We all know the feeling. A customer complains to one of your employees, and suddenly everything falls on you to fix. All priorities grind to a halt, as you scramble to resolve the issue and keep your client happy. It can be frustrating and discouraging—but you’re definitely not alone. Customer service concerns everyone.
At U.S. Lawns, we guarantee our customers a high level of service. But let’s face it: no business can keep everyone happy 100% of the time. Customer complaints happen in every industry, no matter how solid your reputation. The key is learning how to respond.
According to Forbes, the number one complaint people make about contractors is “misrepresentation[s], shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform.” Yikes. Obviously, we guard carefully against all of these … but guess what? Quality is still one of the most common issues raised by U.S. Lawns customers. Mistakes do happen, and it’s not always something you can control. Perhaps your crew leader forgot something; or there was simply a miscommunication about the job. Whatever the reason, your best response is to acknowledge the error and take steps to ensure the customer feels confident in you.
To start off, make sure your systems and processes are consistent. Train your people carefully, with a focus on attention to detail. Always be diligent about sending reports, like LMRs, monthly QC inspections, and customer surveys. And offer consistent billing options, like online payment through the Customer Portal. The more precision your organization has, the less likely you are to get a complaint when something goes awry.
If something does happen, remember we’re a Service Revolution company. In other words, be responsive. Apologize immediately and go out of your way to make it right. (Train your employees to have this mentality, too.) The customer may not always be right, but they are the most important part of your business. How you respond will let them know they’re valued.
Not surprising, it all goes back to building relationships—and there’s plenty of evidence to bear this out. Consumer Reports created a list of top customer complaints across industries; and eight of the top ten involve difficulty reaching a person for help. That raises an interesting point: clients care less about actual issues than the availability of someone who can solve their issues.
At U.S. Lawns, we think the answer is responsive service. For example: does your phone line go to a person, or just an automated voice mail? Do you check messages and return phone calls promptly? Is your contact information listed on your website where it can be found easily by your customers and their staff?
Responsiveness should also extend to your team. Train them to address issues quickly, and empower them with the knowledge to answer questions. Make sure you’re not the only one who can help your customers. But make sure you’re accessible, too. (Another common customer complaint is the inability to reach an owner, manager or supervisor when things go wrong.)
No matter how big your franchise, it’s important to cultivate personal relationships with your customers. The same goes for your vendors, as you’ll need their support to troubleshoot and fix many issues that arise on the job.
In other words, Radical Personalization will solve most customer complaints. And it will prevent many others before they even happen.
So, reach out to your customers, and make a point of asking for feedback. Customer Satisfaction Surveys are a quick, efficient and consistent way to learn your customer’s thoughts. But whatever feedback method you choose, create an environment of mutual respect, where everyone can have a say.
Erik and Hannah Subh of Kissimmee, Florida, have excelled at customer service for years. When asked about their strategy, they agreed it involved building relationships and being consistently ready for anything.
“I would say there is no standard customer complaint, so you must be prepared for whatever,” Hannah said. “The key is having a good relationship with both your client and vendors/service partners, so you can respond quickly… As long as you respond quickly and communicate your efforts to correct the error with the client, they are happy.”