Too many people think customer service is about being nice. Good customer service is more complicated than just being nice. It’s also about being competent.

I can’t tell you have many hotels I’ve stayed in where everyone encountered is polite and nice. Yet the hotel room isn’t as clean as it should be, or the trash isn’t emptied — and God only knows when the bedspread was last washed.

The internet is flooded with consumer rating experiences for any product or service imaginable. The problem is such services do not necessarily do a good job of rating a quality roof job.

Yes, people will rate if you’re on time, friendly, left the yard clean, etc., but they don’t go back to the rating service and respond when the roof leaks in a couple of years.

Contracting is not an instant gratification process such as eating in a restaurant or staying in a hotel. Contracting issues come to haunt buyers long after the job is complete. Unfortunately, many consumers — particularly the click-buy Millennial generation — put too much emphasis on ratings. So, you must do your best to make buying roofing an easy professional process.

IRE Session TH05

Title: How to Provide Superior Customer Service
Speakers: Monroe Porter, president of PROOF Management Consultants
Date: Thursday, Feb. 6, 7:45 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.
Room: Ballroom C1

Good customer service is really a common sense process and relies on many of the things your mother taught you. Be friendly and polite; have a firm handshake; be courteous of others’ space. Unfortunately, contractors tend to be production driven and forgo courtesy training and procedures.

Over 60% of the people who quit buying from a company do so because they perceive the company to be indifferent to their needs. Here are some basic things you can do to improve your service:

  1. Train foremen with a basic introductory procedure. Issue them a badge or identifying card or paperwork. Have them knock on the front door and let the customer know you are there. Ask if there are any pets they need to be aware of (it’s always good to find out about the Doberman upfront).
  2. Have an attire policy with company shirts and hats. If you use subs, the IRS will frown on your name being on a sub. However, you can have a shirt that simply says “roofer” or the manufacturer’s name. It’s hard to look professional if the crew is rag tag.
  3. Have clear end-of-day and departure procedures. Clean the job, leave any materials and equipment out of the way and neatly stored. And for safety’s sake, don’t leave a ladder standing against the wall or roof. I actually saw a roofer’s ladder left up where little children were playing in the yard.
  4. Train your employees on what to say if a customer complains. Don’t leave it to your crew. Blue collar people have a tendency to make the situation worse when saying the wrong thing: “Look lady, I just work here,” or “If you got a problem, call the office.” Train your people to simply listen. If it’s something simple like moving a truck or picking up trash, do it. If it’s more complicated, they should tell the customer they’ll have the project manager contact them.
  5. Foremen should have a clear scope of work, as customers will sometimes ask the foreman to do things not included in the contract. Foremen should also know how to recognize change orders that may be required.

Complaints are not uncommon, and most are caused by miscommunication. Others are a systems function. When a customer has a complaint, use the “ACT” principle:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s feelings. They may be totally wrong, but their feelings are their feelings, not yours. Simply say, “I can understand why you might feel that way” and then move on to what you can and cannot do.
  • Concern is important. Look like you care. Be careful of body language as most of us know what not to say but our mannerisms can say something entirely different. Take notes, as it shows you can listen, and correct any exaggerated complaints.
  • Task at hand. After acknowledging their position and showing concern, move to the task at hand. The goal of acknowledging the concern is to let the customer vent and calm down. Being logical with an upset person does not work very well.

What about crazy people? Customer service is not for crazy people or folks who intend to cheat you. Crazy plus logic always equals crazy. It’s like multiplying by zero. If you have an unreasonable customer, recognize it and make sure there’s a clear understanding of what you will and will not do. Documentation and caution should take over.

Customer service is mostly common sense, but common sense is not so common anymore.