Make the Customer Your First Priority

Nov. 4, 2010
Share information, serve with a smile

Running a service business is challenging. A single service call involves the work of many people, and incurs significant costs. As an HVAC and plumbing company, we incur many costs just getting our technician and truck out there, ready and able to complete a job.

A qualified service organization's costs begin with the salary of the professional. The amount is the same whether the professional is actually making repairs, traveling to keep service appointments or participating in training programs to sharpen his skills. The cost of doing business must also be added to the professional's salary. These overhead costs can amount to substantially more than the professional's salary.

Add Value
However, the customer doesn't need or want to know what it takes to run your business. The only thing they need to know is that you will provide them with the service they desire at what they believe to be an affordable cost, in a timely manner.

In order to retain that customer, and possibly even get referrals, you must do much more. The customer must be your number one priority when running your business, and you must demonstrate this to them. There are several ways to obtain this objective.

Add value, by giving your customers more than they expect. As an example, we utlize email marketing to provide our customers with timely tips on a variety of subjects. We give our customers tools such as an "Ask An Expert" section on our website where they can post a question and receive an answer the same day. We also provide expert information on our website, such as directions on how to avoid a service call. By sharing our knowledge, we add value to the relationship and build trust.

Be There With the Right Attitude
There's nothing more frustrating to a customer than the inability to speak to a representative at a service company. More service companies have lost sales due to callers getting stuck in an automated voicemail loop. A service company should have at least one customer service rep answering incoming calls. That being said, the customer service rep should answer the phone with a smile. Customers can hear that smile in a rep's voice and will respond to it.

We can't stress this point enough. When a customer calls us, we gauge how he is feeling as soon as we pick up the phone by asking the question, "How can we help you today?" This helps to diffuse that customer who is in a panic because his heating system isn't working and the temperature outside is below freezing. It enables him to get straight to the point so we can react with an appropriate and immediate response to his emergency situation.

Put Customers at Ease
We do all that we can to ensure that our customers are comfortable with us. We even send an email alert to each customer prior to his/her appointment that includes an introduction and a photo of the service technician Then, our technicians show up at the customer's home in uniform with an identifying badge and booties on their shoes to protect the customer's home.

Go the Distance
After a service call, we make a follow-up telephone call to our customer to ensure 100 percent satisfaction. If for some reason they are not satisfied, we work to make it right immediately. Simply taking this extra step to find out if your customer is satisfied goes a long way towards retaining that customer. And, they are less likely to express their dissatisfaction to others in person or online at sites such as Yelp, Ripoff Report and others.

It's not enough to deliver service as promised, on time and within budget. It's imperative that you keep your customers your number one priority when running your business. Do so, and your customers will know it and reward you with repeat business and referrals.

Plumbing expert Tim Flynn is president of Winters Company Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Cambridge, MA. His company specializes in plumbing, HVAC, as well as kitchen and bath remodeling. Winters Company is the largest residential plumbing company in Massachusetts, with 20 trucks and a full staff of licensed and insured plumbers and technicians. The company has received the Local Torch Award for Excellence from the Better Business Bureau, and an Angie's List Super Service Award. For more information, call 617/484-2121 or visit

For an article by Tim Flynn on oil to gas boiler conversions, visit: