Customers write your paychecks. They pay for your overhead and equipment. Without customers, there would be no business. This seems obvious, yet many companies forget this simple fact. If the owner doesn't forget, the employees still might. Whether or not you remember the importance of customers shows in how you answer the phone, how you handle complaints and how much repeat business you have.

Let us talk about customer complaints. A colleague tells me that he knows that customers are satisfied if he is able to sell them something over the telephone after he has handled their complaints. When dealing with customers, always remember how much it costs to gain a new customer. It's not cheap. In major metropolitan markets, it can be more than $300. It also takes time to replace the customer you lost. If you lose one, it is unlikely that you will replace him or her with another one that same day.

So if a customer whom you have done business with for many years has a problem and this is his or her first complaint ever, resolve the situation quickly - even if you have to give money back. Always ask the question, "How do you think we should resolve this situation?" You will sometimes be surprised at the answer - people do not always want as much as you are potentially willing to give back.

However, if some customers constantly complain and ask for their money back, and in your opinion are unreasonable when you ask how to resolve the situation, you may never satisfy them. If this truly is the case, them invite them to use one of your competitors.

Repeat business

Finally, look at where you are getting your sales. Are they coming from repeat customers or do you have to find new ones all the time? If you are not getting repeat business, take it as a warning sign that something is wrong, especially in a service business. Actively pursue referrals. This will also tell you whether your customers like your service.

If you ask most businesspeople whether they care about their customers, almost everyone immediately answers yes. In addition, they tell their employees that they have to care about taking care of the customer. However, the owners and managers act is such a way that it demonstrates to employees that they really do not care. Actions speak louder than words.

Here is what I'm talking about: The next time you or your service receive a complaint, see how long it takes to call that customer back. Do you call the customer back immediately? I know of service managers and owners who avoid problems and refuse to return calls. If you do not care enough to call a customer back, why should your employees care enough to be courteous, neat, etc. when they are in a customer's home?

Is your shop neat? How about your truck? If you expect your service technicians to be well groomed on the job and take care of customers, why would you have a messy shop or truck? Again, your words must agree with the actions that you take. You have to lead by example.

If you expect your employees to take care of the people who write your paychecks, you have to lead by example.

Copyright 2002, Ruth King. All rights reserved.

Ruth King's American Contractor Exchange

1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405

Norcross, GA 30093


770-729-8028 (fax)