Debbie Boxall has a look at how to get customer service right

Do one thing well. That’s what all those motivational Facebook posts tell us. Be a specialist not a generalist; a master of one. It sounds good on a poster, but it’s not enough when it comes to business. Manufacturers, plumbers, installers; none of us can afford to just focus on our trade anymore, we have to do that and stand out when it comes to customer service too.

When did customer service become so important? Well it always has been, it’s just the way we do it now that’s changed. The ‘sales funnel’ was already well established when we set up shop 40 years ago. Back then, you found your customers through the phone, the doorstep or through adverts in the newspaper and then you sold them the product or service they needed. Without sounding too romantic about ‘the good old days’ it was a simpler, more direct relationship from you to your customer then, with natural, long-lasting customer loyalty that was often unrelated to the level of service you gave them.

Nowadays customers are savvier, and rightly so. No one can get away with sub-standard service any more - customers know their power. You can be the best plumber out there by talent, or even the cheapest, but if customer relations don’t cut it then none of that matters. People nowadays don’t just talk to the people they live or work with, they can tell the whole world about a bad experience through a negative tweet or a Google review, and they can quickly find another company to use next time if they want to.

All of that’s good news for those of us who’ve always done things right. But how to make sure we’re doing everything right?

Put yourself in their position

Great service starts before you’ve even spoken to your customer. Most customers will be comparing you to your competitors before they get in touch, so you have to think like your customer and see yourself through their eyes. Think about how they would find you; would they use a search engine on their tablet or smartphone? Would they search for your business name or would they search for water softeners in Woking, for example? Do it for yourself and see what they would find.

Sweat the small stuff

Make sure your Google My Business listing is claimed and up-to-date, get a mobile responsive website if you don’t already have one. Make sure it’s clear from your website what you do, why they should use you, and how they can get in touch. Getting the simple stuff right will help the reality of using you live up to expectation. This is where the smallest things make the biggest difference too. Don’t leave it days to call them back, don’t forget to send that quote, be available in the evenings if they work during the day and so on. The best of us already get this right, and get more business as a result.

Keep in touch

This is the really big opportunity for many installers - getting the after sales process right so it leads to more repeat business and more referrals. That’s more customers coming back to you so you spend less time trying to find them. It all comes down to staying in touch with your customers long after the work has been finished.

Try saving each new customer’s details on an email database when the job’s done, and keeping a record of the date. Then you can send them reminders when services are due or email newsletters that include loyalty discounts. Be active on social media and your company blog to keep in touch with them beyond the sales process. And ask them to review you through Google, or TrustPilot, to let your happy customers do the selling for you.

Debbie Boxall is head of operations at Harvey Water Softeners