One way to compete with big businesses is through the quality of customer service that you provide. Big businesses can be cold and impersonal, and home businesses can give their clients better attention and customer care.
Unfortunately, that is not often the case. There are home businesses that suck at providing customer service.
Take this tree cutting service that I called run by a home-based entrepreneur. I previously wrote about the poor telephone skills ( “Are Your Telephone Manners Turning Off Customers”), of another tree cutting vendor that I talked to, but this home-based operation took professionalism and customer service down to a whole new level.
When we talked on the phone, the owner agreed to come to my property on Saturday at 8:00 am to look at the job in order to give me a quotation. He was very professional on the phone, so I was impressed and looked forward to giving him my business.
Saturday came, and the owner called up at 7:30 a.m. to tell me that he’ll be a little late for the 8:00 a.m. appointment. Okay, I was willing to wait.
Two and a half hours later, the tree service still has not arrived. Alas, I had an important errand to run. With my wife and kids out that morning, I decided to leave a note on the door to the tree cutting service letting them know that I waited and that I had a quick errand to run in about 30 minutes or less. I asked them to wait for me to get back.
They never arrived. And I never got a call to let me know that they were not coming in that day.
But they did finally come – one week later! With nary a phone call or email to reset the appointment, the home-based tree service just showed up at my door Sunday of the following week. So when they called to say they will be late that Saturday morning, I wasn’t expecting that it would take the guy 8 days to reach my house!
What’s even more interesting is that the owner that I talked to remained seated in the pickup truck, and sent out his teenage son to come and knock on my door. The poor lad just said, “I believe you are expecting us.” Yeah, right, 8 days ago!
I finally had my trees trimmed, but not by this home-based owner.
So what lessons can home businesses learn from this unfortunate experience of mine? Here are some of them:
To succeed in business, the rule is simple: make your customers happy.
That means doing the work the customer asked you to do, at the quality they expect (or even more), and at the time you said you’ll deliver.
Give your clients the courtesy they deserve.
For this tree trimming service, that means letting me know that they cannot come so I can adjust my schedule accordingly. If they respected my time, I would be willing to reset the appointment and give them another chance.
Don’t leave customers hanging in the dark. If you cannot deliver or fulfill what they expect you to do, be upfront about it. Let them know if you cannot make your appointment. And please, don’t send your teenage kid to talk to your client – unless the client knows beforehand that your kid is working with you on their project. The client is dealing with YOU, not your son or daughter.
Manage your schedule well.
If your business depends on meeting clients, scheduling their work, and delivering the product or service, you need to invest in a tracking and scheduling system. Find a system that will work for you and your business – whether it is an app for your iPhone, or sophisticated planning software, or even just a day planner. Your clients do not want to hear about your excuses for forgetting your appointments with them!
If you want your business to grow — or even survive in this economy — delivering quality customer service and making your customers happy should be your prime objective. Happy customers will keep you in business!