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16 simple steps to superior service

Take care of the simple things and the rest will follow.

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Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi used to start off his training camps by holding up a football and stating, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Lombardi was a demon on the fundamentals, doing the simple things well, over and over, which meant the big things took care of themselves. Lombardi’s teams delivered superior performance on the football field. It is the same with your company. Take care of the simple steps and a superior performance will result.

1. Answer the phone

Service starts with a phone call. Start that by answering the phone pleasantly with human beings. If you lack the manpower to cover the phones, use a service. Plumbing service is typically in response to an emergency. When the consumer gets a voice recording, it’s click, hang up and call the next plumber. You will never know how many calls you lose due to voicemail.

2. Set reasonable expectations

Instruct your call takers and dispatchers to set reasonable expectations. You want them to book the call, but you do not want to start in the hole. Be realistic about when you can respond and why. People are more understanding than we think and they appreciate honesty.

3. Keep customers informed

Your dispatcher may be juggling dozens of calls, but it is important to remember at the end of every call is an anxious customer. Many will be taking time from work to be available. As the work-from-home fades, more will be taking time from work to wait. They wonder, will he show up? When will he show up? What’s happening? This is the source of considerable anxiety and your two-hour window is not heartening. The dispatcher should call or text regular updates about the status of each customer’s call. It takes little effort to do and relieves an enormous amount of consumer anxiety.

4. Practice good grooming

Every other year, the Service Nation Alliance conducts a huge omnibus research study of members’ customers. Literally, thousands of consumers are surveyed. Time and time again, the most frequently mentioned complaint about home service providers is poor grooming. It is not necessarily the most important concern, but it is the most common. It is so easy to correct. Stress the need for morning showers, shaving, brushing teeth, tucking shirts in and regular haircuts. It’s so easy. Pay for the haircuts if necessary. This is like washing the trucks. When your plumber is in company apparel, he becomes your brand. How well is your brand presented?

5. Use breath spray

This is another simple fix. If necessary, provide breath spray and require your plumbers to use it before every call. Bad breath is a major turn off and so easy to counter. This is especially important for any plumbers who smoke, chew or dip.

6. Stand up straight

When plumbers greet the homeowners, they should focus on standing up straight. When you stand up straight, you appear more competent and more intelligent. Right or wrong, humans assign lower intelligence to people who slouch and believe they are less capable. Slouchers also appear tired and worn out. Plumbing is a physically stressful occupation. Good posture is good for a plumber’s long-term health.

7. Smile

Why smile? It makes you appear friendlier. It is contagious. It makes you feel more positive and is a sign of successful people. Moreover, smiling is just as important for call takers as service plumbers. You can hear a smile over the phone, so install mirrors near your phones with the word, smile, written on a strip of paper and taped to the mirror.

8. Make eye contact

Everyone has heard the adage, “I won’t trust a man who doesn’t look me in the eye.” Eye contact is part of the way humans establish trust. Fail to meet eye contact with the customer and you appear untrustworthy and dishonest.

Follow up with the customer to ascertain satisfaction and happiness. If the customer is thrilled, ask for a review and send a link. If not, find out what you can do to make the customer happy.

9. Seek permission

Be polite with customers and ask for permission for everything you do. Ask if it is OK to park the service truck where it is located. Ask if it is O for you to note other problems you find while you are working on the problem you were called out to solve. Ask for the homeowner to show you the problem. Ask, do not tell.

10. Listen actively

When homeowners are talking, listen with a purpose. This means making eye contact, nodding every now and then to confirm you are paying attention. Repeat back what was said to confirm you heard what the homeowner meant. Listening actively sends the message that you consider the speaker important and worth paying attention to.

11. Ask questions

Even when you think you know the answer, ask questions. When you ask questions you learn things. Often people provide incomplete information or simply do not know what the important information is to share. You also communicate that you value the other person’s opinion.

12. Take notes

When a customer is talking, take notes. Write it down because it’s only normal to forget things. Also, when writing something, you drive it deeper into memory. You are also documenting the call so that you can explain what was said later if that becomes necessary.

13. Present options

People like having choices. It’s the government who restricts choices. On any repair, give three options. For example, offer choices to rebuild a leaky toilet, replace it or upgrade it. You will be surprised how often people will choose something besides a repair. Regardless, if the customer ever has second thoughts, you gave a choice.

14. Clean up

Consumers cannot always be sure of the quality of the work you performed, but they can be sure how well you cleaned up the work area and how well you protected their property. Carry shop vacuums and clean up the work area if necessary. Polish any brass you handle. Wipe crystal clean any porcelain.

15. Follow up

After the call is complete, follow up with the customer to ascertain satisfaction and happiness. If the customer is thrilled, ask for a review and send a link. If not, find out what you can do to make the customer happy before she decides to seek a review site on her own.

16. Show appreciation

After the follow up, mail a thank you card to the customer. Saying thank you is a lost art today. Sending it by mail is also becoming unique in our digital age. It will make you stand out. It will help your service be seen as superior.

These are all easy to do. And, they are easy not to do, which is why few plumbers do the majority and fewer still do all of them. Give them a try and watch consumer perception of your service improve.

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Matt Michel is the founder of Service Nation. He can be reached at