In an earlier post, I explained why problem resolution is key to creating loyal customers. Here are some simple customer service do’s and don’ts to follow when customers present a problem: Communicate, communicate, communicate – ASAP & often
Number one, do not avoid communicating with customers about problems. Use the problem as an opportunity to showcase how good your company is at taking care of the customer. Take the call, return the voice message, write the email, visit the job-site; do what you must to reach the customer as soon as possible and follow-up frequently. Customer frustrations escalate when there is lack of communication. Lack of communication compounds the problem and entrenches the customer in extreme and possibly unreasonable positions that become difficult to negotiate later.
Get the facts
Listen, listen, listen to the customer. What is the problem as the customer sees it? How and why does the customer believe the problem occurred? Corroborate with other trades that may be involved. Understanding how the customer sees the problem not only helps investigating the problem further, but also it helps formulate a solution that satisfies the customer.
Don't jump to conclusions
Avoid drawing conclusions and proposing premature solutions based on the immediate problem definition. Depending on the situation, it might help to defuse tensions to hypothetically discuss possible causes and solutions without committing to specific actions until all the facts are known.
Don't be defensive
There is no need to deny fault, warranty coverage or participation in problem resolution especially before all the facts are gathered. The customer could interpret such denials as a rebuff of the customer and the problem. Just because the customer came to you with a problem does not mean that you caused the problem. But it does put you into the best position to facilitate problem resolution that benefits your company’s reputation if handled properly.
Don't finger point
In remodeling, it is possible that more than one trade is involved in a problem. For example, the flooring contractor and the electrician both have roles to play in the installation of an electric floor heating system. It does not benefit either trade or the floor heating system manufacturer to speculate that one or the other trade or the manufacturer is at fault until all the facts have been determined. Pointing fingers only adds to the customer’s confusion and frustration. Once the facts are determined, it is in the best interest of the contractor and the manufacturer to work together in a fair and equitable manner to resolve the problem in a way that keeps the customer happy.
Facilitate problem resolution by seeking solutions. For example, in radiant floor heating, the main concern of the customer is not getting a refund but having a warm floor that can be enjoyed for many years to come. In one case, both the electrician and the flooring contractor disavowed any responsibility for the floor heating system when it failed to operate shortly after installation. Upset, the customer contacted us, the manufacturer, for help. We cooperated with the electrician to pinpoint the problem. After removing a tile, it was discovered that a third trade, the plumber, put a screw through the bottom of the floor severing the heating cable. It was a simple repair and everyone was happy, especially the customer.
It's well known that many home builders and remodelers avoid adding bells and whistles because "it's another thing that can go wrong". On the other hand, there is no better way to generate repeat business and referrals than by differentiating your business with custom solutions. Floor heating is a reliable, maintenance-free, easy-to-install option that generates significant word-of-mouth because of its impact on quality of life. I never had a customer regret installing floor heat. But I’ve heard many people regret missing the opportunity to install floor heat. As a remodeler, installing value-added custom solutions from manufacturers who stand behind their products and turning problems into opportunities to impress your customers are guaranteed ways to increase your repeat business and referrals.