In the first in a new series of advice-led columns for HVP, Anne Timpany, founder of the On Tap Toolbox Academy, explains why businesses need to prioritise customer service.

Good customer service ensures your customers will continue to place their business with you, recommend you to their networks, and give your business a good review. With cowboys and rogue traders giving everyone a bad name, it’s even more important to prioritise customer service in your business.  

The old saying that ‘the customer is always right’ is not always the case. There are different types of customers; some have expectations that are unachievable, some will shout and act like it’s the end of the world, and some won’t say anything, instead preferring to air their views to an assumed sympathetic audience online. However, difficult customers can have a huge financial impact on your business.

According to Groove, a disgruntled customer, on average, tells 16 of their acquaintances. Now, social media gives many unhappy customers the opportunity to turn to online social networks and forums to name and shame businesses. This then leads to a much wider audience of people being exposed to customer complaints about your business, with the review staying permanently online and available for all to see. In many cases, customers don’t even give you a chance to sort the issue out before they post their grievances on the Internet. This can be extremely frustrating and unfair, but it is a part of running a business in today’s world.

Unhappy customers are very dangerous, and your business should adopt a customer service attitude that ‘prevention is better than cure’. The general public already has a mistrust of tradespeople thanks to the media and, if you don’t deliver on their expectations, then they can turn on you very quickly. 

Bad reviews can end up giving your business a bad reputation and result in loss of customers, loss of income, and may even spell the end for the business.  

For these reasons, it is important to make sure that when you have finished the job, you ensure your customers are satisfied. It is better to ensure you have delivered good customer service than wait for your customers to come back to you with a complaint. Here are my top tips on how to avoid getting an unhappy customer.

Set realistic expectations

Before you start the job, ensure that you have clearly explained to the customer the full details of what’s involved and what potential issues could arise. Much like when a doctor gives a diagnosis, they will explain the treatment and then describe any potential issues that could arise from that treatment. This way you have given the customer the full picture, they know what to expect and, ultimately, by allowing you to continue, they have agreed to all of the conditions.

Be honest

People are very good at figuring out when someone is lying. Being open, honest, and transparent with your customers means you will gain their respect and their continued custom into the future.

Protect your business

Some customers are never happy no matter what you do, so ensure you have put the correct measures in place to protect your business should anything go wrong.

Before carrying out the job, ensure the customer has a detailed estimate or quote which clearly explains what you will be doing and how much it will cost. Also, ask the customer to sign your terms and conditions, which you should have drawn up by a professional.

Be proactive

Carry out a formal handover with the customer, either in person or on the phone if they are not at the property when you are finished. Include a verbal and documented detailed description of the works carried out, including the materials used and all of the particulars. By doing this, you will alleviate any concerns the customer has before any issues come up.

Be responsive

If the customer raises an issue, resolve it immediately and put their mind to rest. 

By waiting to resolve a problem, it can turn a small issue into a much greater one and, the longer you leave it, the more damage can be done to your relationship with the customer.

Ensuring your customers are satisfied is a far more effective way to carry out good customer service and reduce the significant impact an unhappy customer can have on your business