Contractor companies that perform inadequate work usually don’t last long. Callbacks eat up profits, and unhappy customers don’t give referrals. Thus, owners of electrical service companies have a strong motivation to ensure that their work is not inadequate.
If the work is adequate, your callbacks are few and far between. And you can get referrals. But what will those referrals say? Here’s a sampling; see how many excite you:
• “No complaints.”
• “Work completed on time.”
• “Specifications met.”
• “Rework not needed.”
• “Will definitely consider in the future.”
Done yawning? Now, contrast those with these:
• “Absolutely delighted!”
• “Unexpected savings in time and money.”
• “Showed us how to get what we really needed.”
• “Work shows true pride in craftsmanship. Fit and finish are A++”
• “Already using their services repeatedly, will keep doing so.”
Which set of comments would you rather see in your referrals? From the first set, we can infer those customers aren’t going to go out of their way to talk you up. The second set of comments, well that’s a different story, and it should be the one you’re hearing every day.
The difference isn’t a matter of luck. It’s a matter of several things, such as:
• A mindset of excellence. Not perfection, but excellence. Think how those two words differ.
• Hiring, training and retaining people who love what they do and take pride in how they do it.
• Planning and managing projects with customer delight as a metric. Grade “delight” however you want, but think about how to deliver it consistently.
If you make a list of what annoys customers and then manage your organization to ensure those things don’t happen, you reach a state of adequacy. To reach a state of excellence, make a list of what delights customers and manage your organization to ensure those things do happen.
That second list of referral comments gives you some ideas on what delights customers, but talk with your customers to understand what delights them. Come straight out with the question, “Other than giving the job away, what could we do that would delight you?” Often, the answer is something easily done.
As the previous comment hints at, one key is communication. When a customer is discussing a project with you, don’t even look at your smart phone. Look at the customer. And listen closely. Ask probing questions, to determine real needs the customer either hasn’t thought of or isn’t articulating.
For example, the customer says that employees in this production area complain about the light so he wants to replace the fixtures with “higher watt” ones. He points to a catalog to show you the ones he’s picked out.
But is that the answer? How does he know that new fixture will do the job? He’s probably just guessing. Get to the kernel of the real problem (in this case, complaints about the lighting). Have him show you. Ask him to take you around to talk with the operators. This level of interest in his problems already puts you above the typical competitor.
When you show him that you can solve the problem by moving just a few light fixtures, cleaning some lenses, and only a few fixture upgrades, you’re going to get a smaller job, but a long-term customer. Smart solutions have that effect. And your firm will be the “go to” firm when he is merely considering a project.
Sharing is another key. Consider Ron, a senior manager, who scheduled onsite training for a crew at a job site. He knew the customer had employees doing work that required the same training. So he offered four slots to that customer.
Who does that sort of thing? Well, contractors intent on delighting their customers do it. Added cost was exactly zero. Added benefit was, well, a lot of money.
Or consider Bill, a project manager who brings a big coffee pot to the job every morning when visiting the crew of six for their morning safety meeting. He also brings a package of disposable cups and tells the customer’s four electricians to drink up and join the discussion. That’s pretty cheap advertising. And the customer sees employees getting free safety training with free coffee. How much is that worth in customer retention points?
The main key, however, is that mindset of excellence. Do managers talk only about schedules, costs, and meeting Code? Or do they make remarks like, “Jim, that is really a good-looking wiring job in that panel. Very neat. Very good workmanship.”
Are there photos around the office showing the excellent craftsmanship? Do managers ever electronically send out photos of work with, for example, “Thanks Tim and Cathy for excellent work”?
Offer praise often, and be specific. Don’t make a general comment about how everyone is doing good work. Identify specific work a specific crew or person did (that qualifies as excellent), and give them incentive to keep doing things that same excellent way.
To many people, excellence is its own reward. To a business, it’s the fuel of increased earnings and happy customers who are returning and referring customers.