our belt is time well spent. Keep an extra, "emergency" shirt, shoes, and, if you are a hat wearer, an emergency hat in your truck. Keep a comb or brush in your truck at all times. Neat is positive.
    • No tobacco, inside or outside, once I arrive at the customer's home or business. Respect is positive.
    • Freshen my breath before I am face to face with my customer. Keep gum or mints available. Hygiene is positive.
    • Clear my mind so I can focus on the customer. Take a mental squeegee and wipe your mind of everything but this customer and this job. Also, no bad language, no grumbling, no personal problems, no talk about other customers. Attention is positive.
    • Be prepared to get out of the truck as soon as you park at the home or business. Sitting in your vehicle has a "sinister" quality and is a negative moment of truth. If you have anything that has to be done before you arrive, pull over somewhere else and do it. A sense of urgency is positive.
    • Stay on formal pathways. No cutting across the lawn, walking through flowerbeds, walking into areas that require authorization (warehouses, plants), etc. Respect is positive.
    • Take off my sunglasses. Customers want to be able to look you in the eye and eye contact makes you look confident. Confidence is positive.
    • Stand up straight and have a spring in my step. Good posture and a purposeful gait are important because they give you a dignified appearance. Dignity is positive.

      Customers do not expect us to look like we just stepped out of a fashion magazine, but our personal appearance can influence a customers "feelings" about the service they receive and their opinion of us before we do anything. If you follow these principles, in the short 60 seconds leading up to meeting your customer, you have developed a system that has produced at lease 7 positive moments of truth. Every one you create is like a deposit in the customer's emotional bank account. It is like capitol that can be spent to cover an event that creates a negative moment of truth.

      Now, let's meet the customer: If it is a residential call, ring the door bell once or knock on the door frame and give the customer time to answer. If it is a commercial customer, talk to the receptionist, announce your purpose and wait patiently for him/her to get the person who ordered your service. Again, respect and patience are positive.

      If the person is a man, with your right hand offer a firm, but not hard handshake, greet them by their last name, introduce yourself with your full name, your co-workers full name, your company name, and your purpose. If it is a woman, everything remains the same except wait for her to offer you a hand shake. The reason you wait for her is that socially, women decide if they are going to shake hands or not. If she does, be gentle. It will look something like this: "Hello Mr. /Ms. Customer, I am Sam Technician, and this is my assistant, Joe Technician. We are with X company. My work order says that you got some water in the building when it rained yesterday. Would you mind taking a minute to show us where you saw the water?" While you are doing this, with your left hand you are handing them your business card. A few tips: it is always safe to show too much respect. For example, no first names unless invited to use them; treat your co-worker with respect; always remove your shoes or install booties if working in carpeted areas or inside of a residence, or ask if you can use a back entrance. These may seem simple, but how often do you not see them when you are on the receiving end of service? Remember your goal: Develop your Customer Cheerleaders. This will lead to building your business, your value, and making more money.

      Next month we will talk about how to turn being late from negative to positive, and finishing strong.

      As appearing in Western Roofing Magazine March/April 2005, Pages 62-65

      Winning Customer Service (Part 1) Part 2 (Part 3)