Customers want knowledgeable field service workers, on-time appointments, and first-time resolution. Your goal should be, and probably is, to provide all of those things. But in reality, you will at times fall short. And when you do, you need to fall back on one element that is the foundation of good service.
I recently interviewed Jamie Smith, CIO of ServiceMaster, for an upcoming cover story (stay tuned, it’s a good one!) and something he said during the interview stuck out to me. He said, “Customers can be pretty forgiving as long as you’re communicating with them.” Communication is the foundation of providing good service. It’s key to a good service experience, and when you’re doing it well, it also serves to act as a buffer in times your service falls short.
Scenario A: you’re waiting for a field technician to arrive for a 12:00 PM appointment. It is 12:30 PM, and you haven’t heard from them. You’re likely getting frustrated, and also wondering if they’re actually going to show. Scenario B: you receive a message at 11:50 AM letting you know that your field technician is running behind and will arrive at 12:30 PM. Perfect situation? No, but you are far less likely to have that frustration build that comes from just not knowing.
Communication is at the root of what your customers want, and getting it right will pay dividends when it comes to keeping your customers happy. There are two key aspects you need to consider when it comes to effectively communicating with your customers: when it matters and how it matters.
When Communication Matters Most
There are four specific points when your communication needs to be spot on. The first is before the service visit – the goal is for you to proactively communicate to your customers when their field technician will arrive. Many companies do this with a message that lets them know their field technician is en route, gives an ETA, and may also provide some details about the technician (name, photo, etc.). This pre-service visit communication sets your customer up to feel informed going into the appointment, and also shows that you respect their time by not leaving them wondering what’s going on. This communication also holds value to the service organization, because it gives you an opportunity to learn if something has changed on the customer’s end that they will be unavailable for the scheduled visit.
The second point in the service cycle that you need to ensure communication with your customer is after the service visit — and the sooner the better. The best time to get accurate, constructive feedback from your customers is immediately after the service experience. Soliciting feedback in a timely manner also lets your customer know you value their input. To take this step a layer further, you need to have a process in place to address negative feedback immediately.
The third point where communication needs to be spot on is anytime something changes versus the customers’ expectation. If your technician is going to be late, communication needs to occur immediately. Anytime a change occurs with the service timeline or process that will impact what the customer is expecting, proactive communication should take place to avoid frustration.
The fourth point that communication needs to be spot on is anytime a customer needs to communicate with you. It is imperative that it is easy for them to contact you. If they need to reschedule, have a question, or need to talk with someone, it shouldn’t be a laborious process for them to get in touch with you.
How You Communicate Matters
The second thing you need to focus on is how you’re communicating with your customers, and the reality is that the preferred method of communication will not be the same for your entire customer base. You need to make communication available – and easy – in the form that the customer prefers. If they call a phone number, they should be able to speak with someone easily. If they email customer service, that message should get routed appropriately in near real-time. If they contact you through social media, resolution should occur right away. For communication to be effective in the customers’ eyes, it needs to be possible in the format they prefer – and addressed quickly.
Communication is critical in all aspects of business (and life, really). But when it comes to service, it is the foundation to your ability to providing a good customer experience – so getting it right is truly imperative.