When your phone rings, it is me who is calling. I start the process that drives the needle. I am the customer. I’m calling because I have a problem. It is a problem that I either do not want to fix myself or cannot fix myself. Usually, it’s the latter.
I am anxious when I call. If I’m calling you for the first time, I’m especially anxious. I want to trust you, but I do not know if I can. Until you prove yourself to me, I will be cynical. I fear you will take advantage of me.
I worry if you will be able to respond as fast as I want. I worry that you will make me sit around the house all day waiting. I have things to do.
Most of all, I worry about my problem. How serious is it? What is involved in fixing it? How long will the repair take? What kind of mess will I face? And, of course, how much will it cost?
All of these things pass through my mind consciously or subconsciously before I pick up the phone. When you answer, you are talking to a bundle of anxiety.
When I call, I want to hear a friendly voice, a pleasant disposition and be reassured. I don’t want to hear a machine. I do not want to hear a distracted voice on a mobile phone, interrupted while solving someone else’s problem.
I don’t want you to promise something you cannot deliver, but I also don’t want you to sound vague and evasive. If you do, red flags will be raised and I may call your competitor.
If I have to wait for the plumber to be dispatched, I want you to keep me informed. Ask me if I prefer to be updated by phone or text. If texting is less invasive to me, I will be happy to give you my mobile phone number.
When your plumber arrives, I want his truck to look professional. I want your plumber to look professional. I want him to be clean and presentable. That means I want him to be well groomed, shaved, shirt tucked in, etc.
He should smile, look me in the eye when I’m explaining things, and act like what I’m saying is important… even if he’s heard the same thing from a hundred other customers. My problem may be old hat to him. It’s not to me.
If he finds other problems besides the one I called about, he should share what he found and give me options. I like options.
I rarely think about my home’s plumbing. It’s just there. I expect it to be there and to work. I don’t think about improving it because I’m not aware it can be improved. If there are improvements or enhancements I could benefit from, I appreciate learning about them, even if I am not ready to take action right away.
It’s okay to talk with me about tankless water heaters, solar thermal, instant water heaters, water purification systems, rainwater collection systems, mixing and anti-scald valves, water alarms, flood protection valves, better flushing toilets, dual flush toilets, toilet bidets, elevated toilets, handicap toilets, grab bars, walk-in baths, kitchen pot fillers, designer faucets, touchless faucets, pull down faucets, washing machine hoses and more. But do not be surprised if I pass. You are planting seeds for me to think about. How am I supposed to even know these products exist if you do not tell me?
Above all, I want the respect I deserve. I am the reason your company exists. I buy what you sell. I pay your bills. I am not an irritant. I am not unreasonable. I am not stupid, even if I am uninformed (and it’s your job to inform me).
I want to buy from you. It’s why I called. I want to give you money to solve my problems. If you treat me well, I will can you again. I will tell my friends about you. If you let me know about the other things you offer that could improve my life, I will buy them… some of the time.
I want to call you “my plumber.” Treat me right and I will. Treat me wrong or indifferent, and I’ll call your competitor.
Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. For information on the Service Roundtable and Service Nation Alliance, call 877.262.3341. The top conference for residential service plumbing contractors this spring is the Service Roundtable’s International Roundtable in Phoenix April 14-16. It is open to all. Click here for more information or call 877.262.3341.