Last year, Inc.com published a great article by Yoav Vilner on gearing up to exceed customer expectations in 2018. In it, the author makes the point: “… when you exceed expectations you build trust with your customers, which leads to loyalty, repurchasing, and referrals.” This is especially true in the world of contracting. We've pulled the best advice from this article and added our perspective for contractors and service businesses going into 2019. Here are our recommendations for applying these ideas:
Starting with the first contact, always try to learn what your customer expects. If they’re asking for a quote, ask them when they need the estimate in hand. Work backwards from their deadline, making sure you can provide exactly what they’re looking for.You have the opportunity in the estimate process to set really clear expectations. Make sure your estimate covers all of the details about the project. And include all of your business terms – payment terms, acceptance of work, warranties, etc. Sharing all of these details upfront will pay off in the end.
Problems can come up, but making the solution easy for the customer goes a long way. If you've set clear expectations they’ll know you’re going to handle any issues professionally.Having someone taking calls in the office can be good and bad in this situation. They can take the call, but they need to be empowered to solve the issue. Make sure that they either have the authority to solve the problem right away or that they have a process for getting it taken care of. If the issue comes up on-site, explain how you will attempt to resolve it. Regardless of when or how the problem comes up, communicate next steps to the customer and follow through. Your customer won't care as much about how their problem is solved as knowing that it's taken care of.
Your team are the front line of communication with your customers. Having a great (or poor) experience with your team means having a great(or poor) experience with your company. Build a culture of customer service to get your team onboard. To keep them inspired, look for ways to train them and encourage them. This might mean offering paid training, team building events, or friendly competitions related to customer service.An inspired and motivated team will be noticed by your customers. And you'll benefit not only from better customer service, but likely with better productivity.
The easiest way to build your reputation is through consistency. Consistent quality, consistent service, consistent communications, etc. If you only respond to email after hours, set up an auto-reply message to let people know. Just make sure you respond when you say you will.Vilner writes: "Customers create expectations from their previous experiences- they want consistency and quality; this is the only way to make them feel valuable." Being on the receiving end of consistency makes us all feel valuable. And delivering that sets you apart.
Your business is all about providing a service to people who need what you do. That requires knowing not just what you can do, but what they need.Listening to your customer will help you grow your company and keep up with changing needs in the market.Asking customers for feedback and listening can also give you insights into how your business is working. You can't always talk with every customer personally, so regularly asking for their experiences and impressions is important. Their stories will let you know more about how your staff is doing, how your service fit their needs, and what you can do to improve. Listening can be the most important part of customer service.
Exceeding customer expectations every time is a great goal to set for your team. To set your roadmap for getting there, take one or two of these ideas and focus on them in the year ahead. The return to your business can be worth it.