- THE MAGAZINE
Never, in the history of professional carpet cleaning has customer relations training been so critical. As energy costs skyrocket and stock values crumble, companies in every field from manufacturing to carpet cleaning are scrambling to cover dramatically increased costs of doing business. Fuel surcharges and price increases combined with drastic cost-cutting measures are all being implemented at a record pace. This cost cutting includes reduced employee staffing as well as reduced or no customer training.
The consuming public is getting beat with increased costs, and greatly reduced levels of service from harried company employees that they come into contact with. This reduced level of customer service is proving to be the last straw that consumers of the new millennium are going to put up with.
The Wall Street Journal of February 20, 2001, addresses this worsening situation in an article titled: "Winter of Discontent Could Worsen Slowdown." The article goes on to show how the customer satisfaction index, which plummeted to all time new lows in 1996 and 1997, had finally been on a gradual climb back toward pre-1996 levels - until this winter when it has really hit the skids. With all the current negative pressures, which show no signs of letting up, you can expect a continued erosion of consumer attitudes toward service delivery.
What customers are experiencing could well be called "the new consumer apartheid," or also referred to as the "dark side" of the technology boom. Instead of providing premium customer service to all customers, new cutting edge technologies now allow companies to save large amounts of money by locating only the top tier customers and giving them "top shelf" treatment while dumping the balance to flounder along as best they can.
While this may work for the airlines, energy providers, communication companies and software companies, it's proving to be a double-edged sword. The consumer backlash from such growing cavalier treatment by these companies is beginning to sharply impact small service businesses like ours. Especially vulnerable are those small businesses that haven't seen their way clear to build good solid relationships with their customers.
There is really no shortcut to establishing good solid customer relationships, and like it or not, in the carpet cleaning business it all starts and ends with the technician that represents your company in the customers home!
The problem is that if you don't have good materials to work with, you'll never be able to develop such a customer-pleasing technician. To get a good technician, start with your hiring. This means that you hire a trainable person, then plan to train them in customer service skills on an ongoing basis.
Because of all the negative broadcast media coverage of crimes committed by service company employees (including carpet cleaners) in customers' homes, I strongly recommend that you use a professional employee screening service. There are those that have a base fee of $19.95, with additional searches increasing the fee to $39.95 or $64.95. These fees are extremely reasonable when you think of the peace of mind for you and your customer.
There are also several excellent customer relationship training aids available in our industry. I suggest that you visit the ICS bulletin board at www.icsmag.com and request further information. You will find some of the best materials available authored by current ICS writers.
Never forget that your customer really doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care!