Uncharted Waters

Mar 14 2016   8:19AM GMT

Valuing Customer Service

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

Customer service

Customer service is one of the big reasons independent people like me stay deep in contracts.

About two months ago, I noticed a water spot growing on the kitchen ceiling. It took a surprising amount of trouble shooting to figure out that the source of the spot was not a cracked pipe or loose coupling. Part of that trouble shooting involved cutting a hole in the kitchen ceiling sheet rock to get a better view of what was happening.

The service we got from plumbers and the drywall guy that came out to patch the hole was incredible and reminded me of a couple important things.

I have seen customer service broken down into three aspects — you can be friendly, you can on time, and you can good. Friendly is what people usually come across first. Friendly takes people from nervous about where they are spending their money to comfortable in new interactions. Without that, it can be hard to get work from new clients and might be relying on word of mouth referrals.

On time makes your clients comfortable once you have the gig. For me that means turning articles in not on the day they are due, but a couple of days before so the client has time to read and review, and so I have time to get revisions done if there are any. In my more technical work, I show up when they need me and try to get work done at a pretty fast pace. A slow hourly contractor is an expensive hourly contractor.

Good is a never ending challenge and every client has a different measure of this. The basic measure I use though is how much effort does the client have to make after I hand over some work. If find a bug in a clients product and report it in the tracking system, will they have to come back and spend an hour investigating after the fact because of missing information or a confusing story? When I turn an article in will we have to go back and forth for days on revisions and clarifications? Some times this is unavoidable, people have bad days, but when you’re good this is not a regular thing.

customer service

So, that’s the customer service formula — on time, good, and friendly. The trick is, almost nobody has all three of those. And the people that do, don’t have it all the time.

I had three plumbers and a tile guy out to my house before someone figured out exactly what was causing the water spot in my kitchen. The last guy was a little surly. Maybe he had a rough day, but most of his communication was through a series of mumbles and sighs. I really don’t care though. You know why? He actually figured out what the problem was. That guy was definitely good.

The contractor that did the sheet rock patching came through a referral from my brother in law. He was incredible. He showed up to my house exactly when he said he would, was very friendly, and did a great job. He even came back the next day to smooth out one spot without any hesitation. He was extremely busy, and for good reason.

I strive to be like the sheet rock contractor, but it’s just not possible all the time. I was working with a client recently and accidentally cursed. It was an accident, and they thought it was funny, probably because my reaction. But it was a good reminder that I can’t be ‘on’ all the time. Since I know that, at least there are two other corners to balance that out.

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