Seeing things the customers way
It’s not easy to deal with customers but that’s often because we don’t see things from their perspective. This article focuses here on trade companies, although the thoughts also apply to other sectors too.
Managing your customers
Is “the customer is always right”? Actually, no. The problem is that even when they are truly wrong, they can always win. That’s by slagging you off online, refusing to pay their bills and worst of all wasting lots of your time. That’s why having a melt down with a customer is always bad business.
It’s also worth considering that work is much more enjoyable and usually more profitable when you are working alongside the customer rather than against them. It’s the reason that understanding customers – seeing things from their point of view – is so important.
Have the customer’s perspective
Empathy doesn’t come naturally to all of us, but at the heart of it is putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Just ask questions about how you feel in various circumstances. What about when someone lets you down? If you are not treated with respect how do you feel? Do you like efficient service?
It’s very simple really, the first step in good customer relationships is treating them as you want to be treated.
We have two ears and one mouth. Many sales managers have co-opted this to tell their staff that they should listen twice as much as they speak. That’s also good advice for dealing with any customer.
The first base in customer relations is to listen carefully. Funnily enough, if you listen carefully at the first meeting and repeat what they said in your own words at the second, this can be remarkably helpful in making a sale.
Grow trust and show respect
My company, Powered Now, did a survey of more than 1,000 homeowners. Unexpectedly, 83% stated that their biggest annoyance with trade companies was when they didn’t turn up when they said. There could be a good reason for this, but never be fooled by the “don’t worry about it” voice of the customer. Missing appointments with no proper explanation eats into trust and using up this trust is a dangerous business. The less trust you have, the more likely your customer will get unreasonable.
Signs of respect are never being fresh with customers (and particularly with their spouses) and thoroughly cleaning up afterwards. Offering to remove your shoes might seem small but will usually gain brownie points.
I’ve just picked on a couple of issues here but there are many others that impact trust and respect. I continue to be amazed at how some people tell untruths and seem to assume that I’m stupid and won’t notice. Most good customers are smart enough to see the real picture.
In the US a few years ago, researchers discovered it’s not the useless doctors that get sued, it’s the arrogant ones. That’s amazing and it just shows how important respect and trust are in making for good working relationships.
Fix issues before you do anything else
We all make mistakes and reasonable customers will understand. However, what they want is for mistakes to be acknowledged and fixed quickly.
Denying, delaying or fitting remedial work behind other priorities will inflame the situation. You can say to your current customer “I’m really sorry, I can’t come in today because a problem has developed with a previous job and I always stand behind my work”. This will both turn the problem customer into a lifetime believer, it will also make the current one completely trust you. That’s because you are demonstrating you are trustworthy.
Avoid the difficult
A few customers are unreasonable and won’t respond to the type of things I have been describing. These are best politely asked to go elsewhere. Unreasonable customers will waste a lot of your time, drain you emotionally and will probably mess around over the bill even when you’ve done the work. Leave them to the competition.
A happy life
Trust is the magic ingredient. It helps make you more money. It brings customers coming back with more work. It makes for a happy working life. And the best way to build trust is to see things your customers’ way.