WOW Customer Service – What’s the Right Choice?

Customer Service - what's the right choice?Choice #1: Call late or no show?

  • The plumber
  • The appliance repairman
  • The paver installer
  • The house painter
  • The tile installers
  • The furniture delivery/installation crew

Almost all of the above tradesmen have been a “no-show” on us. One came at a different time than promised (but at least he showed up), and one came early in the morning (with only 1 hour’s notice after promising we’d be given a 4-hour window on the business day before – a call we never got)… and that’s just in the last 6 months!

I don’t know if I’m just requiring more work to be done on my house lately or if things are deteriorating at a much more rapid pace than in the past, but we (and many other people we know) have experienced an ever-increasing rash of these kinds of discourteous experiences from tradespeople we’ve called to do work at our homes.

Often, when we call, we get excuses. One said, “The time got away from me;” one was actually honest enough to say, “I forgot” and then apologized. But most have not even addressed the fact that they no-showed, and consequently, never even apologized!

We’ve often sat around all day waiting for these people to come or at least give us the courtesy of a call. When we called the latest one to find out why he’d no-showed the day before, he did apologize and say, “I’m sorry – we got way busier than we thought and couldn’t get it all done in one day. And we don’t like to call people late in the day.” (at 6:30 p.m.?)

And when the next day comes around, we still didn’t hear from them, but had to call them again. Were they even going to try to come again to keep their promise? Or would they have just let it go, and only make another appointment if we called back? Or would they have just shown up that day, without an appointment?

What is going on? Everyone is busy; I get it. And things happen; I get that, too. The disturbing trend I’m seeing is that many businesspeople (and I’m using this term very loosely because this is no way to do business!) seem to feel that “no-showing” for a job is preferable to calling the customer and telling them they won’t be able to come, or at least explaining why they haven’t made it yet and then apologizing and setting up a new time for the next day.

Choice #2: Do what the customer asks for – or do what you feel like doing?

Here’s another disturbing example of a tradesman disrespecting a customer, this time by ignoring what she requested and just doing what he felt like anyway. A friend of mine recently requested a quote from an electrician to convert and repair about 30 light switches in her home that were old and giving her problems. The one electrician who bothered to call her back (of THREE she had called) told her he’d give her a quote to repair 20. She replied, “But I’ve already told you there are about 30 of them, so please give me a quote for 30.” He again said, “I’m going to give you a quote for 20.”

What? He gave her no explanation as to why he would not quote what she asked, and after a frustrating conversation with him, she hung up, not knowing if he was going to give her a quote for 20, 30 … or if he’d even call her back at all! So, after calling three electricians and having only ONE call her back, she still doesn’t have any source for fixing her electrical outlets!

By the way, this is the same friend who recently had to wait 4 months to get her kitchen re-tiling job finished… a process that was so painful that when I asked her if she knew a tile installer I could use, she refused to recommend him, even though his work was good when he finally got around to finishing it!

Some Thoughts to Keep in Mind:

Maybe it’s that people have so much business right now that they don’t care how badly they treat the customers they can’t get to. But here’s something to keep in mind:

  1. That may work while customers are plentiful, but people will remember that disrespectful treatment and when business slows down, these tradespeople may be left scratching their heads and wondering where all their work went. It will definitely not be easy to recover and they won’t be able to do it with the people they’ve treated badly when their business wasn’t needed.
  2. All of the repeat and referral business those people would have given the tradesmen if they’d been treated well have now gone elsewhere… as well as all their repeat and referral business and all their repeat and referral business… on and on down the line. This could be quite a considerable group of people to have lost business from.
  3. It’s a matter of common courtesy and respect! With all the talk about respect lately, how can anyone feel that it’s acceptable to treat others in this manner? Ignoring someone is disrespectful! Breaking your promises is disrespectful! Even calling late is disrespectful… but is it less disrespectful to at least call (even if late, and by the way, 6:30 is not that late!) or to no-show and even not call the next day?

A Suggestion:

In the case of the people who thought 6:30 was too late to call:

  • I’m guessing that by 5:00, they already knew they probably wouldn’t make it to our home that day. And even if they didn’t know that for sure, by 5:00 they did know that they’d kept us waiting all day. That fact alone should have prompted them to call and at least apologize for that.

Lessons You Can Use to Differentiate Yourself and Create a Competitive Advantage:

  1. It’s becoming more and more apparent that keeping your promise to even show up or call if you don’t can be a tremendous differentiator for many tradespeople. Brainstorm with your teams about ways to communicate with customers more efficiently and proactively. If the tradesmen can’t call customers themselves, find a way to get someone else to call them. If there is no one else who can call them, look to technology and mobile apps to quickly notify a customer of the status of their request, so they don’t feel ignored or forgotten. The quicker you can find a solution to this problem and implement a bit of common courtesy into the equation, the quicker you will be able to create WOW customer service… and with WOW customer services comes higher and higher levels of business success.
  2. Always do the right thing – show the same respect to others that you would want shown to you. Skill or competence in your job does not overcome disrespect and discourtesy. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, if you don’t call the customer, don’t show up or make them wait forever (often with their house in disarray) – you may get paid for that ONE job, but you probably will not get others from them, nor will you be referred to their friends and family.

The moral of the story:

Don’t let short-term success allow you to become cocky or arrogant and disrespect potential customers because that kind of behavior could cause you long-term problems when you need customers in the future… and they won’t be there for you because a) they remember how badly you treated them when you didn’t need them, and b) they’ve found someone else in the meantime who is now getting all the initial, repeat and referral business that should have been yours.

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