(The following is an official Classic Shades Painting Co. policy on the subject of customer service. This is generally distributed to and tested for understanding on every field employee.)
I am sure you have heard plenty about the importance of customer satisfaction. But what exactly is customer satisfaction?
A customer (also referred to as a client) is defined as a recipient of a product or service supplied by a seller or a service provider. Satisfaction is defined as the fulfillment of a desire or a need.
If to satisfy means to fulfill a need then the first and the most important step, where understanding of customer satisfaction is concerned, is to figure out what your customers really need and want.
Let’s start with examining what motivates people to do home maintenance and improvement. As expensive and disruptive to the person’s live as these projects can be, why do people undertake them? By servery, they do this because they have a need to protect and beautify their homes and businesses.
So, the customer hires us to fulfill this need. But now that we have the job, what do we have to do to make this customer feel satisfied? What do customers really want? What makes them happy?
Most experts say that customers want customer service. According to a dictionary “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.” So what are those magic activities that make customers feel that their expectations has been met? How do we meet and perhaps exceed those expectations?
After more than 30 years in business and having interacted with literally thousands of customers, I have come to the following concussion:
MOST CUSTOMERS FEEL THAT THEIR EXPECTATIONS HAVE BEEN MET WHEN THEY HAVE RECEIVED WHAT HAS BEEN PROMISED TO THEM.
MOST CUSTOMERS FEEL THAT THEIR EXPECTATIONS HAVE BEEN EXCEEDED WHEN THEY HAVE RECEIVED WHAT HAS BEEN PROMISED TO THEM IN SUCH A WAY THAT IT WAS VERY EASY FOR THEM TO RECEIVE OR EXPERIENCE IT.
What we promise to a customer is not a secret. It is right there is our painting proposal to them, and you always get a copy of it on every job we do. Every single line of this proposal is a promise to this customer. Now take a look at the back of your company shirt or at anyone of our company signs, “Great looking, long-lasting paint job. Guaranteed!” is also very much a promise to every one of our customers.
As to how to deliver on this promise should also not be a great mystery you. It is right there in our company technical bulletins and quality standards. These you should be well acquainted with by now.
So let’s spend some time examining what can be done to make the paint job process an easy one to experience for the customer. In other words, let’s take a look at some of the things that can be done to make, what can be an unpleasant and disruptive for a customer experience, into a more orderly and satisfying one.
FOLLOWING ARE SOME “DO’S”, “DON’TS” AND THE GENERAL RULES OF CONDUCT TO HELP MAKE HOUSE PAINTING A MORE SATISFYING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:
-Be friendly. Use a friendly tone of voice when speaking with customers and smile when appropriate.
-Be polite and practice good manners. Say hello when you first see the customer in the morning. Let the customer know that you are leaving at the end of the day and wish them a good evening.
-Be helpful and caring. Try to accommodate customer requests. One customer service survey, conducted across industries, revealed that more than half of all customers surveyed had a bad service experience. Also about the same percentage of customers surveyed thought that many of the companies they dealt with don’t understand and don’t care about them. Do you think people want to do business with companies that don’t care about them? Most people are naturally helpful and caring. Please let it show!
-Be grateful. Customers have a choice of many other service providers. Our livelihoods depend on our customers remaining loyal to us. Over 70% of our business comes fro our repeat customers and referrals. Let them know you appreciate their loyalty.
-Be attentive. Pay attention to what the customer is saying. If you don’t understand something that the customer said, ask them to clarify it or to say it to you in different words.
-Be open to customer questions and answer them promptly. If you don’t know the answer, call your Field Supervisor to find out. Just don’t let your customer wonder about it and tell them what you are doing.
-Be reliable. If you tell a customer you will do something, like that you will get back to them about something, then do so. If a customer expects you there at 8 AM then be there at 8 AM.
-Be predictable and try not to surprise customers with rush requests. If you need something for the customer to do, like open windows, move their staff, contact neighbors, etc., give them a prior notice.
-Be proactive and have a plan. Use your expertise to anticipate and prevent job problems.
-Do check with the customer periodically to see if they’re happy with the way the job is going and to update them on the job progress. Quickly resolve all customer job concerns.
-Do protect customer’s property from being damaged, lost or stolen. There is nothing more upsetting to a customer than when their property is damaged, abused or lost. If you have to move any of the customer’s things, always put those things back exactly to where you found them. Always keep doors properly secured and lock all doors at the end of each day. Use proper protection and clean up after yourself. One of the top three customer complaints, by our own customer survey, is “The painter left a mess”.
-Be productive and adhere to a standard schedule. Remember that any time you’re not being productive on a job, like come late in the morning, take unscheduled breaks, etc., your customers may feel that you are unnecessarily extending the length of their job.
-Do what we promised and do a good job. Don’t skimp on job specifications. If you feel that the specified procedure or number of coats will not produce a desired result, do not worry the customer about it but immediately contact your Field Supervisor. The paint job that will last and look great for many years to come is what has been promised to the customer. You are there to deliver on that promise!
-Be effective and get the job done. We work for a lot of really nice people but you need to understand that customers don’t want you in their home for any longer than is absolutely necessary for you to do the best job possible so that they don’t have to hire another painter for as long as possible. This may make it sound like customers don’t like you. It’s not that at all but just take a look at some of the discomforts that can accompany a paint job: customer has to select colors, cut the vegetation, move their things around, put up with noise, dust and smell. This is not to mention the cost associated with a paint job. It’s not that they don’t like you, they simply want their homes and their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. So get the job done and give it back to them!
-Don’t make unnecessary noise. A paint job can be a noisy undertaking without adding any unnecessary noise. So spare your customer and their neighbor’s additional discomforts and don’t speak unnecessarily loudly, yell or play open speaker radios.
-Don’t conduct personal business on the phone or take unscheduled breaks. This is not just a profitability point but a matter of customer service. Remember customers want their lives back as soon as possible.
-Don’t execute on any customer requests for additional work without checking with the Field Supervisor first. Some clients want work to be “thrown in” or done for free. Our experience has shown that “throwing things in” leads to more customer requests to have things done for free and, when you finally stop obliging, the customer invariably becomes unhappy. Tell the customer politely that you don’t see the requested work in your work order but that you will check on this right away and then immediately contact your Field Supervisor.
-Don’t put the integrity of your word and company reputation in doubt – communicate. Customer have certain expectations about what is going to happen on the job and the manner in which it will be done (schedule, work hours, sequence, etc.) If for some reason (weather, suppliers or acts of God) something is not going to happen exactly the way a customer may be expecting, do not let them wonder about what’s going on. Be the first one to let the customer know what is happening and keep them updated. Please understand that the biggest customer upsets occur not because some expectation of their has been disappointed but because of the lack of communication about it.
-Don’t try to avoid taking responsibility for your mistakes. Do not waste time and energy on excuses and long explanations. If you know this is your mistake, fix it quickly and be sure to from it.
-Don’t engage with a customer in long discussions that are irrelevant to the job. I have never heard a customer tell me how impressed they were with the painter’s knowledgeable of sports, religion, politics or world affairs. On the other hand, I’ve gotten plenty of compliments about how fast and hard-working a painter was and how they always showed up on time. In fact, it was these types of customer comments that gave us our first clue about what customers really want and appreciate in a painting crew.
From sales to accounting to cleaning up after a paint job, delivering excellent customer service is everyone’s job. Because your job, as part of our painting crew, puts you inside a customer’s home, where customer service and satisfaction is concerned, you are on our company’s front line and we are all counting on you to hold that line strong.
I believe it is very much a basic human nature to want to help people and to try to make their lives easier. Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction out of getting a note or a call from a customer expressing their gratitude. When this happens I know that we have created an easy experience for this customer and that there is an excellent chance that this customer is going be back!
We have recently changed our job bonus program and tied it directly to the level of customer satisfaction. We did this so that satisfying a customer can now feel even more satisfying to you.
February 11, 2014
Executive Director for Classic Shades Painting Co.