Customer Service as a Competitive Edge
Where do you think the home improvement and remodeling industry ranks in customer satisfaction? Your anecdotal evidence might unintentionally lead you to give a very favorable rating. “It can’t be that bad,” you say. However, customer satisfaction in this industry is astonishingly low, on par with car sales. Car sales! Generally speaking, customers are as satisfied with the home improvement industry as they are with an industry notorious for shady practices.
A study conducted by Planese indicated only 36 percent of customers had their expectations met with home improvement and remodeling. Further, only roughly 50 percent of customers would be willing to rehire or refer their remodeler to a friend. For homeowners searching for a contractor, 83% state that good reviews and recommendations are the top priority for choosing a contractor. Much of the home improvement industry is built on word-of-mouth, and customer service plays a direct role in that reputation. Good service spreads fast, but bad service spreads faster. As the bestselling book says, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000. Customer service is critical to redeeming our industry. Here are some steps to rise above the average home improvement contractor and take your customer service to the next level.
Manage Expectations and Keep Them
An important part of customer service is managing expectations and keeping your commitments. Let the customer know what you can do and by when. If you say you’ll finish the job by a certain date, then keep that date. If something changes with the schedule, then let the customer know as soon as possible. Sometimes the little things will go a long way, like cleaning up the job site at the end of the day. Customers will appreciate that you’ve taken care of some little details and appreciate you more for it.
An empowered customer is a happy customer. When you have a customer who has a problem, sometimes it’s best to ask them how they want the problem solved. Ask them something like, “What would you like me to do,” or, “What can I do to help resolve this?” Most of the time they will outline a reasonable solution, and many times it will be less than what you would have been willing to offer. The key in working with customers, especially unsatisfied ones, is working toward a win-win solution.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is an excellent way to build or repair your reputation. Each platform has a different purpose, and some may work better than others for you specific business. Contractors.net has recommendations for using certain platforms over others. Facebook has the widest reach and most users of any social media. Use it to both reach new customers and engage current or past customers. Google+ can help improve your local search results. Houzz is built for homeowners to find contractors, so it’s essentially built for you. It can help you build your brand and provide leads for new business. Twitter, while not as essential as other social media, is a great place to enhance your word-of-mouth reputation, and you’ll find that some customers will ask you questions through the platform. YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are visual sites, so they’re good for showcasing work so people know what type of work you provide.
On these social media platforms, monitor reviews about your company, respond immediately to questions or requests, and solicit reviews from your satisfied customers, so others will know about your good work. And remember, sometimes the best reviews can come from customers who originally complained. Social media makes it easy to engage current and future customers so you can build and enhance your reputation.
You can be the most skilled contractor in your area, but if you aren’t maintaining good customer service, you’ll lose both your reputation and your customers. Using proactive customer service in these ways will help you gain a competitive advantage in your business—and help you rise above the average contractor that’s perceived equivalent to a car salesperson.