Four things that drive your customers crazy

HAVE YOU WONDERED why the most irritated people in the world always call you? Surely it has less to do with you than the kind of contracting business you're in. The fact is, plumbing contractors get irritable phone calls because the customer on the other end is usually: a) very wet or b) very dry. An untimely plumbing breakdown has punched the caller's panic button. From this point, the service you

HAVE YOU WONDERED why the most irritated people in the world always call you? Surely it has less to do with you than the kind of contracting business you're in.

The fact is, plumbing contractors get irritable phone calls because the customer on the other end is usually: a) very wet or b) very dry. An untimely plumbing breakdown has punched the caller's panic button.

From this point, the service you provide can either soothe or increase feelings of panic and irritation. Thus, a better understanding of common customer complaints will help. But some bad news first.

Studies show that a customer whose expectation was "met" gives zero wordof-mouth. Those who "exceed" give on average four mentions in 30 days. (It falls off dramatically after that, which is why you should stay in touch.) Yet for those whose expectations are dashed, an alarming 22 "negative" mentions about you filter into the marketplace. Just imagine the damage this could be causing you.

So, be aware. Here are the top reasons customers do not like or recommend contractors to others:

Not scheduling the appointment fast enough.
The customer's looking at funky brown drinking water, and you say you'll come take a look a week from Tuesday. If you can't provide quick relief, your customer will provide a quick hang up. If you've got scheduling issues, explain why and offer assurance that you'll get there as soon as you can. Give a specific time and keep it.

Powerful Technique: Through our marketing programs, contractors have gotten great results with "emergency solutions" such as leaving behind a dispenser of safe drinking water. This settles and " locks in" the customer quickly. Your logo label on the drinking water is especially wise. You can assess the problem later or wait on parts if necessary. Impressive technique, but you may not get to solve anyone's problem if you are ...

Not showing up on time or at all.
Chances are, you've got a customer who just left work in the middle of a busy day to sit in his drippy home and wait for you to get there. If you're late, he's not going to be happy. If you don't show up at all, he's going to be really, really steamed. Your customer's time is valuable. When you make an appointment, keep it.

Powerful Technique: Confirmation call. The current "standard" of service in this industry is so low (minor cause for celebration to those interested in raising it) that a call to confirm "on time" or "running late" makes you look like some sort of service hero by comparison. It takes about 1-2 minutes to confirm the appointment and/or reschedule if running behind, which brings to mind another no-no ...

Not finishing on time.
Your customer hasn't got all day to wait on you to finish, so don't dawdle or get overly chatty. Yes, do establish rapport, but don't probe the outer limits of personal information. Get your work done, go over the invoice with your customer, and offer options and upsell items to maximize your and the customer's time. Customers want the problem solved and at that moment are most likely to be receptive to avoiding the problem in the future. That can be done with ...

Powerful Technique: The big savings of a Maintenance Agreement program is the No. 1 upsell (takes two to six sentences to close) and can guarantee another locked-in customer who will bring you guaranteed sales in the "slow" season. A newsletter and two to four postcards a year (we have samples) educate customers on the wisdom of Maintenance Agreements. But before you leave this customer, make sure you avoid the careless habit of ...

Not cleaning up.
Ideally, when you leave, your customer won't even be able to tell that you were there — except for the comfortable environment. Cleaning the equipment and the surrounding work area is an essential part of good service. Plus, telling your customer the importance of keeping the equipment clean is an open door to discussing Maintenance Agreements.

Powerful Technique: Several here: 1) shoe covers; 2) drop cloth; 3) the old part goes in a plastic bag to show the customer; 4) wiping up all spills; 5) valves and tank get company tags and stickers.

For more solutions to these and other plumbing challenges, fax your letterhead to 334/262-1115 to request a free, 16-page booklet called "How to Multiply Your Plumbing Leads, Sales and Profits." Or, you can e-mail a request to [email protected] (include your mailing address) or call 800/489-9099.

Remember, your customers call because they've got a problem. Your job is to solve those problems, not add to them. As you exceed the expectations through sharp marketing and great service, you will add customers, referrals and sales. Have fun.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a marketing firm for contractors. Visit www.hudsonink.com for free marketing articles and reports. Readers can also get a free marketing newsletter on the site.

TAGS: Marketing