Simple steps to improve your customer service

A successful plumbing company is built not on expertise, but on customer service. Certainly, a plumbing business is not going to go far without trained technicians working the job, but that should be a given. What customers will discern, however, is which company offered them the best overall customer experience.

It is in the area of customer experience that online reviews can make or break a plumbing contractor. If your online reviews aren't where you want them to be, here are some simple steps you can take to improve your customer service.

‘Bathside’ manner

According to a survey by the American Board of Medical Specialties, most Americans consider bedside manner one of the most important qualities a doctor can possess. It ranks above training, education, board affiliations, prior successes, and all of the other qualities you might expect to rank higher. Patients want a doctor who is nice to them. If bedside manner ranks above skill in an area as important as health, how could it rank any lower when it comes to plumbing?

Unfortunately, many plumbing contractors believe that as long as they do the job well and on time, they don't need to treat the customers well. These contractors seldom experience much success in the industry. Work on your “bathside” manner.

Develop your ear

Have you ever ignored a customer while going about your work? Few contractors could say they haven't. Listening can help you identify a plumbing problem more quickly, but it can do much more than that. It can make the customer feel that they're being heard and validated. That alone can improve your online reviews.

A review, after all, is a way of making yourself heard. If you've already satisfied that need, your customers may find it unnecessary to rant to the world.

Improve company morale

In 2006, Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue created the state's Office of Customer Service. The office's first move was to improve employee morale. The customer service and morale are inextricably linked, and the results of the program spoke for themselves.

Your most powerful tool is high employee morale. Address complaints, keep your employees in the loop, pay a fair wage, and make them feel like part of the team. As long as you've made good hiring choices to begin with, human nature will take care of the rest.

Learn from your reviews

Some people get to a certain point in their lives and stop learning. If you can treat each critical review as a chance to change, you will turn your plumbing business into a customer-pleasing furnace of energy.

Are some complaints going to be unreasonable? Of course. Even unreasonable complaints, however, offer an opportunity to learn.

Nurture your existing customers

Management Expert W. Edwards Deming once said, "Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers who boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them."

Repeat customers bring in revenue, and they may be more likely to write an online review in your favor. Nurture that relationship. Give your repeat customers discounts and special services that will make them feel appreciated.

Make good first impressions

Customers can come to your business in a number of ways. They may see your van heading to an appointment. They may call you. They may visit your website. Make sure your first impressions are on point.

Learn to answer the phone professionally and promptly. Design an attractive, useful website or have someone do it for you. Decorate your work van with attractive colors, thoughtful branding and clear information. If you can get the first impression right, the rest of your customer service problems will be much easier to solve. l

Patricia Bonacorda is the president of Spartan Plumbing, a plumbing and HVAC company that has assisted commercial restaurants and residential homes since 1964. Spartan Plumbing is a licensed, bonded and insured business that has provided professional plumbing, heating and air conditioning services throughout the Washington, D.C. region.Visit Spartan Plumbing at www.spartanman.com.

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