Technology has caused a shift in many aspects of life over the years. It has given us the ability to connect with each other quickly through social media, allowed us to cut the cord and stream television shows digitally, and essentially made daily life much more manageable.
-+Online shopping websites have changed the purchasing habits of the customer and created a shift in customer service expectations. Consumers always have options readily available to them with the simple click of a button. These numerous options have also increased customer service expectations over time. For the customer, if they feel as though they are being mistreated, they can simply find another business to shop at or work with.
For contractors, the rise in customer expectations applies to their line of work as well. Homeowners understand there are more options available in a particular area and choose who they spend their money with wisely. The price of the job is rarely the issue when it comes to HVAC, plumbing or other home service work. The customer’s perceived value far exceeds the amount of money that is taken out of their bank account. Customers are willing to pay more if the contractor exceeds levels of expectations.
The best way a contractor can position themselves in a world with ever-increasing customer service expectations is by making the customer service they deliver part of their brand. Much like Apple and Chick-fil-A, if a home service company attaches excellent customer service to their brand name, consumers will keep coming back time and time again to spend their well-earned dollars.
Handling the Angry Customer
One thing that every contractor will ultimately face at some point is an angry customer. The most important way to handle an upset customer is to listen to their concerns regardless of if the customer is right or wrong. Writer Stephen Covey said it best in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when he said, “Seek first to listen, then to be understood.” In most cases, the customer wants to be heard and understood, and it is your job to listen. Once you have listened, then there is an opportunity to provide solutions.
Another important aspect when dealing with an upset person is to never get defensive. While it is the nature of business owners to defend their company, getting defensive creates a lose-lose situation for all parties. Even if the customer is in the wrong, avoid getting defensive about the situation. Even if you defend your company and believe you’ve made your point clear, the customer may still be angry and head to the internet to vent their frustrations.
Contractors must realize that the consumer has more of a voice today than ever before. Over 20 years ago, if a customer was angry, they would tell a few neighbors at a cookout. Those same angry customers today will make a campaign against your entire business online if they are upset. It is easy for consumers to go online and write a one-star review. It is much more difficult for a business owner to get online and acquire a five-star review. So, it is important to maintain an excellent level of customer service to limit one-star reviews. Make sure the angry customer understands they are your No. 1 priority at that moment, and then ask how you can make it right. That will go a long way in providing them with an experience they will remember.
Turning a Bad Situation into a Good Situation
While the internet has empowered the consumer to speak out more when they are upset, it has also provided a medium for business owners to turn a bad situation into a win-win for the consumer and contractor. One of the best ways to do this is through customer reviews. The rule of thumb for customer reviews is for the contractor to respond to both good and bad reviews. If someone gives you a five-star review, reply with a message that shows gratitude. Once someone leaves a negative review, respond by apologizing for the mistake or error and ask what can be done to make it right. This shows the customer, and other potential customers, that the contractor is willing to accommodate the consumer when an error occurs. It is encouraged for the contractor to reach out to the upset homeowner to discover why they gave that rating.
Don’t just reach out to customers that give you a one or five-star rating. Reach out to all customers who review your company. Even if a customer gives you a four-star rating, reach out to see why they didn’t rate you a five on the scale. This shows that you have a five-star culture and are willing to do what is necessary to pick up the extra star for your company.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
When communicating with the consumer, whether you are in the field or on the phone, the customer’s experience is predicated on how you treat them. As we previously discussed, it is important to be patient with a customer. If they are upset, I use the Q-tip method: quit taking it personally. More times than not, the customer is upset with the situation and not the contractor themselves. So, be quick to listen and slow to speak. Reassure the customer by showing you care about their concerns.
It is important to always ask “what else?” when talking with customers. What I have found many times is that a customer will state their complaint or concern but not fully explain the reason why they are upset. By asking them to continue, you are providing a platform for them to put all their issues on the table. Once that is done, then you can find a proper solution to their complaint.
Lastly, you will want to make sure you treat every upset customer like a 911 situation. Contractors need to address the concern of the customer immediately. The longer a contractor waits to handle the situation, the more time the customer has to get angrier and vent online. It is paramount to have a heightened sense of awareness with the upset customer. Control the situation and provide solutions that ultimately make the customer happy without sacrificing your company’s value or brand.
Stephen Dale is director of training for Power Selling Pros. He brings over 20 years of experience as an operations manager in the home services industry working for two large MEP companies in the Dallas area. He has been a coach and trainer with Power Selling Pros for six years, working with hundreds of companies and vendors during his tenure. His passion for the industry illuminates through his ability to discover client’s pain points and offer solutions for success.