Customer confusion can cause you to lose a bid (as noted in Part 1). It also can cause you to lose an existing customer, great referrals, or money on a job simply to keep a customer whose demands are based on misunderstanding.
That’s why you need a systematic approach to training your customers. There is no single right way; you need to develop your approach based on many factors, including the industry those customers are in.
A problem that commonly results in customer confusion and, consequently, rushed work occurs when the customer does not understand how much setup is involved. If you need 8 hours to do the work, you may need 2 hours for setup and 2 hours for cleanup. If you have set aside a total of only 8 hours instead of 12, something must give.
It helps to walk a customer through the setup process. For example, the customer wants work done on the main switchgear. So show the customer where you’ll need to set up generators and lights, and explain how much lead time is needed to rent and/or transport the equipment.
Explain also that this equipment must be set up before crews can work; this means coordinating with the security team and with operations.
Some other common causes of confusion include:
• Customer does not understand operational impact of the requested work.
Solution: Walk the customer through the process. For example, a customer wants ground testing performed. So show the customer where you’ll need to disconnect the neutral, and explain how this will affect operations and for how long.
• Customer does not understand the scope of the work. He’s expecting you to complete your infrared survey in about an hour, but doesn’t say this. When you mention it’ll take three hours, he’s probably going to think you don’t know what you’re doing.
Solution: Don’t assume the customer knows your area of expertise. In this case, walk the customer through the planned work and point out those 18-bolt access covers, limited workspace, boxes in the way, and other issues. Plus, give an overview of the actual work.
• Customer does not understand the complexity of the work. This issue seems to dog infrared survey work relentlessly.
Solution: Explain the job and some of the nuances involved. If you’re doing an infrared survey, consider giving the customer a hands-on demonstration of how you use your camera. It’s not as simple as taking a photo with your smart phone, though your customer might not know that until after the demo.
For your own business, simply review past jobs that have had cost overruns or other problems because of customer confusion. Identify the specific kind of confusion and think about how to prevent it on future jobs. It could be beneficial to develop a checklist for customer conversations and a written “cheat sheet” a customer can refer to throughout the project.