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The customer is at the center; the term for it – customer-centricity.  This means that the customer is at the center of
everything you do. Customer centricity should be part of your overall company
culture. Customer centricity is more than just setting the customer as the
priority. It is ideal; it is a way of doing business; It is part of the DNA
of your business. The first step is to create an environment within your
company where employees want to be customer-centric. I discussed steps for a
healthy company culture that leads to customer-centricity in my article in the
September issue. 

There have been many studies over the years which have shown
that a customer is willing to pay more if a company provides superior customer
service.  I would invite you to think about the mind-blowing fact that
customers will spend more for better customer service.  What I am saying
is that customer service is more important than the product you are selling. In
my opinion, I have found that pool service is a mundane offering. We clean your
pool, we repair your pool, it’s not a life-altering decision for your customer
to terminate your contract. I am not downplaying the years of experience that
are needed to do those two things.  However, there are swarms of
contractors who can provide services with great know-how and precision. 

Now, let’s take that same group of contractors who are the
best at their craft in the state. How many of them answer the phone by the
third ring? How many of them show up on time? How many of them go the extra
mile regardless of profit? How many of them deal with complaints in a timely
manner? What is the response time in general to issues?

I have found that most of my new customers are switching
companies, not because of a swimming pool problem; they are switching to my
company because they are looking for something that they are already accustomed
to – superior customer service. As pool service professionals we need to
understand that our customers are used to doing business with companies that
provide superior customer service. AT&T was ranked number one in customer
service by JD Power and Associates in 2020. Customers are accustomed to quick
response times and they expect communications to be executed perfectly. 
We need to aspire to deliver the same kind of customer service. As pool service
professionals, if you want to compete you need to place the same priority on
developing a customer service skill set as you do laying that perfect glass
tile.  How can we possibly deliver the same customer service as a Fortune
500 company you ask? It is much easier than you think.

Start by training your employees. Most of our employees are
great at what they do but they don’t know what a customer pain point is; they
don’t know what perceived value means. They don’t understand any of the
fundamentals of customer service. Train them. Have weekly meetings where you
share your expertise about how to treat customers. Explain response times.
Explain to your employees why customers sign up for pool service in the first
place. These may seem like simple thoughts but when you can include your
employees in your overall customer service strategy, they become part of the
vision. When they become part of the vision, you begin to overcome and work together
as a collective instead of every person for himself. Here are a few things that
can drastically change the way your company engages customers.  These are
things that I hear most of our new customers saying when they fire their old
company and hire us.

They don’t
answer the phone. They don’t call back!
Your response time should be no
greater than 24 hours. Customers know there will be problems with their pool.
It is never the problem that is going to get your customer upset, it is your
response time. Customers love a company that calls them back promptly. Aspire
to answer 97% of all the calls that come in during business hours. The goal is
one call resolution.

They don’t
show up!
  Be realistic about your schedule. If you are really spread
thin be honest with your customer and set a time and date that allows you to
engage with the customer to truly meet their needs. Customers are more
interested in a quality customer service experience. Slinging prices over the
phone falls short of showing up to the site, meeting the customer and getting
to know their needs, and helping them overcome the obstacles. A handshake and a
smile go a long way.

They sound
terrible when they answer the phone! 
Make sure that when you answer
the phone you are announcing the name of your company and thanking them for
calling. When a customer calls your company looking to spend money a “hello,
who is this?” is not going to create a lot of confidence with your customer,
even if you are the best installer on this side of the Mississippi.

They broke
something and didn’t tell me! 
We are all going to make mistakes. When
you make one, be the first one to communicate the issue and fix it at your own
cost. Remember that reputation is more important than money. 

They don’t
communicate! 
Technicians must be a part of the chain of
communication. They must be expected to report back customer issues and
equipment breakdowns. The use of a good customer relationship management
software is worth its weight in gold.

These are just a few items that we hear every day but are
simple things that you can do to provide excellent customer service. When I
started in the business I once asked a seasoned contractor, “What’s your
business strategy?” He responded very simply that I just need to get more
customers than I lose. I find that to be an all too common philosophy in our
industry. Take care of your employees and build them up; then they will take
care of your customers. Train, train, and train some more. Teach soft skills, as well as hard skills and you, will beat out the competition in no time. Always
remember that it is more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an
existing one happy.