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

By Chris Margarites, Technical Director for Eternabond®

Last month we focused on the first two minutes of a service call and left you with a mental "punch list" to prepare you, the professional roofing technician for the very profitable process of creating what the top customer service professionals in the world call "positive moments of truth". The ultimate goal is to help you develop "cheerleader customers". Moments of truth are those contact moments when the customer consciously or subconsciously develops an opinion about you and your company. They can be positive, or negative, and they can be stored in your customer's mind, just like money in the bank if positive, or if negative, a debt to be watched and scrutinized. If you make positive deposits, the customer becomes more than just satisfied; they become your cheerleader, and spread the word about you and your company! They become an unpaid sales person. Also, the more positive moments of truth you store, the more of a cushion you create for the relationship with your customer. That cushion can be an incredible asset when you make a mistake, are late for the appointment, or come in as the highest bidder on a job. They are invaluable and require good habits and politeness more than technical genius. Best of all, you, the service technician, control the flow.

If you have incorporated the system we taught you last month, then when you arrive on the call you have tucked in your shirt, spit out the gum, extinguished the cigarette, combed you hair (if you are lucky enough to have some). The sunglasses are off, you have read the work order and you know your customers name and what they called your company about. You have walked to their front door staying on formal paths, you have rung the door bell one time and took a step or two backward to give them\ customer space. You are standing up straight and you smiled when the customer answered the door, introducing yourself by your first and last name and offered them a business card and mannerly hand shake while calling them by their sir name (Mr., Mrs. or Ms. _______.) You are doing great! The customer has subconsciously sized you up and you have impressed them. OK, first impression moment of truth is positive?check! What now? Easy! Go back to the 80% rule: 80% of how your customers feel about the work you do for them will be based on how they feel about you, the person who did it. Technically good work is expected. It is not a gift you give to your customer. But if you want to give your customer a gift, and you should if you believe in the "Law of reciprocity" which says if you give, you will receive; then you want to give your customer a gift that will move them closer to becoming that Cheerleader customer. What can you give them? According to service expert Steve Toburen, "the best gift you can give your customer is good feelings about you and the work you have done in their home or building". So, how do you give your customer that good feeling about you? Time to develop check list number two: the "on site" check list.

  • Focus on the customer. They are not interested in your small talk, even if they politely listen to you.
  • Ask them to show you what they saw that prompted their call for service. This can be as simple as, "Ms. Johnson, can you show me where you saw the leak?"
  • Show respect for the customer's home or building by explaining the route you will be using to access the work, and asking them if that is OK, or do they have a different path they would like you to follow. Here is a tip: customers will make your job easier if you allow them to.
  • If appropriate, wear booties, and/or roll our drop cloths when ever the pathway will be taking you through the interior of the building.
  • Never, ever lay any tools on the customer's furniture, carpets, ceramic floors, or anything that may be dear to them.
  • Once you have determined what the cause of the problem is, and have tested your theory, go and educate the customer. Be thorough with your explanation, do not be too technical or wordy, and do not try to impress. Now is the time you are going to give the customer confidence in their choice of your company, and give them the gift of letting the job go into your capable hands by teaching them at a level they can understand. If possible, give them the cause, effect, and remedy because it is a great way of teaching. Here is an example: "Excuse me Mr. Customer, when you have a moment I can explain what I found." They will give you the time, probably immediately. Looking them in the eye, you say "On the front section of your roof you have a limestone coping. It is the concrete looking thing that sits on top of the brick wall that you see when you look up from the street. The coping has become loose over the years. The water is creeping under the loose coping and causing your leak. It is nothing to worry about, but it is a good thing you called. It is just the product of age, and I can fix it. I am going to remove the section that came loose, clean the area underneath it and refasten it with a special adhesive sealant we use for situations like yours. I expect this work will take approximately 2 - 3 hours. I will let you know if I find anything else. If there is not anything else, I will see you when the repair is complete. Do you have any questions before I get started?" Simple, orderly, professional communication.
  • Do a quality job. No cutting corners. Everything we have discussed assumes quality workmanship. Do the work so good that you would welcome the best technician you know to go inspect it.

In the mind of the customer you have become more than a worker. You are a consultant. A professional. A friend and asset.

When you got your customer involved by conferring with them at the beginning, before the work started, and then again after you determined the cause, the effect, and the remedy, it became a partnership, and you became an ally.

All the while the positive moments of truth kept building, and the customer went from being a skeptical person with a problem, to being a smart shopper with a new ally who will help them keep their biggest material asset in good shape.

Now, you need to get paid. First of all, believe it or not, most customers expect to give a check to professionals when services are rendered. Getting paid is not hard and it does not have to be uncomfortable. Everything we have talked about so far is about communication. Collecting payment is no different. Have a communication system. Here is how we always handled it:

  • Make your invoice complete. Name, address, phone number, and the original complaint. Include the date, the time of arrival and time of finish allowing for the time to fill out the invoice and collect for the work. Be concise with the description of what you found, what the cause appeared to be, and how you fixed it. Remember, the paper work is part of the job. Write legibly. As for myself, I would write out the invoice in front of the customer to tie the paper work together with the entire service call experience. I do not recommend filling out paper work in your truck. It raises suspicion and is a negative moment of truth.
  • Price the invoice out clearly and check your math.
  • Here is the only time a little soft talk may be appropriate. Before you give the customer the invoice, offer them some reassuring words like: "Well Mrs. Customer it is all fixed. It is a good thing you noticed the problem when you did. It substantially reduced the damage that could have resulted. Good job." Remember, no one likes unexpected expenses. Making it palatable eases the pain, and the compliment at the end galvanizes the partnership. By the way: it is at this end of the experience where the positive moments of truth you were banking along the way really come in handy.
  • Explain the invoice, and finish by explaining the price along with the words, "Will that be cash, check, or charge?"
  • Always, always thank the customer when you are finished. This can be as simple as, "Thank you for allowing us to serve you."

Next month we will look at some hot potatoes. Hot potatoes are situations that create negative moments of truth just by their very nature. We will focus on how to turn a negative into a positive. A few examples are: Arriving late, call backs, finishing the job but not being certain that you have corrected the problem, and big invoices. See you then!

As appearing in Western Roofing Magazine May/June 2005

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