Is Service Call Etiquette Dead?
Is Etiquette a thing of the past in our culture? In today’s fast-paced world of instant communication and fast-food restaurants, where efficiency and profitability seem to be our top priorities, are we ignoring our customers? Do we think it is our way or the highway in the name of efficiency and productivity? Can we get by with doing what we want, when we want without regards to our customers?
My answer to those questions is an absolute NO!
I was reading an article in The BSH Newsletter recently and they were talking about Service Call Etiquette and it got those marbles in my head rolling around a little bit. I had never given much thought to the idea of “Etiquette” in a service call but you know what, it really does apply. Yes, there are rules or guidelines on how to run a service call but I had never given much thought of it being related to “Etiquette”. As a matter of fact, very rarely anymore do you hear the term etiquette being used in our everyday conversations.
As I was browsing the internet about etiquette, I came across this one article that stated:
“I am very sad to report that there are many people–especially those currently younger than 30 years– who feel that etiquette is a foreign concept whose time has passed. I want to beg to differ; we need to encourage our young people more now than we ever did before to take up the mantle of social politeness and decorum.
Why? Simply put the United States has become a country that exhibits no class, culture, style or morals. Our great export (besides grain) appears to be trash and corruption! The great Christian nation is not doing unto others as we would have others do unto us.
We who care have to rescue our nation one ‘Thank You” at a time by modeling grace and elegance in our speech, conduct and presentation.”
This really got me thinking about etiquette and how it applies to a service call experience. And not only the service call itself but the whole service call experience from the time the phone rings until after the service call has been completed and follow ups made.
So let’s take a look and see what really happens on a service call and how etiquette plays an important role, not only in the service call process, but the whole customer involvement and appreciation process.
In order to understand how etiquette can apply to a service call, we need to know what the term etiquette means. Here is the definition of etiquette:
et·i·quette noun \ˈe-ti-kət, -ˌket\
conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
Etiquette is a set of practices and forms which are followed in a wide variety of situations. Therefore, etiquette on a service call would be the accepted set of practices, social behavior and conduct that would be expected to be followed by a CSR or technician on a service call.
Here are some tips and guidelines for proper customer etiquette when it comes to running any other type of service call in a customer’s home.
The Initial Phone Call:
The call should be answered within the first 3-4 rings. The customer service representative would be expected to be polite and listen to the customer intently and then answer all of their questions. The CSR should also have empathy for them and their situation and schedule the call with as little interruption in the customer’s schedule as possible
Before Running The Service Call:
The technician or the office should call the customer the day before or the day of the service call confirming the problem and confirming some type of time frame that the technician will arrive. It’s also a great idea to have the technician call the customer when he is on the way, again showing courtesy to the customer by giving them one last communication informing the customer of his arrival time.
Arriving At The Home:
It’s always a pleasing site for the customer when a company shows up in a clean, well-identified vehicle and the technician is wearing a clean uniform identifying himself and the company. When arriving at the customer’s home, always park on the street or out of the way in the driveway, if possible, and make sure your vehicle is not leaking fluids on the customer’s driveway. Always walk on the pathway to the customer’s entrance and knock on the door or ring the doorbell letting the customer know you have arrived and then step back from the entrance.
When the customer arrives, introduce yourself and hand them a business card. This would be a great time to engage in a little casual conversation with the customer about something that has nothing to do with the reason you are there. It could be something as simple as making a positive comment about their manicured lawn or landscaping, their beautiful home, their pet, or anything that would put them at ease. Something to just break the ice and settle their anxiety. Once they ask you to come inside, stop and place shoe covers over your boots or shoes before entering. Putting on shoe covers demonstrates to them that you have respect for their home and property.
Going Into The Home:
Once inside the home, ask them to take you to the product you will be working on and when you arrive at the product, begin by placing a protective cover on the floor or the counter to place your tools on. Ask the customer to explain the problem and listen intently and if appropriate, have the customer show you what is happening. Ask if the product is under some type of warranty or if this will be a COD call “BEFORE” any diagnosis or repairs are made. Gather as much information as possible including such things as purchase date, place of purchase, Model #, Serial #, etc. This can save a lot of time, frustration and confusion for everyone if it is handled upfront.
Diagnosing The Problem:
Don’t just tell the customer you know what is wrong, even if you do. Disassemble the product as appropriate and SHOW the customer the problem. DO NOT JUST TELL THE CUSTOMER “I KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS, I’VE SEEN THIS PROBLEM MANY TIMES”. No matter how many times you have seen it or repaired this problem before, do a little diagnostic investigation for the benefit of the customer. Your customer is paying for your time and expertise and they want to know that they are getting their money’s worth from you. The customer doesn’t know or even care that you’ve seen this problem before, they just want their product diagnosed and repaired properly the first time and that you are qualified to repair it.
Explaining Your Diagnosis:
Explain the problem to the customer in terms they can understand and show them the problem if possible. A picture or visual explanation is worth a thousand words.
Quoting The Repair:
Before any repairs are made, let the customer know what the repair cost will be and get approval before going any further. If you offer a service agreement program, now would be the time to introduce that program and any discounts available with the repair.
Making The Repair:
If you have the parts, make the repair and show the customer that it is working properly once the repair is completed. Reassemble if not already done and clean up after yourself leaving the appliance and the surrounding area in as good a condition, or better, than it was when you arrived. Collect for the repair and thank them for calling you. Give them another business card and ask them for referrals.
If you do not have the parts and they have to be ordered, give the customer a realistic timeline for receiving the parts and returning for the repair. The sooner you can get the parts and return, the better and happier the customer will be. Collect any deposits you may require for the parts you are ordering and reassemble the product as appropriate. DO NOT leave the product partially disassembled or torn down or scattered about. Put it back together and clean up after yourself leaving the area in the condition it was in when you arrived if not better.
Returning For Repair:
Return as promised and if for some reason, you can’t, call the customer and let them know why you can’t return as promised. Communication is the key here, not the reason.
Repeat The Arrival Process:
Upon return, repeat the same steps as you would on a new call.
Making The Repair On A Return Visit:
Repair the product, test and confirm proper operation. If for whatever reason the product does not operate properly, re-diagnose and consult with the customer about additional repairs, cost, etc. Make appropriate pricing adjustments as necessary to satisfy the customer.
Show and Tell:
Show the customer that the product is operating properly. Answer any questions the customer may have. Explain what you did and what repairs were made and offer the customer the old parts unless they have to be returned for some reason such as having to return any warranty parts . Go over the warranty you offer on your repairs.
Clean up after yourself, including the product, again leaving the area in the same, if not better condition, than it was when you arrived.
Review the charges and collect for the repair. Review repair warranty again with customer letting them know that you will be available should anything happen.
Referrals and Reviews:
Give the customer another business card, thanking them for their business and ask them for referrals, also making them aware of any other services that you offer. Ask them to give you a review on Google, Yelp or whatever review platform you need them to review you on. Make it easy for them to give you a review by placing the review link or links on the business card with a “short code” such as Bitly to go directly to the place where they can write the review. If you do this, you are more likely to get a review instead of them having to go through all the steps to get to the right place to write the review. Give them any other promotional items you would like them to have such as magnets, discount coupons, referral cards, etc.
Thank the customer again for their business and leave with a smile, showing gratitude and appreciation.
It’s a great idea to have some type of a follow-up program whereby the office, or yourself, call the customer in the next day or 2 just to check in with the customer to make sure everything was ok. In addition to the above, have an extended follow-up program such as email programs and newsletters just to keep your name in front of the customer for future needs and referrals.
I know the above sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. It’s what you do anyway. It’s just about communicating with the customer during the process, showing them respect and concern for their home and products. I promise you, it will go a long way in developing a solid reputation of quality work, honest service and an attitude of appreciation. If you do this, referrals will be coming out of the woodwork. If you follow this process, you won’t have to worry about advertising, word of mouth will be all you need.
Good Luck and Best Wishes, as you Travel the Road to Success!
Don Harris owned and operated his own appliance services business in Atlanta, Ga for over 45 years. In 2014 he sold his business, Dependable Services, to his son Brannon. Dependable Services currently operates 18 service vehicles and has 38 employees, providing services for heating and air conditioning, residential appliances, restaurant equipment, commercial refrigeration and water heaters to the metro Atlanta area. Don acquired the nickname “DependableDon” because of his reputation of being there when he said he would be there and doing what he said he would do. Don now spends his time coaching and consulting other businesses in the Appliance and HVAC industry.