Sunday, September 19, 1999

George Mindling Column 9-19-1999


You Make the Call


After waiting all afternoon for a scheduled appearance from a contractor who never showed or called, I called the contractor's office. After being put on hold for a few moments, I was told the contractor was on the road. She would beep him to call me. Twenty minutes later he called. He offered no explanation for missing the appointment and only said it was too late today; he'd try to make it tomorrow. Too bad, but I won't be here tomorrow.

He had a cell phone and my telephone number. If he had called earlier to inform me there would be a delay or change in plans, I could have changed my plans too. Waiting all afternoon for a no-show used all my time.

I was in the service business twice, so to speak. I spent eight years as a technician in the Air Force, where quality control insured the work ethic, in case you didn't have one to start with.

I then worked for many years with one of the best service organizations in the world. Not surprisingly, our first concern was customer satisfaction. We sent annual satisfaction surveys to all our customers) and any less than-satisfactory response required a management visit to find out why. Invariably, the prime complaint was lack of communication. We worked under a two-hour response time to our customers. A return phone call to a customer as soon as the service call came in was one of the prime performance appraisal items. A change in plans meant we would call the waiting customer again. Plans change continuously. It isn't surprising for a new part to be defective or to discover problems deeper than first encountered. Even accidents and weather will interfere with a service schedule; anyone who has ever been in business will testify to this.

Most customers understand the service environment and will work with problems affecting service, especially if the call isn't urgent. But if service is impaired because someone is trying to print the payroll, that's a different matter. Customers expect the response to a service call to reflect the urgency of their problem.

If you get diverted by a priority call, you still need to call the customers you have committed to and tell them there is a change in schedule. If you can't call them all, have someone else make the calls.

Don't let customers hang. It will ruin your business, even if you are the only one in town today that knows how to fix whatever is broken. Somebody will pick up the excess, and if they give better service than you, they will take away your business.

It takes communication to work, and in this day where everyone has a cell phone and a pager, not calling your customer is a sign of poor, unacceptable service. If you fail to call, you will have an irate customer, instead of a loyal one. It is such an easy problem to fix.

George Mindling © 1999

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