In December my family moved into a new home – a newly built house where we had to wait a couple of months for the developers to finish building it.
Buying a brand new house has some downsides. We currently live next to a construction site where they start work at 6am. Every day. Also for the first month or so we didn’t have a mailbox – although that wasn’t a big deal because the USPS hadn’t published our (brand new) address in their database yet, so no-one would send us anything anyway. Chase bank still refuses to update our address because our new address “doesn’t exist”.
On the other hand, we basically have a 1 year warranty on the house. So if we find any issues with the build quality, we can raise a ticket with the developer, and they’ll fix it. Very cool.
Unfortunately we found a problem with the hardwood floor. Within weeks of moving in the planks were starting to separate in a few places. Not good. So we reported it, and they told us it was a manufacturing defect – through almost the entire house (two carpeted rooms were unaffected).
So we would need to move out for a week while they fixed it.
Good customer service saves the day?
Now at first glance this seems like a disaster all around. As the customer, we might be very upset that (a) they’d used shoddy defective flooring in our brand new house and (b) that we would now need to MOVE OUT (a huge inconvenience) while they fixed it.
But when we talked to their service manager about it, the conversation went quite differently.
- Firstly, I should note that they had already built a relationship with us through several previous conversations and inspections, so the service manager was someone we knew and liked.
- He apologized. (A good start.)
- He told us that the replacement flooring would be an upgrade (premium materials) from what we had before.
- He offered to have the workers touch up any scratches in the paint while they were here.
- He agreed to schedule the work over spring break and offered us a daily stipend for hotel and food so we could go on a family vacation.
- He agreed that the developer would pay for professional movers to move all our belongings into the garage of their model home (next door) and then to move it all back again at the end of the week.
We just got back from our week’s vacation (feeling well-rested) and our house is looking better than ever with the new, “premium” floors. And while it was somewhat inconvenient to go through all this, it ended up not being that big a deal, and I feel very impressed with how the developer handled the whole situation.
Our relationship with them is better than if this had never happened.
Should we create problems to demonstrate our great customer support?
Surely the evidence of these events is yes? We had a better opinion of the developer at the end than we did at the beginning.
And for most local service providers, one of the key benefits you provide compared to an over-the-top competitor is your local, personal customer service. So surely you want opportunities to demonstrate that?
But of course it’s not that simple. Our happiness came at a great financial cost to the developer (new floors, labor, paying for hotels and movers), not to mention the fact that it’s OBVIOUSLY INSANE to break things just so you can fix them again. (Isn’t that kind of the plot of Unbreakable?)
So how can we create opportunities to showcase great support?
As consultants, our situation at Award Consulting is slightly different from yours. Our whole business is about providing great support to our clients – that’s the entirety of the experience.
But for our clients, as service providers, if your service operates smoothly, then your subscribers may never interact with you. So how could you build those personal relationships and demonstrate the personal touch?
Here are just a few ideas.
- It all starts with onboarding. Your subscribers will interact with you to some extent when they order service – whether that’s on the phone, in an office, or the install techs – so make it count!
- Follow-up after the install. Our developers scheduled a check-in after 30 days when they would meet with us and address any issues with the house. This is why we knew the people already when there was a real problem. You could call the day after a site visit, or 30-days after service is turned up to see how everything’s going.
- In all these interactions, make it personal. Make sure the subscriber has the name of the person they talked to, and is able to contact that person directly (by email / phone) if they have a question or concern.
- Use newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, even invoices to show some personality / humor, and highlight specific employees who customers might encounter.
And who are we kidding? Occasionally you are going to have a problem with service delivery, in which case, make sure you
- communicate promptly and give regular updates on progress
- apologize and show that you’re doing all you can to help
- find ways to “make it right” with some kind of gift, upgrade or credit.
Of course this all has to fit within your brand and your company strategy, but if personal, local service is an important feature of your service offering, then you should take every opportunity to highlight that.