High-Performing Contractor Newsletter March 2012
March 2012 – Issue #102
This e-newsletter is dedicated to supporting High-Performing Contractors and all contractors who are working to become one. Written by Dennis Sowards
This is the 102nd issue of this newsletter and the third of six issues that shares the best of past articles. This one is about Customer Focus for High-performance contractors.
Nov 2004 Issue
Recently the Chicago Daily Herald(Sept. 16, 2004) published a list of the top homebuilders in terms of customer satisfaction. J.D. Powers & Associates conducted the survey, and the article listed the top twenty-five homebuilders. It quoted the top homebuilders and then also one of the lowest rated ones. What do their sub contractors contribute to the external customer’s satisfaction? What should they contribute? While I don’t know the impact a newspaper article about homebuilders and satisfaction may have on a potential homebuyer, I know that it does have some impact. In this industry we are most successful when we build and maintain high customer satisfaction for the general contractors and for the owners. High-performing contractors are doing this by first knowing who their customers are; what the customer’s requirements and expectations are; and how those customers rate the contractor in meeting the requirements. High-performing contractors make the scores not get surprised by them in the newspaper.
Feb 2005 Issue - Four Myths about Customers
There are four myths about customer feedback that high-performing contractors have learned to overcome.
Myth #1 - Silence is Golden: Many employees and managers feel that no news is good news. The reality is that if the customer isn’t talking to you that may be the worst news. When the customer is complaining to us, it means he or she is still willing to work with us. Once the customer stops talking, it usually means he or she has given up and is looking elsewhere to a new supplier. Silence isn’t golden – it’s deadly.
Myth #2 – “Fine” means all is well: When a customer is asked how things are going and answers ”fine” that means he or she is OK with our work or service but also that the customer is a good candidate to jump ship the next time he or she needs our services. Words like “fine, OK and alright” usually indicate a less than loyal customer. A loyal customer would answer in a more positive way, such as “great, excellent, or the best we’ve ever had.” Don’t let the “fine” word loll you into compliancy.
Myths #3 - Complaints are the enemy: Complaints are really good for us but we usually treat them like a contagious disease to be avoided. Complaints mean the customer is still talking to us (see Myth #1 above). Complaints also give us a better idea of what the customer expected from us. Using just the specifications, we are not always clear on the customer’s needs and expectations. When we listen to complaints to learn we can discover the real expectations. Complaints can also give us ideas for new services and alerts us to changing customer needs. By acting on these needs we can stay ahead of our competition. Research shows that when a customer complains and the supplier reacts quickly and fairly, customer loyalty actually increases.
Myth #4 - Responses are not necessary: When a customer complaints or when we ask for customer feedback, often we feel that just hearing it is sufficient. We think that we don’t need to tell the customer our plan to deal with the problem. Instead, we just deal with it ourselves. We are fooled into think that if we solve the issue that it is good enough that the customer won’t have to experience it in the future. Not so, we need to respond. Customers need to know what’s happening. If they complained, we need to respond quickly. (See Myth #3.) If we asked them to give us feedback on how we are doing, by survey or in an interview, a response is needed. We don’t have to respond immediately but need to provide a thought out response so that the customer is clear that we heard his/her complaint or issue and will address it in a defined manner. It is the absence of communication that will cause customers to fill the vacuum with the worst possible ideas about us. So respond quickly and tell them what you are doing or will do to address their issues or concerns.
March 2005 Issue
Did you know that customers who complain are more likely to stay with your company than are non-complainers? Research from Motorola shows that of those customers that are dissatisfied with a product or service only about 4% will complain. The rest will start looking elsewhere. Motorola also found that about 60% of dissatisfied customers will remain a customer if their problem is resolved and 95% will stay loyal if their problem is resolved quickly.
June 2006 Issue
Loyal Customers take effort to develop – What is your customer experiencing?
Jeffrey Gitomer, noted customer loyalty advocate, suggests that to improve your customer service “be your own customer.” Try this - pretend you are one of your major customers, pick up the phone and call your office, a project manager or service department from outside and do any of the following:
· Call 30 minutes before the work officially starts.
· Call after work hours
· Call during lunch.
· Try to order service on a weekend.
· Ask to talk to the president during working hours. See if you can get through. (How easy is it for a customer to reach you?)
· Use the automated numbers and see if you can actually get to a person.
· Call and ask how to request a bid.
· Test how well the voice mail works. Can you press “#” and reach a live voice?
· Call with a complaint and see how it is handled.
· Call about a billing error.
· Call to report a bad driver of a company vehicle.
· Call asking about work you don’t do. Than ask who they recommend.
· Try to get a live person to take a message for you.
· Call during the day and see how friendly your receptionist is.
· Call to ask about a delivery problem.
For many owners you might need to have someone else call since your voice may be too easily recognized. Whoever does it needs to document the response and sense how customer friendly the people and systems are. Don’t use this to hammer anyone – use the feedback to determine how to become even better and more customer oriented.
June 2010 issue – a positive approach helps
Jim Schwenk, Vice President of Construction for A. R. Mays Construction shared a very important message for everyone. As his company, a general contractor, worked to be successful in the down economy they discovered what I call a BFO– Blinding Flash of the Obvious. (BFOs are not always as obvious as they seem until we discover them!)
In his words:
“Of all of the initiatives the most successful actually cost the least. About a year ago the world had nothing good to say. Many local Business Development networking meetings consisted of side bar discussions of people complaining about how bad their business and life was. It was deafening and paralyzing to any employee within earshot. We realized something important. Our customers, like us don’t want to be doing business with a company that is going out of business. Previous years and good business practices provided us with financial stability. We were actively pursuing great opportunities and we still retained a sense of excitement about it all. So we started a simple yet effective marketing campaign. Advertise what we are doing. Tell people that we are healthy because we are. Tell our staff that we are focused and on task with our goals and we are committed to keeping them working. Show everyone that there are projects out there to build and we are part of the beginning of the recovery. The phone rang within 15 minutes of our first eblast rewarding us with 3 bid opportunities with a company that we had marketed to for 5 years without one previous opportunity. Our customer was assembling their select bid list when the group all received our eblast and decided to call us. The positive feed back was overwhelming and continues today.”
What messages are you sending to others especially your customers? People want to do business with people that are successful and positive not stagnating in the mire of complaints about the bad economy. How do your customers see you and your employees?
**************** Learning Opportunities
You may be interested in attending one of these training seminars by Dennis Sowards:
March 22, 2012- Advanced Lean Techniques– Sponsor: P.I.P.I. & 469 JAC – Phoenix, AZ - contact Cathy Mayeux at email@example.com for details.
April 11, 2011 – Delivering Excellent Customer Relations – For Service Technicians - Sponsor – P.I.P.I. & 469 JAC – Phoenix, AZ - contact Cathy Mayeux at firstname.lastname@example.org for details
April 26, 2012- Designing and Achieving World-Class Performance in Construction - Sponsor – P.I.P.I. & 469 JAC – Phoenix, AZ - contact Cathy Mayeux at email@example.com for details.
May 9, 2012 – Lean in the Service World- Sponsor – P.I.P.I. & 469 JAC – Phoenix, AZ - contact Cathy Mayeux at firstname.lastname@example.org for details
May 24, 2012- Job Planning That Really Works- Sponsor – P.I.P.I. & 469 JAC – Phoenix, AZ - contact Cathy Mayeux at email@example.com for details.
Sept 27, 2012 – Excellence in Customer Relations - Sponsor – P.I.P.I. & 469 JAC – Phoenix, AZ - contact Cathy Mayeux at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
If you are interested in bringing one of these workshops to your company or association, please contact Dennis Sowards.
**************** Thought for the day
When a customer calls and has a question, a concern or a complaint, the first words out of your mouth set the tone for the transaction. And those words lay the foundation for the future of the relationship. The bad news: More than 90 percent of the people in sales or service don't give an answer; they give an excuse. The only good news is that 80 percent of the 90 percent is your competition.
- Jeffrey Gitomer
For more information about the High-Performing Contractor assessment process contact Dennis Sowards at 480-835-1185
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