Observations about the art of service

Matt Michel provides observations about the art of service — a list of common sense proverbs for in-home service providers

It is sometimes easy to forget how important service is to the customer especially since businesses are so consumed with the bottom line and what they must do to stay afloat during the economic downturn, which is effecting most industries these days.

This is why I came up with observations about the art of service — a list of common sense service proverbs we all need to focus on, think about and be reminded of. Some of these observations may seem basic, but when faced with an unstable economy and a variety of business issues that can pop up on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to unintentionally forget or overlook these important service principles.

  • As an in-home service provider, you are an invited guest in your customers' homes. Act like one.

  • Labor is your most perishable commodity. You cannot inventory it. Thus, labor should carry greater margins than material, which can be sold tomorrow.

  • Service is a show. Put on a good one.

  • In-home service is local. Act local. Look local.

  • Low price, in-home service companies usually cannot afford to provide much service.

  • People judge service quality based on the things they can see. Clean everything you touch.

  • Shoddy looking trucks imply shoddy work. Clean, professional trucks imply clean, professional work. Keep your trucks clean and well maintained.

  • People do not understand the cost of service. They do not comprehend what it costs to put a truck at their door. Thus, any hourly rate, no matter how low, seems like a lot to a consumer.

  • A complete repair involves fixing a broken problem and fixing a broken customer.

  • Customers are not always right, but it's folly to try and persuade them otherwise.

  • Beneath their fury, angry customers are hurting customers. Listen with understanding while their anger runs its course.

  • You cannot win a fight with a customer because, even if you prevail, the customer will spread poison about you to everyone he or she meets.

  • The impression formed when the phone is answered colors everything that occurs afterwards.

  • People want to talk to people, not machines.

  • People's perceptions are their reality.

  • Good service is impossible without good dispatching.

  • In a small service company, everyone should either serve the customer or serve someone who does.

  • People judge plumbers based on their human relations skills, not their technical skills.

  • Poor quality business cards, brochures and flyers imply poor quality work.

  • Unapplied (i.e., unbilled) labor is usually the single greatest cost for a service company. Increasing applied time directly increases the bottom line.

  • People prefer to know what a repair will cost before work begins. Charging by the hour creates anxiety.

  • Companies that do not charge enough to cover costs, fund future growth and generate a return on the owner's investment are subsidizing the customer.

  • A bankrupt company serves no one.

  • Unless you remind them, people forget the name of your company the moment the truck pulls away from the house.

  • No one wants to hear that something can't be done. Rather than tell people what you can't do, tell them what you can do.

  • Customer churn is the single greatest marketing cost.

  • Only employees make money on windshield time.

  • The cost of training is less than the cost of not training.

  • Service employees cannot treat the customer better than the boss treats them.

  • Companies that serve at the customer's convenience can charge more than companies that inconvenience the customer.

  • The world's greatest mechanic, who lacks people skills, is unqualified for residential service.

  • Sales is the art of helping someone buy what he needs or wants. Sales is something you do for people, not something you do to people.

  • Everyone is not your customer. Pick customers you can serve well, and meet their needs precisely. Fire the rest.

  • People with less money cannot afford cheap solutions. They cannot afford to pay twice.

  • It is arrogant to withhold replacement or upgrade options from customers by only presenting repair options.

  • People like choices. Offering a single choice is an invitation for customers to call a competitor.

  • Trust is built one experience at a time. Yet, trust is fragile. A mountain of trust can be undermined by a single broken promise.

  • People buy for their own reasons, not yours.

  • People are interested in their needs and wants, not yours.

  • Any work that results in positive gross margin is better than sitting around the shop. When service personnel are idle, marginal business makes sense.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), a business alliance of plumbing and HVAC contractors. Membership is only $50 per month. Contractors in the Service Roundtable receive new sales, marketing and business tools weekly, and can access the peer support roundtables 24/7. Contact Matt directly at [email protected] or toll free at 877.262.3341. Subscribe to Matt's free marketing newsletter at www.ComancheMarketing.com.