Chapter Corner

Give Your Company World-Class Customer Service

Posted in: Features, August 2014

customer-service.gifWhen was the last time you were absolutely “wowed” by the service you received? When you bought your last car? At a restaurant? Or possibly when ordering something on the Internet?

The reality is that everyone wants to be treated like a business’ only customer, yet we are rarely treated to exceptional customer service in our daily activities. And that’s good for you and your electrical contracting business.

Why? Because by implementing a program to make your customer’s experience the best it can possibly be, you will stand out from your competition and create a reason for your customers to come back – and to recommend your business to their friends and neighbors.

Here are some guidelines for instilling a culture of exceptional customer service within your organization:

Treat your employees well.

Dealing with customers can be a stressful experience. Your employees represent your company and are one of the biggest assets you have, so it is important that you hire, train, and empower them to feel confident in making the right decisions. Creating a positive work environment is key to having happy employees. And happy employees mean happy customers. For example, one way to promote a positive environment is with a recognition program. When

feedback from a customer indicates that an employee has gone above and beyond, the company can reward the employee with recognition, whether in the form of a posting on the bulletin board or an e-mail to all employees letting colleagues know about the job well done.

Another idea if to have a week focusing on customer service with fun activities and prizes to recognize employees for top-notch service.

Consider implementing a similar employee program at your company, if you don’t already have one.

Establish procedures.

Make sure your employees know what is expected from them, and give them the tools to meet those expectations. Establish a set of best practices as guidelines for handling the many issues that will arise in their daily activities. Train them in your procedures and coach them to the point you – and they – are confident in their ability to represent your company.

Best practices can cover just about everything involved in dealing with the customer: how to properly answer the phone, how to schedule a job, how to prepare and present an estimate, and how to deal with any issues that may arise, as work is being done and when it’s completed. At each of these touch points your employees may have with a customer, you should have procedures for handling these in a positive and professional way.

Make it easy to do business with you.

Sometimes it can feel like companies are practicing “sales prevention” rather than making it easy to do business. Every aspect of your business should be designed to make dealing with you as easy as possible. This needs to flow throughout the total sales process: from the initial contact, to the site inspection, preparation and presentation of the estimate, to execution of the work and invoicing. Let’s look at each in detail:

Initial contact: Make sure you have adequate incoming phone lines so no one ever gets a busy signal or recording. Have 24-hour service available so customers can contact a company employee when they have an emergency. Make sure you have an easily navigable website with clear contact information. Make sure someone is assigned to responding to all e-mails in a timely manner.

Site inspection, preparation, and presentation of the estimate: Make every effort to schedule your inspection visit as soon as possible after the customer calls. Listen to the customer to determine his or her needs. Try to anticipate any unforeseen issues that might come up and discuss them with a customer. Make sure the estimate was prepared in a way that makes it very clear as to what the cost will be and any additional work that may be required. Listen to the customers’ concerns when reviewing the estimate and make sure they feel comfortable with what you say.

Execution of the work and invoicing: Make sure that all work is done in such a way that it disrupts the customer’s environment as little as possible. All work areas should be clean and returned to their original condition. If any additional work is required, make sure the customer approves it in advance and understands exactly how much this will cost. The final invoice should not exceed the original estimate, except for additional work that the customer approved before starting.

Make the customer feel important.

The old expression, “the customer is king,” is a mantra that has driven many successful companies. When you or your employees are talking to customers, give them your undivided attention. Listen. Listening is a very important, whether you’re on the phone or in a customer’s home. If you just listen long enough, pay attention, and repeat back to customers what you’ve heard, they feel validated and more at ease. They are grateful that someone is actually listening to them and will follow up on what they want.

Another way to help make customers feel important is assigning one person to specific accounts. It can be very important in maintaining good customer relations. With your electrical contracting business, consider assigning your electricians to specific accounts. They will be more familiar with the customer and the unique nature of the building. And, the customer will welcome seeing a familiar face each time service is required.

Measure how you’re doing.

There’s no point in putting in place processes and procedures to improve customer service unless you know that they’re working. At T&B, we have established key metrics in a variety of areas to measure how well we’re doing. We call these key performance indicators, and they include metrics on shipping processes, deliveries, and inventory, to name a few. In your electrical contracting business you’ll need to establish your own key performance indicators to measure how well you’re doing. These can include on-time arrival, extra time required to complete the job, and having to return to redo work. It is also important to directly contact customers to measure their satisfaction. You should have a program in place to call every customer after work has been completed to ask if he or she is happy with the work and if there are any suggestions that would have improved the experience.

Also consider annual surveys of your customer base. You should try to get e-mail addresses from your customers and their permission to contact them for their opinions and experiences. There are several web-based survey programs, such as SurveyMonkey, that allow you to easily gather valuable information on how your customers perceive your customer service. Sometimes, you may not like the answers you get, but if you listen to what your customer is saying, you will get valuable information for improving your business.

Tim Collins is the Director of Sales Services for IEC National Platinum Partner Thomas & Betts, Memphis, Tennessee. He has been responsible for customer service, technical support, eCommerce, and training.