(The following is an official Classic Shades Painting Co. policy on the subject of customer service. This policy is generally distributed to and tested 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. As expensive and disruptive to people’s lives as painting projects can be, why do people paint? They have a need to protect and beautify their homes and businesses!
So, the customer hires you to fulfill this need. But now that we have the job, what do you 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 are being met? How do we meet and perhaps exceed those expectations?
After more than 30 years in business and experience of interaction with literally thousands of customers, I was able to distill the essence of customer service to the following:
MOST CUSTOMERS FEEL THAT THEIR EXPECTATIONS ARE MET WHEN THEY RECEIVE WHAT HAS BEEN PROMISED TO THEM.
MOST CUSTOMERS FEEL THAT THEIR EXPECTATIONS ARE EXCEEDED WHEN THEY RECEIVE WHAT HAS BEEN PROMISED TO THEM IN A WAY THAT WAS VERY EASY FOR THEM TO RECEIVE OR EXPERIENCE IT.
What we promise our customers is not a secret. It is right there is our painting proposals. Every single line of our job specifications, as given in our job write-ups, is our promise to a customer.
Take a look at the back of your company shirt or at our company signs, “Great looking, long-lasting paint job” is our guarantee to each one of our customers.
How to go about delivering on this promise should not be a great mystery to you either. It is right there in our company policy and technical bulletins.
So let’s spend some time examining what can be done to make the paint job process an easy one for our customers to experience. In other words let’s take a look at what can be done to make what can be a very unpleasant and distractive for a customer experience into a more orderly and satisfying one?
FOLLOWING ARE SOME “DO’S”, “DONT’S” AND 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 at them 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 services survey, conducted across industries, revealed that more than half of all customers surveyed had a bad service experience, and that nearly the same percentage of customers surveyed thought that many of the companies they dealt with don’t understand and care about them.
Do you think people want to do business with companies that don’t care about them? Well, over 60% of our business comes from repeat customers and positive word of mouth. Most people are naturally helpful and caring, so let it show!
-Be grateful. Customers have a choice of many other service providers. Our livelihoods depend on our customers remaining loyal to us. Let them know you appreciate their loyalty.
-Be attentive. Pay attention to what the customer is saying. If you don’t understand something the customer said, ask them to clarify it or to say it in different words.
-Be open to customer questions and answer them promptly. If you don’t know the answer or you are waiting to get more information in order to answer the question, do not 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.
-Be productive and adhere to a standard schedule. Remember any time you’re being unproductive 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.
-Be effective and get the job done. Please understand that customers want you in their home no longer than it 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 seem a bit harsh and seem like customers don’t like you. It’s not that at all, but just take a look at some of the discomforts and unpleasantries that can be posed by a paint job: customers have to select colors, cut the vegetation, move their things around, put up with noise, dust and smell, and 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 as quickly as possible. So get it done and give it back to them!
-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!
-Do follow the job specifications as given in the job write-up and do them well. Collect any evidence you can of having followed job specifications.
-Do demonstrate. One picture is better than a thousand words so take lots of photos of the job in progress, particularly when these will demonstrate that the job is being done according to the job specifications and that thorough surface preparation is being achieved. Sometimes it’s not easy for the customer to see what’s being done on the job and photographs can put their mind at ease.
-Do report any job conditions not covered by the job write-up (dry rot, rusted out flashing, etc.) If you have to do something not covered by the job write-up, like punch in a few nails, nail down a piece of loose trim or strip all paint from a windowsill, do the work but be sure to take a before and after photo then send it to the Field Supervisor who can then show it to the customer.
-Do manage customer’s expectations. Do not give promises you can’t keep but always try to meet or exceed customer expectations.
-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” and I personally knew someone who got kicked off the job because of leaving the customer’s door unattended.
-Do not 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.
-Do not unnecessarily extend the length of their job. Do not 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.
-Do not 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.
-Do not put the integrity of your word and company reputation in doubt, communicate. Customers have certain expectations about what is going to happen on jobs and the manner in which it will occur (schedule, work hours, 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 it and having to call you or the office in order to find out what’s going on. Be the first one to let the customer know what is happening and keep them updated. Biggest upsets with customers occur not because some customer expectation has been disappointed but because of the lack of communication about it.
-Do not 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. Learn from your mistakes.
-Do not engage with a customer in long discussions that are irrelevant to the job. I have never heard a customer say how impressed they were at how knowledgeable they thought a painter was on a subject of sports, religion, politics or world affairs. On the other hand, I have heard plenty of compliments about how fast and hard-working a painter was and how he always showed up on time. In fact, it was these types of customer comments that gave us our first clues 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, being a part of our painting crew, puts you inside a customer’s home you are on our company’s front line where customer service and satisfaction is concerned.
I believe it is very much the human nature to want to help people and to make their lives easier. Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction out of getting a note from a customer expressing their gratitude. When this happens 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.
Executive Director for Classic Shades Painting Co.