By Greg McAfee
Like many of you, I started out as an unheard-of wannabe, working out of my own garage. I did not come from wealth, I did not have a well-known name for I was not raised in the area, and the McAfee anti-virus company was not as popular in 1990 as it is today. Thus, out of all the fifty- to seventy-five-year-old companies in my area, I had to figure out how to become known. Of course, my dream went one step further—to become great.
The first thing I had to come to terms with was the realization that there was no way I could compete with those established companies at their level. They already had a corner on the market, doing business that way, so I had to find my own unique spin, to do what they were not willing to do. As it turned out, much of that involved actually serving the customer.
Scheduling Is Critical
Don’t ever forget that you work for the customer and not vice versa. Promptness is very important to most people in today’s instant messaging, microwaving, need-it-yesterday, hurry-up world. If you say you will be there at 8a.m., you need to be there at 8a.m.! If you absolutely cannot avoid being late, let them know ahead of time. All mistakes carry lessons with them, and we learned the hard way that not being on time can cost you a job. We’ve also learned that there are no bonus points for arriving early and disturbing customers from their morning routines. When we do arrive early, we make sure not to knock on the door until the scheduled time. If schedules are not going to be followed, they are virtually pointless—and trust me when I say schedules do have a point when it comes to customer service.
In the beginning, we had standard service hours, but we still tried to be as flexible as possible and work around customers’ availability. If they needed a 7a.m. or a 6p.m. call, we found a way to make it happen—and without the standard “Anything after 5 p.m. is overtime” spiel. Today we offer after-hours service at no additional charge. The first calls of the day are scheduled at 8 a.m., and additional calls are scheduled within two hour windows.
Customers also like to be reminded that you will be there. At one time, I handled all these reminders personally. Today, we call these “courtesy calls,” and they are made by our Customer Service team the working day prior to the service call. Unlike landscapers or lawncare companies who do their work outdoors, our workers have to step across the threshold and work inside the home. Therefore, this courtesy call is more than a friendly reminder. It is a crucial means to ensure that the customer will be home and expecting our arrival during the scheduled time.
When the Service Technician, Installer, or Air Duct Cleaner is on the way to the home/job, they personally call the customer to let them know they are on the way. I can’t tell you how many calls and letters we get expressing appreciation for that simple little gesture. Why? Because it shows that we care about the customer and that their time is valuable to us. It also allows them to be ready for us, whether that means tidying up or putting the dog out. Someone once asked me why we make two reminder calls, and my answer to that is always, “Because we want to make it convenient for our customers.” After all, most households are home to more than one individual, and there is a chance that the one who answered the first call may not have communicated to the one who will be home when we arrive. Communication is important, and courtesy is crucial.
Stay tuned for Part II, Greg will share what helps make you great once you arrive on the call.