Study Hall

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Solving Problems: Customer Service Equals Customer Retention

It’s not about taking orders; it’s about solving problems. And when a problem does come up, the quicker you can respond and deal with it, the better.
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Back to the condo: my friend Gary is in the tile business. When I was renovating a previous home, he suggested a fellow named Ryan to do the work. Although it seemed at times that things took forever, the final work was what I would call well above average.

However, a problem arose with the billing. Ryan would include bits and pieces that should have been part of his costs to do business. I let it go. When my condo project was at hand, I called Gary to arrange the tile delivery and he suggested another fellow would be a better choice. He didn’t elaborate, but told me that he was no longer working with Ryan.

By then, I’d already committed, so I rehired him against Gary’s best advice. When the final bill came in, it was bloated with charges for things like tools and time for driving home. Worse yet, he used some damaged tiles that should have been returned and cut holes in the kitchen backsplash that were so badly off that an electrical receptacle couldn’t be wired.
I’ve often extoled on how challenging it is to land a customer, and once you have one, it’s way less expensive to retain one as opposed to finding a replacement. No matter what I said, Ryan always countered with an excuse. I paid the bill.

Ryan lost Gary and me as clients and what would likely equate to more than $50,000 a year in business. Now that I think of it, as the new head of “construction” for our condo association, I’d been planning to hire Ryan to retile 14 floors in our building. That’s maybe another $70,000 in lost billing. Suffice to say, Ryan is not smart.

Priorities Straight

The lesson here is simple: Always take the high road by giving the customer the benefit of the doubt. At Radial, if a client had a problem with a product or claimed a short shipment, we trusted the customer.

If we were suspicious that the client had possibly made a mistake in receiving a shipment, it was easy to check. We would rebuild the order and compare it to the original invoice by weighing it.

Over the years, we rarely had a problem. Unscrupulous dealers do not stay in business very long. If it cost us a product along the way, the good will that it created spread online and it generated more trust that in turn generated more sales.

A few months before I sold the company, we landed a high six-figure custom job for an overhaul of a government building. The order was contingent on a very rigid delivery schedule. So, before we accepted, we brought the team together to make sure we had the resources to deliver the goods on time. In this case, the resources included being able to source parts, get the metal work done and have the available staff hours.

Our team did a marvelous job. When I emailed the specifying engineer on the overhaul project to let him know that I’d sold Radial and planned to retire, he called me to say he was disappointed that I was leaving.

I replied that he didn’t have to worry – Radial has a great team and they would continue to take good care of him. He said that’s not the point, stating, “When you committed to do something, it always got done.” That’s what customer service is all about.

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