Exemplary customer service, often discussed but rarely mastered, the lack of which costs business owners countless dollars in terms of lost customers, abandoned prospects and a tarnished reputation. Interestingly enough, even in our challenging economic times, the lack of even minimal customer service standards continues to get worse. Customer service transcends the entire buying experience with one fatal mistake costing the business the sale and all future sales. Let me share a true story.
Recently, I responded to a very professionally designed postcard advertising a “free estimate” for lawn, shrub and tree fertilization. My current provider is just “okay” and really has not done much to build a lasting relationship. We’ve all been there. The “take-it-for-granted” account. So, like any other consumer, I responed to this “free estimate” with a promised dollar discount for the service if I switched. They provided a very comprehensive and professional analysis with recommendations to protect my “lawn, tree and shrubbery” investment. This prompted me to contact the company and spoke directly with the owner. To my surprise, the owner sounded harried, rushing me through the components of the bid and while talking to me, asked if I would not mind holding so he could answer another call. He came back on the phone, apologetic and describing how it was a “Monday”. What became readily apparent was simply my call was no longer of importance which spoke volumes about an inadequate plan in place to handle customer/prospect responses to their “free-estimate” and promised discount.
This episode is not isolated. It is repeated literally thousands of times daily. What owners/managers consistently fail to recognize is that delivering superior customer service on a consistent basis is hard work and requires discipline to accomplish. There must be a company-wide commitment that insists on near perfection in delivering service to customers and prospective customers. In the case of this lawn/tree care company, the owner himself failed to master four minimum customer/prospect expectations:
* To be treated with respect and not an interruption
* Friendly, courteous and attentive
* Deliver per advertised and on time
While the events of this story are true, two basic “Laws of Teamwork” were violated. The “Law of Mount Everest” which simply states that as the challenge escalates, the need for teamwork elevates; and, “The Law of the Chain”, meaning, the strength of the team can be negatively impacted by the weakest link. The owner should have provided for proper staffing to support the “free estimate with discount” promotion…and, the owner showed that interruptions was a cultural acceptance…the owner himself then the weakest link.
As service providers we must always be reminded of Economics 101: Capital goes where it is wanted and appreciated”. How quickly we can forget that as business owners, our customers are our capital.