Whether you’re an HVAC technician, electrician, or general contractor, customer service matters to your bottom line.
This free training guide is designed to help field service technicians, contractors, and home services businesses better understand the art of customer service while providing actionable tips you can put to use today.
Part 1: Why is Customer Service So Important?
Whether you sell cars or fix air conditioning units, without customers, your business fails. Customers are the cornerstone of any company and its most valuable commodity. Good customer service improves your company’s public image and pays off financially.
The Multiplier Effect
Customer service is a multiplying effect. When customers receive good service, they tell approximately 10-12 people; on average, customers will spend 10% more for the same product with better service. There is also an 82% chance that satisfied customers will repurchase from the same company.
Lousy customer service, however, ruins your public image and significantly impacts your company financially. People love to talk about bad experiences. When customers receive poor service, they share their experience with upwards of 20 people. Not only will they tell people, but there is a 91% chance they will never return.
Treating your customers well is the right thing to do ethically and financially.
Why is Customer Service Important to Contractors?
Building customer trust is more paramount for contractors and field technicians than other businesses.
Often contractors work on-site, at people’s homes, and around their families. People need to like and trust someone before they invite them into their homes and businesses. They need to like someone to ask them back.
Customers also understand very little about the services you provide. After all, if everyone could fix an air conditioning unit or build a deck, you would be out of a job.
You always hear horror stories about people being “ripped off” by contractors or “not getting what they paid for.” A contracting business with good customer service receives good word of mouth, grows its business, and ultimately is successful. Contractors with lousy customer service are not long for this world.
Customer service is the only interaction customers will have with your business. It is the face of your business, the heart of your business, and the soul of your business. If you want your contracting business to have a future, you need to have excellent customer service.
Part 2: Customer Service Basics
To develop any skill, you need to begin with the basics.
Excellent customer service starts with identifying integral aspects of intrapersonal skills. In other words, you must understand how to communicate with people to get the desired result.
Communication Is Key
The foundation of customer service is communication. Your ability to communicate accurately saves you a lot of time and headaches when dealing with customers.
Good communication contains three essential elements.
Clarity involves accurately and precisely communicating with your customers. Vague, wishy-washy statements confuse your customers and make them feel you’re not telling them everything.
Clear communication is vital for contractors. Most of your customers do not understand your business. They are not HVAC professionals, carpenters, or plumbers. As such, you need to communicate your business in terms they understand.
Take something your customers are familiar with and find a way to relate it to your service. Equating your service to everyday experiences goes a long way to clarifying your service to your customers.
Don’t use two words if one will suffice. Avoid speaking in circles. Efficient communication gives your customers the impression you are knowledgeable. Wordy statements only serve to distract and confuse your customers.
This should go without saying but be honest. People are good lie detectors who know when someone bends the truth or outright lies. Even tiny half-truths create more problems than solutions.
How You Say Something Says A Lot
Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. When dealing with a customer, you want to be:
A friendly attitude is an essential aspect of customer service. People respond to polite, courteous people. No one likes a jerk and wants to do business with a jerk. Customers will not come back if you are impolite.
Your customers need to know you understand and appreciate their needs and concerns. So put yourself in the customer’s position and try to understand their point of view.
Customers want to feel they received adequate attention and reasonable answers. Customers also want to feel like their input is valued and can influence the outcome of the dialogue.
Good information equates to good service. Customers want pertinent answers in a timely fashion. Saying “I don’t know” immediately demotes you in a customer’s eyes.
Overall, the basics of customer service are not complicated. Think about the excellent customer service experiences you had in the past. More than likely, the person you dealt with was courteous, informative, and friendly. The first step to excellent customer service is to follow the golden rule and treat customers the way you would want to be treated.
Part 3: Presentation Counts for a Lot
How you look and act matters. It may not be fair that people judge you based on these factors, but the fact remains they do. When meeting customers in person or talking to them on the phone, you must know how to present yourself politely and professionally.
Visual perception plays a vital role in human impressions and reactions. The best customer service skills in the world won’t help if you present yourself in an unprofessional manner.
How You Look
Looking the part is half the battle. This is not to say you should meet every customer or potential customer in a suit and tie. That might be appropriate if you were a banker or accountant, but you are a contractor. You work with your hands, and often your work is messy. So no one expects you to wear a suit and tie.
However, people do expect you to look professional. Dirty hands, messy hair, and poor hygiene can mean the loss of an otherwise happy customer. On the other hand, clean pants, a clean shirt, and proper grooming commands respect and tells the customer you take your job seriously.
How You Act
How you act and carry yourself is just as important as how you dress and look. People expect you to perform professionally as well as look professional.
When interacting with a customer, there are a couple of things to remember:
- Shake Hands. People expect a firm professional handshake.
- Smile. A smile and a polite conversation immediately disarm disgruntled customers. Your facial expressions set the tone of a discussion before it even begins, so make sure it’s a friendly facial expression.
- Eye Contact. Always directly address your customers and look them in the eye.
- Body Language. Your body language should convey a non-threatening, attentive presence. For example, when listening to a customer, lean slightly toward them and nod your head to indicate you’re listening. Use hand gestures to emphasize your points and ensure you respect your customer’s personal space by leaving an adequate distance between you and them.
On the Phone
People expect you to be professional on the phone, just like in person. However, you don’t have the benefit of being face-to-face with the customer on the phone. This means you no longer have the ability to convey meaning through body language.
When you interact with customers over the phone, these are things to remember:
- Smile. Even though they can’t see it, a smile can be heard. Try saying “Good Morning” with a frown. Now say it with a smile. People know your mood by your tone of voice, and it is near impossible to sound grumpy with a smile.
- Use Concise Language. Phrases like “umm,” “yep,” and “nope,” while appropriate in everyday day conversation, should not be used on the phone.
- Speak Professionally. Use professional language. For example, do not say, “What’s your name?”. Instead, use “May I have your name, please?”.
- Always Speak in The Positive. Avoid telling a customer what you can’t do for them. Instead, tell them what you can do. For example, never say “I don’t know”; instead, use something like “I can find out for you.”
- Don’t Give Orders. Never say, “You’ll have to…” or “You’ll need to…”. Instead, say something like, “We ask that…”.
Presenting yourself politely and professionally in person or over the phone can make the difference between good and bad customer service.
Part 4: Building Relationships and Keeping Customers
Relationships are the cornerstone of any business. It’s no secret customers prefer to do business with companies they like and trust. They follow the advice of companies they like and buy products and services from them.
Relationships are significant for contractors. Your customers invite you into their homes and their businesses. They rely on you to fix and solve problems they don’t understand. They offer you a tremendous amount of trust.
Building relationships with customers allows you to turn one-time shoppers into lifelong fans of your business.
First Impressions Matter
It’s a cliche saying but true nonetheless. The first time you meet a client will make or break the relationship. Therefore, you must impress your client the first time you meet.
Here are some things you can do to ensure you make a great first impression on your customers.
Solve problems quickly
People don’t like waiting. To see the truth in this statement, go to any DMV or Post Office and see how many happy people are there. The answer is likely zero.
Solving problems quickly and efficiently for customers shows them you take personal responsibility for meeting their needs. It also shows you are thoughtful in meeting their needs.
This is basic but important. When you meet with a customer, you should be courteous. Smile genuinely, shake their hand, and talk to them with a pleasant tone of voice. Also, use their name in conversation. This gives the conversation a personal touch and lets them know you are listening.
Present yourself professionally
Again this is basic but important. Make sure you look neat and put together. Looking disheveled or like you do not care about your appearance is an excellent way to make a negative first impression.
Don’t cut corners
It may be tempting to cut corners to save time. Resist the urge. Do the job right the first time, and your customers will remember it.
You only get one first impression. So please do everything you can to make it a good one.
Building and Maintaining Customer Relationships
Customers have a lot of options when it comes to contractor services. Plenty of plumbers, HVAC technicians, and General Contractors offer comparable services. So how do you maintain and build your customer relationships? First, you must expand your service definition and provide customers with more than a product.
Customers have options, so give them a reason beyond your service to continue to do business with you. This can be as simple as explaining in detail the work you do and why it needs to be done. Or it can involve planning follow-up visits to ensure they are still happy with your service.
In short, go above and beyond the call of duty, whatever that looks like for your specific contracting business.
Sustaining Long-Term Customer Relationships
Customer relationships are just like any other relationship. Whether it’s a business relationship, romantic relationship, or friendship, you must know and trust the person in the relationship. The same goes for customer relationships.
You need to know your customers. You need to know what they need, what they want, their goals, and what they expect from their relationship with your business. They also need to know you understand their needs and wants and will do your best to fulfill them.
Part 5: Customer Service Channels
In the 21st century, the options for customer service go well beyond answering phones and meeting customers in person. Email, SMS, and social media are all useful tools. However, like all tools, their usefulness depends entirely on how they’re utilized.
Email is one of the most frequently used communication tools on the Internet and is the most straightforward of all the tools the Internet provides. The most common way for a business to use email for customer service is to respond to customers’ issues and queries.
The key with email is to respond quickly, especially for simple questions requiring simple answers. A good response time is 24 hours maximum. Long email response times signal to your customers that you are not competent enough to answer quickly, that you’re too busy, or that you do not value them as a customer.
Short Message Service (SMS), more commonly referred to as text messaging or just texting, functions in much the same way as email. Unlike email, though, it is more versatile.
With the prevalence of cell phones with text message capability, SMS provides customer service directly to the customer without the interruption of a phone call. For instance, automated text messages can remind your customers of service dates. Or, if one of your field technicians is running late, a text message can be sent to the customer.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are valuable tools for reaching large portions of your customers. They’re like megaphones. The best way to utilize social media is to broadcast messages useful to all your followers. For example, make a Facebook post if your company won’t be making service calls on specific dates.
Chatbots have been hailed as the next big thing in customer service due to their advantages: they are 24/7, they never get tired, and they can handle an unlimited number of chats at once.
So what are chatbots? In short, they are computer programs that simulate human conversation. You interact with them via chat (usually text or voice), and they respond accordingly.
Chatbots are used by businesses to automate customer service. They can handle various tasks, from simple questions to complex customer service issues.
One of the main drawbacks of chatbots is that they can be pretty limited in their functionality. This is because chatbots are still relatively new technology, and they can do only so many things.
For example, chatbots can’t handle phone calls or face-to-face interactions. They also can’t read body language or understand the nuances of human conversation. That means there are some things that they just can’t do as well as a human customer service agent.
Another downside of chatbots is that they require a lot of training and maintenance. Chatbots must be constantly trained on new data to improve their understanding of human conversation. And if you want your chatbot to be able to handle a wide range of tasks, you’ll need to create a lot of rules and responses. That can be time-consuming and expensive.
Finally, chatbots are not yet perfect. They sometimes make mistakes or misunderstand the user’s intent. That can lead to frustration for the customer and damage your brand.
Despite these downsides, chatbots can be valuable to your customer service team. They can quickly and efficiently handle simple tasks, freeing your human agents to focus on more complex issues. Just be sure to choose the right chatbot platform and set realistic expectations for what your chatbot can do.
The telephone has been around for over 150 years, and it’s still an essential part of doing business. Companies must provide a voice customer service channel even in today’s digital world. Here’s why:
- Telephone customer service is personal. When you call a business, you usually talk to a real person. This gives you the chance to build a personal relationship with the company. You can explain your problem or question in detail and get an immediate response.
- Telephone customer service is convenient. You can call a business at any time, day or night. And if you have a problem or question, you can usually get an answer immediately.
- Telephone customer service is fast. When you call a business, you usually don’t have to wait on hold for long. And if you have to wait, most companies will call you back as soon as possible.
- Telephone customer service is reliable. You can count on businesses to answer their phones during regular business hours. And if you have an emergency, most companies will do their best to help you.
- Telephone customer service is professional. When you call a business, you can expect courteous and professional service. The person you talk to will usually be able to help you with your problem or question.
In today’s digital world, it’s easy to forget the importance of telephone customer service. Email, chatbots, and social media provide quick and convenient ways to get in touch with a company – but they’re not always the best option.
Part 6: Dealing with Difficult Customer Service Scenarios
Even the best customer service will not eliminate demanding customers. Anyone working in service industries can tell you that some customers are demanding. But, customers are people, and sometimes people have bad days; sometimes they get frustrated, and sometimes they’re just jerks.
Whatever the case, adverse customer service situations will inevitably crop up. You and your staff need to prepare for them. Unfortunately, people always share bad experiences more than good ones. So whatever you have to do to appease your customer, do it.
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
Listening is an essential strategy for dealing with problem customers because the customer isn’t always right. Sometimes they have the wrong information, or they don’t have all the information. You may circumvent a bad customer service experience by giving the customer better information. Remember, most people don’t know the finer points of plumbing or HVAC repair.
Sometimes the customer is right. In those cases, your best bet is still just to listen. Let them yell, let them curse, and let them vent. Interrupting angry people only makes them angrier.
Staying calm and speaking slowly and in a lower tone reflects on the customer and helps calm them down. On the other hand, you only make the situation worse if you get angry and confrontational.
Don’t take anything personally. Instead, stay focused on the issue at hand and ignore any personal comments levied against you.
See things from the customer’s perspective and build a rapport with them. Let them know you understand their frustration, and then tell them how you plan to fix it.
Know When to Cut Your Losses
Sometimes there is nothing you can do to please people. You don’t want to risk negative referrals and spend half the day trying to compromise with someone. In these cases, your best bet is to find a solution that favors your customer and move on.
Learn From Your Mistakes
It’s challenging to deal with demanding customers, and you will make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and not make them again.
Part 7: Good Customer Service Starts Internally
Your contracting business can spend infinite time and resources developing a customer service strategy and training your employees. However, it will all be useless if you have poor internal customer service. To improve your customer service, you must first create a working culture of respect and fair treatment.
Poorly treated employees treat customers poorly. Take the tips you learned here and apply them to your company and employee interactions. You will find your employees will start treating customers better, and your customer service will improve. From there, it’s just a matter of putting policy on paper.
In today’s business world, excellent customer service is essential to maintaining a good reputation and keeping customers happy. This guide has provided an overview of customer service training; now it’s time to put a plan in place to begin improving customer service at your company. Good customer service starts internally, so creating a company culture of respect and fair treatment is crucial. By following these tips, you can ensure that your employees are providing the best possible service to your customers.