The science of customer service

What is the impact and importance of first impressions? It can be the difference between getting the job or not.

As restorers, we have to be skilled at many functional and practical things like how to extract water, where to position equipment, how to put up effective containment and how to interpret industry standards and guidelines. However, what is often forgotten is the other side of the business and sometimes the most important: customer service.

What is the impact and importance of first impressions? It can be the difference between getting the job or not. It can be the difference between an easy to handle customer and a difficult to handle customer and it can also mean whether they will refer you. First impressions are important; make them count.

What is customer service to you? 

When you are engaged to inspect a home, or you are completing a remediation job, these things might be routine to you, but you must remember that you are in someone’s home. It’s where they live, where they raise their family and where they keep their worldly possessions. What might be inconsequential to you might be paramount to them, so your actions, demeanour and how you communicate are significant in the role of excellent customer service.

As restorers, we go into many homes and see a quite a variety of how people live. It’s not our role to judge them! Sure, in our head we might be thinking, ‘that’s not how I would live’ but it’s not about you. How can you demonstrate excellent customer service when you are on the job or merely doing another routine inspection?

It’s the little things that make the difference. So what are they I hear you ask? How you present yourself, turning up on time, addressing your customer with respect, speak clearly, don’t talk down to the customer and never confuse them with industry jargon are just a few.

The Greeks refer to ethos, logos and pathos. Simply explained, (because it’s not my intention to give you a complete history lesson), the ethos of communication is defined as the ethical part, this revolves around the person you are and, more important, the person you are perceived to be. Logos refers to logic and reason and pathos refers to the appeal to emotion.

The ethos, pathos, logos that I have adopted in my company is:

  • Connect
  • Commit
  • Communicate

It’s simple but it works.

Connect: Connect with your customer at any level. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but they need to be able to feel like they can trust you. Every situation and every customer is different, so you need to find something that works, whether it’s complimenting their home, patting the dog or looking them in the eye and just saying, “thank you for allowing me to inspect your home today”.  Moreover, remember facial expressions and body language often speak louder than words so remember to keep those in check.

Commit: When you have secured the job you need to commit to doing a good job, commit to respecting their home and commit to respecting their possessions. Again, it’s simple but extremely important.

Communicate: Talk to your customer, make sure they understand what you are doing during your inspection. Little things like asking if it’s okay to open cupboards or go into rooms. Don’t assume!  When quoting a job for mould, or turning up in the middle of the night for an emergency escape of liquid, make sure they understand what you will be doing and what is going to happen in the coming days.

There is nothing worse for you as the restorer or the homeowner when there is a silly misunderstanding, and they won’t pay the bill because they thought you were going to do something that you had clearly stated you weren’t.

Write things down, talk to them about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and what those things mean. Clarity is essential; it shortens the war by years and saves millions of lives. This also applies to written communication as well as oral; you must be literate and clear.

Some of the things I do at Mould Rescue are:

  • Double check the time and date of the appointment
  • Put down a doormat and wipe my feet before entering their home
  • Always ask if it’s okay to open cupboard doors or go into other areas of the house
  • Always ask if it’s okay to move furniture
  • Listen to the customer
  • Ask them about what’s important to them.

My message: figure out what customer service means to you and how you can continuously improve it with the little things.

Penny Tralau is owner of Mould Rescue. 

This first appeared in the May issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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