Maintaining a customer relationships isn’t all that different than maintaining a relationship with a significant other.
While your irrigation and plumbing customers aren’t likely expecting a dozen roses on Valentines day, let’s check out some similarities between the two.
Couples succeed when they talk openly and are on the same page with communication.
Allow for open communication for your customers as well! Being easily reached is the first step. If your customer is calling you at two different numbers and has no way to email you, chances are they won’t be your customer for long. Even if your price is better, when a customer has an issue, they need to be able to contact you.
In addition, if you normally test a customer’s backflow prevention device in May, and you don’t show up until July, don’t be surprised if they found a different tester already. Tell customers if you’re going to be late, and even ask if they’d like to reschedule. (I’ve had contractors show up to my house 3 hours late for an estimate and be angry that I was not there! Clear communication is HUGE.)
Resolving Issues Quickly
Relationships succeed when they are viewed as important, and when problems are fixed quickly.
Customer relationships aren’t over when a customer has an problem. Going above and beyond to fix the issue quickly instills trust and strengthens the relationship, especially when done with kindness. Don’t wait for a customer to complain a second time to get to work! Forgot to turn someone’s water back on their sprinklers after you left for the day? Head back and turn it on now, not when you’re in the area in a month!
We try to resolve issues quickly. Sometimes though, we can’t. In those cases, we aim for honesty. A lot of companies under estimate the intelligence of their customers. Instead of giving them the full truth, they’re quick to say, “It’s no big deal,” and move on. Don’t do this. It’s dishonest, and it’s rude.
We’re really lucky. We have smart customers that challenge us to always be honest, even when we’d rather sugar coat something. Honesty leads to a few things. First, our customers appreciate it because when we say, we messed up they realize we’re human. And secondly, it builds trust. If we were to say “Sure. We can fix that in five minutes,” and it takes us 3 days, well, our customers wouldn’t put much faith in us. If, instead, we tell them it will take 3 days to fix, they appreciate our honesty.
Putting yourself in their Shoes
Imagine you bought something from a store, and when you got home realized it was already broken. Now, when you go to return or exhange the item, you’re already on the defense. So when the cashier surprises you and says, “Oh no! That’s awful! Let’s see what we can do for you,” you’re relieved. I’ve been that customer service helper many times, and I’ve seen customers go from flustered to relieved in the span of a breath.
Putting yourself in your customers shoes isn’t that hard. It just takes a moment for you to ask yourself, How would I feel in a similar situation? Seeing a perspective other than your own is key in finding success in a personal relationship, as well as in customer relationships.
Reminding them you’re important
Remember in high school when you wanted to break up with someone and so you just stopped calling? (Hey, I was 16!) Well, customers can do that a lot more easily with a plumber without really noticing it. Call your customers, or send them notifications reminding them you’re offering a discount for a service. Remind them the great service they’ve had before, and you’re likelier to continue having a relationship with them long-term. No need for a 7-year itch with a customer!
Treat your customers like important people. After all, they are! While I’m not suggesting you take them to dinner on Valentines Day, treat them as well as you would want to be treated in the same situation.
Now, I’m off to eat some heart-shaped chocolate!