(The following is an official Classic Shades Painting Co. policy. It is distributed to all field employees.)
I am sure you have heard before 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 the 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 a person’s live as these projects can be, why do people undertake them? By survey, they do this because they have a need to protect and beautify their homes and businesses.
So, a customer hires us to fulfill this need. But now that we have the job, what can we do to make this customer feel satisfied? What do customers really want? What will make them happy with the job?
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.” But what are those magic activities that make customers feel that their expectations have been met? How do we meet and perhaps even exceed those expectations?
After more than 30 years in this 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, AND 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 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 that we do. Every single line of our job specifications is a promise to our customer. Now also take a look at the back of your company shirt or at any one 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 to you. You should be very well acquainted by now with our company technical bulletins and quality standards.
So, let’s examine what can be done to make a paint job process into an easy experience one for our customers. In other words, let’s take a look at how we can make what can be an unpleasant and disruptive experience for a customer, into a more orderly and satisfying one.
HERE ARE SOME “DO’S” AND “DON’TS” OF THE JOB BEHAVIOR TO HELP MAKE A MORE SATISFYING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:
-Do be friendly. Use a friendly tone of voice when speaking with customers. Smile when appropriate.
-Do 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 say “Goodbye”.
-Do 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? Of course not. Most people are naturally helpful and caring. So, let it show.
-Do be grateful. Customers have a choice of many other service providers. Over 70% of our business comes from repeat customers and referrals. All of our livelihoods depend on customers remaining loyal to us. Let them know that you appreciate their loyalty.
-Do be attentive. Pay attention to what a 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.
-Do 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 the customer wonder about it and tell them what you are doing.
-Do be reliable. If you tell a customer you will do something, like that you will get back to them about something they asked about, then back to them. If a customer expects you to be there at 8 AM, then be there at 8 AM.
-Do be predictable and try not to surprise customers with rush requests. If you need for the customer to do something, like open windows, move their staff, contact neighbors, etc., then give them some prior notice first.
-Do 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 the customer’s property from being damaged, lost, or stolen. There is nothing more upsetting than to have your property 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 entry doors properly secured and lock all doors at the end of each day. Use proper protection (drop cloths, masking tape, plastic, etc.) and always clean up after yourself. One of the top customer complaints (shown by our own customer survey conducted years ago) was “The painter left a mess”.
-Do be productive and adhere to a standard schedule. Remember that any time you’re not being productive on a job (i.e. come late in the morning, take unscheduled breaks, use your phone to conduct personal business, etc.) may make your customer feel that you are unnecessarily extending the length of the job.
-Do what was promised and do a good job. Don’t skimp on job specifications. If you feel that a specified procedure or a number of coats will not produce a desired result, do not worry the customer about it but immediately contact your Field Supervisor.
-Do be effective and get the job done. We work for a lot of very nice people but you need to understand that customers don’t want us in their home for any longer than it is absolutely necessary for you to do a good job there. (So that they don’t have to hire another painter for as long as possible.) This may make it seem like customers don’t like you. It’s not that at all. But just take a look at some discomforts that can accompany a paint job: they have to select colors, cut vegetation, move their things around, put up with noise, dust and smell, etc. It is 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. As it is, a paint job is a noisy undertaking without adding any unnecessary noise. Don’t speak unnecessarily loud, yell, or play open speaker radios. Spare your customer (and their neighbors) any additional unnecessary discomfort.
-Don’t execute on any customer requests for additional work without checking with the Field Supervisor first. An occasional customer will ask to have some work be “thrown in” (done for free.) Our experience has shown that “throwing things in” often leads to more customer requests to have other work done for free and, when you finally stop obliging, an invariably unhappy customer. Politely tell the customer 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 disappoint customer expectations – communicate. Customers have certain expectations about what is going to happen on the job and about the manner in which it will be done (schedule, work hours, work sequence, etc.) If for some reason (weather, suppliers, or acts of God) something is not going to happen exactly the way a customer is expecting, do not let them wonder about what’s going on. Be the first one to let the customer know about what is happening and keep them updated about it. Please understand that by far the biggest customer upsets occur not because some expectation of theirs 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 or long explanations. If you know this is your mistake, fix it quickly and be sure to learn 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 a painter’s knowledge 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 were those very customer comments that gave us our first clue about what customers really want and appreciate in a painting crew.
From our sales department to accounting to cleaning up after a paint job, delivering excellent customer service is everyone’s job. Because being a part of our painting crew puts you inside our customers’ home, as far as the customer service is concerned, you are on our company’s very front line. We are all counting on you to hold that line strong!
I believe it is very much a part of basic human nature to want to help people and to try to make their lives easier. Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction from getting a note or a call from a customer expressing their gratitude. When this happens I know that we have created a good experience for this customer, and that there is an excellent chance that this customer is going to 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.