How bad is it that our own lawn service company came by recently and knocked on our door to “sell us their services” because our lawn was in such bad shape?
First, it’s unreal that our lawn looks this bad.
Second, it’s even more unreal that our lawn service actually sent a guy to our neighborhood to sell door-to-door without bothering to tell him whose door to avoid because they were already customers!
Third, how embarrassing was it for the salesperson at the door to not only realize that his company was so disorganized that he didn’t know we were customers, but that he had inadvertently “trashed” his own company’s service?
Unfortunately, they’re not alone in their disorganization. Our air conditioning service company constantly calls us (multiple times) every year… to schedule our annual maintenance service… right after we’ve had it done. (sigh) They’ve even asked us, “Who installed this system for you?” “Uh… you did!” (double sigh)
… and the list goes on.
However, below are a few simple tips (beyond the obvious tip of being much better at your job!) to help you design and implement systems that will help you be (and LOOK) more organized and keep your customers happy:
1. Invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system – and USE it!
Nothing makes a customer feel less valued than having one of their own service providers approach them and ask them to become a customer! Investing in a CRM will help you list your customers, keep tabs on what’s happening with them, and allow you to print a list – by demographic – that you can give to salespeople, so they don’t go to those very customers and ask them to buy your service. If you can’t afford an expensive CRM system, at least use Outlook or some other free or relatively inexpensive online contact management system to enter, track, and sort customers by various criteria so you at least know who they are.
However, investing in the system and then not using it (or allowing your field personnel to NOT use it) is just a waste of money, time and effort. Be sure to use the systems to get yourself organized and ensure that everyone is using them! You can’t be an industry leader without exercising leadership that lets associates know what’s acceptable and what’s not… and that using the systems is mandatory in order to provide the kind of service (and reputation) you desire.
2. Give your field technicians a way to report in and capture information on the customer visit, as well as a trigger mechanism for “outlier reporting” (reporting that identifies those who fall outside of acceptable limits of service, performance and other measures).
Nothing makes a customer feel less trusting than having a sales representative promise to do a customized job, personally-supervised by exceptionally knowledgeable people – and then having the company destroy their (possessions, investments, you name it) before their very eyes.
Yes, here’s the part I omitted: after getting us into a one-year contract, the people who promised to take care of our lawn proceeded to destroy it.
When we called them, they knew nothing about any problems (even though it was obvious when our technician treated the lawn that something bad was starting to happen). They refused to come out right away to investigate, made us wait until our next scheduled treatment (at which time our technician told us it was a watering problem – so we began watering more… even though we told him we thought it was chinch bugs); then more of the lawn died, and THEN a different technician came out and told us it was NOT watering… it was – guess what: chinch bugs!!
So, this tip does concern your systems; you must ensure that your field technicians can and do report what’s going on at the customer’s location every time they visit! Put a “trigger” into the system to report any customers who have unusual or chronic issues, so someone else can check into it and ensure customer satisfaction before a problem gets too big.
But, this systems-related tip will only work if the field personnel are competent, observant and diligent – and if leadership is paying attention to the data. If our technician had been any of these things, we probably wouldn’t have lost our lawn because the technician would have noticed that something was happening before it went too far.
3. Use systems to calculate your full and complete cost of goods and then give the customer a fixed price that represents their full investment.
We were quoted a monthly (or annual) price for our service, which we thought included everything we needed to keep our lawn healthy. However, after we began, we started getting phone calls: now you need aeration (it’s an integral part of keeping your lawn healthy): that’s an additional $129. Oh, now you need a new chinch bug treatment: that’s an additional $29. Oh, now you need (enter service here): that’s an additional (whatever the cost!)
Here’s the rub: nothing makes a customer feel more tricked than being “nickel-and-dimed” to death after signing up for the service. In their efforts to look like a low-cost provider, service providers sometimes “omit” certain services from the regular treatments, but then add them in later as “necessary” to allow them to do their job properly.
Really? If they are necessary, here’s the tip: Add all of the costs into the price you quote, and let the customer make an informed decision up front on the true cost of the service! Believe me when I tell you that most customers will not be favorably inclined to order and pay for extra services later, simply because they hadn’t been told about them up front. In fact, when that happens, customers resent them.
But if you are honest with customers up front about the true cost, and they make the decision of their own accord, they will not resent it – in fact, they will be thankful that you were honest with them AND provided the service you promised! Customers are OK with you making a profit, as long as you’re reasonable and honest with them about your price and your performance… and then deliver on your promises!
It’s simply a matter of respect, not only for the customer, but for the people you put into the field. Field technicians cannot possibly feel good about doing a bad job because they don’t have the knowledge, training or tools to do it better… and sales personnel could certainly live without the embarrassment that the sales rep above endured when he appeared at our door, trashed his own company, and then asked us to become new customers.
Following these few simple tips can help take your customer service – and your business – to unimaginable heights… but only if leadership enables it to happen by implementing and enforcing proper use of systems that will help everyone in the organization be more organized, more service-oriented and more up front and profitable.
© Sandy Geroux All rights reserved.