LAS VEGAS — Buying plumbing and heating equipment from you may not be as memorable as their wedding day, but customers must be left remembering the happy details.
“People want to feel good about the experience,” trainer Frank Besednjak told members of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association at the group’s CONNECT 2013 event here. “The higher the perceived value, the more they will pay.”
Besednjak is a speaker and business coach who learned electronics in the Navy. After his military service, he was in service management at Sony, RCA and GE, and he did it well enough that presented workshops on team development, business improvement methods, training development, employee motivation, adult learning principles and numerous others. Along the way, he was also selected and attended the prestigious John F. Welch Management Training Program in the GE Crotonville Management Development Institute for Executive Development, and he received a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a double major in Marketing from McKendree College.
All of that formal education aside, Besednjak has good instincts about what motivates people and that’s not the thing itself, it’s the experience. His first example was Disney — other places have amusement rides, but Disney does it so well that people want to come back and bring their friends.
Another example is Ruth’s Chris Steak House. People don’t spend $100 a head to meet the biological imperative of putting food in their bellies. You can do that at home for $3. They go for the experience. In a personal example, Besednjak had a $3,500 budget for a hot tub, but after the salesman had him sit in the $10,000 hot tub, he bought the more expensive one. He couldn’t get it out of his head. All the other products paled in comparison.
Besednjak emphasized that good experiences go both ways. If your employees have great experiences working for you, they provide great experiences for your customers.
Customer satisfaction is multi-level in the shape of a pyramid and the base of the pyramid is trust, he said. Your people skills are more important than technical skills; at the same time, don’t take on work you can’t do well, because that will destroy trust. Decide to become excellent and don’t tolerate mediocrity. Always do the right thing; your integrity is the only thing that matters.
The second tier of the pyramid is made up of timeliness, knowledge and responsibility. You value the customer’s time. You know your stuff and make recommendations based on facts and knowledge. You can educate the customer about his choices because a customer with the right information will buy more.
Your employees must have faith in what you sell, so they have to be well trained in everything that you sell.
Be available. Have a live person answer the phone at night, so a good answering service is a must. If a customer is important enough, give him your personal cell phone number. Be eager and willing to help when it’s convenient to the customer, not just to you. Call customers back immediately.
The third tier of the pyramid is composed of care, concern and helpfulness. These can be small things such as bringing coloring books for the children or being nice to the customer’s dog.
This applies to employees. Happy employees make happy customers. Reward those who do well. Keep the workplace appealing and clean and the vehicles in good working order.
Be polite to your employees and they will be polite to customers. Besednjak cited a saying from Ritz Carlton that demonstrates the importance of their employees: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” If a guest can’t treat the hotel’s employees like ladies and gentlemen, he’s respectfully asked to stay at another hotel.
Keep in touch with high volume commercial customers. They need face time on a regular basis. Sometimes you have to teach customers how to be good customers, i.e., why they need a service agreement. Create incentives like a frequent buyer program. Give a lifetime warranty on the thermostat (not much of a risk).
Give your employees the authority to fix problems. Apologize and fix the problem right away. Sometime in the future, you might have to fire the customer if he’s one of those impossible customers. On that note, Besednjak said that price shoppers lodgethe most complaints, so raise your prices.
At the top of the customer service pyramid reside fun and friendly. Look good, smell good. Provide free information and email newsletters. Hold an open house. Give away coupons. Sponsor the little league. Hold a cookout. Always be memorable.