Improve customer satisfaction with good communication

In today’s “instant” society filled with all of the “about me” and “right now” expectations, how can you know what is important to your customer? How do you understand what they know, what they want, and what they feel? There is only one way–ask and listen.

What makes customers upset?

A dissatisfied customer can be quick to shoot arrows via social media and online reviews. Sometimes they are warranted, sometimes not. They are always the result of poor communication. I do not know anyone who will intentionally, with malice, post angry or inaccurate reviews about a company who they hired to do work for them. When such an event occurs, it is because the customer’s expectations were not met.

When a customer does not fully understand your processes, your methods and the idiosyncrasies of your business, this lack of understanding can lead to conflict. Having been in the heating and air industry for over 30 years, there were many times a customer was frustrated due to scheduling problems. For example, a customer who takes off work expecting the service technician to arrive at 1:00PM will be upset if the technician does not arrive until 4:30PM.

The technician, who has been working hard in the heat of summer since 7:00AM on his first call may be less than civil when confronted with the angry homeowner. In the technician’s defense, he didn’t know when he started that morning that his first call would take nine hours. He becomes so focused on completing his first job that he doesn’t think to call his second customer and tell them he will be delayed.

It is this lack of communication that can lead to poor reviews. Once the technician shows up, no matter what a wonderful job he does repairing the A/C, the client will be upset at losing a half day’s work. Unless the customer is placated in some manner, they are likely to leave a less than stellar review.

How to avoid it

It is important to have systems in place to track and prevent situations that may lead to customer dissatisfaction. A phone call to the above customer may have allowed them to work later in the day, therefore lessening the inconvenience of taking off work. A dispatcher who is made aware of the additional time requirement can shuffle schedules and contact customers to reduce or prevent conflict. A technician who thinks ahead can forewarn the office and/or customer so other arrangements can be made.

Coolfront Mobile helps residential home services contractors better manage their service department. In Jim Knapp’s article, Coolfront gives some great tips for keeping your technicians on schedule and mitigating customer angst when things get off.

But even when the company tries to do everything right, occasionally things go wrong. We are all human and sometimes make mistakes. When we are hot, harried, and hurried, we tend to make more mistakes than usual. What should you do when the inevitable mistake happens? There are four critical steps that should be taken:

4 ways to handle customer dissatisfaction

  1. Admit you have made a mistake
  2. Apologize verbally for your mistake
  3. Ask the customer what can be done to amend for your mistake
  4. Apologize tangibly for your mistake

If the customer is upset and spouts off, listen. Never interrupt an angry customer. Allow them to continue until they have it worked out of their system. (The one exception to this is if the customer is vulgar or being verbally abusive.)

When they have finished venting their frustration, 1) admit your mistake, 2) apologize verbally, and 3) ask the customer what you can do to make it up to them. Usually, just having the opportunity to vent will help make amends. I have found that the customer will usually ask for less than I would have been willing to give to repair the relationship. Occasionally you will come across someone who will be unreasonable, but the majority of the people will be very fair with you. 4) Apologize tangibly. Send an apology gift. You can turn a negative experience into a positive one by expressing regret with an unexpected gift mailed directly to the customer. Something as simple as a sweet gift of freshly baked cookies or candy can remove a customer’s sour or bitter feelings toward your company.

Forbes also has some great tips on apologizing to customers. I love how they say to avoid the “fakey fake” apology and also how to apologize without alienating your employees. So important, because your employees are your internal customers.

An ounce of prevention…

Keep your whole organization centered around providing an exceptional customer experience — from the executive to team member levels. We’ve written about that previously, as one of 6 Ways To Improve the Customer Experience.

Remember, when it comes to customer satisfaction, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Make communication a priority for you and your team. Good communication is linked to higher customer satisfaction. That’s because good communication improves the customer experience — which always improves overall customer satisfaction.

To Your Success!

Steve

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