startups and code

Customer Service 101

Back to home

There is a saying:

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

I never realized how important that is in customer service until I met someone who made a bad impression.

We needed some work done in our apartment and it was to replace some drywall and paint it. Now my friends who are contractors will immediately go, oh, that should be a 1/2 day max, but maybe 2 days to let things dry before painting. Well, here is what happened.

We were told they would be here at 9am to get started. At 9:30 we received a text that they won't be here until later, another job, traffic. They show up and pull out the drywall and replace it. All in a couple of hours. Oh we need to plaster it, I don't have plaster, I'll have to come back tomorrow and do that.

Day 2: The worker shows up at 9am. The plaster is still not here and arrives around 11. He plasters it and says the other guy will come back tomorrow to paint it and put the shelf back.

Day 3: I receive a text at 9am. I'll be there between 11-1, we have another job we need to do first and then we'll be over. He shows up around 12 and looks at the baseboard and realizes he needs to go get new baseboards. He starts painting and then goes to get baseboards. He finishes painting 4 hours later (I want to clarify the space it is a 3'x2' closet). He begins putting the shelving back, incorrectly from how it was originally put in. But whatever... at 5:30pm on day 3 he leaves and the job is done.

Let's identify what went wrong in the customer service department here.

  1. He said he would arrive at 9am and did not.
  2. He said he would arrive at 9am on day 2 and did not.
  3. He did not bring the proper supplies to do the job on all 3 days.
  4. He did not identify how the shelving was removed and how it should be put back correctly.
  5. He stated twice that he was on another job, creating the feeling that our job is not a priority.
  6. The first day he did not set an expectation of how long it would take (3 days) and we were originally told it was a day job.

Now let's talk about customer service best practices.

Always be on time.

This seems like common sense to me, but if you say you are going to be somewhere, be there. I don't care if you can't find parking, if you are stuck in traffic, or you have another job that you poorly managed your time. Be ON TIME. It tells me you value my time and you take pride in your work.

Come prepared.

If you need a towel, 3 inch nails, and a USB dongle, then bring it. If you expect me to provide you with random tools, you are wrong. I'm not a tool guy. If you don't know what to bring, ask questions to gather the information you need before you show up so you can come prepared. I have done presentations in all sorts of places and I have a laptop, hdmi cable, vga adapter, usb adaptor (for almost everything), power cable, extension cord, usb drive (in case they have their own machine), and I use about 1/3 of those. But I am prepared.

Set expectations.

If you tell me something is going to take a day, then I'll expect it to be done in a day. If it is going to take a week, then I'll expect you to be done in a week. I am a STRONG believer in UPOD concept (under promise and over deliver). Set the expectation of 3 days, and finish in 2. Say it will take a week and deliver in 3 days. It creates a buffer for you to handle the unexpected, and that will happen.

The customer is NOT always right.

They often don't know what they need or what they are asking for. They simply want a solution to the problem they are encountering. It is up to you to identify the best solution for them. We've all heard that Henry Ford quote:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Realize that they may not know all the solutions you have, but they have an expectation. Try to exceed it and surprise them with your brilliant solution. That will get you a loyal customer and a great reference.

I know it seems simple and it really is. I think it is simple enough. For the longest time, I really believe that being on time is the most important thing. I assumed that you are skilled to do your job. Incorrect assumption. The most important thing is that you can do the job. I don't care how nice, punctual, and sincere you are, if you are incompetent, then we have a bigger problem.

The last piece of advice here is be happy and be nice. You have no reason to be rude and if you are having a bad day, the customer doesn't need to know. I will vent to the appropriate audience, and that audience is never the client.

I hope this helps someone realize they need to pause and focus on their time-management and improving their work ethic.

Thanks for reading!