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Getting great customer satisfaction

One of my favourite episodes of Fawlty Towers is the one in which a hotel guest becomes increasingly exasperated by the kitchen’s inability to provide him with a simple cheese salad. “All I wanted was a cheese salad, it’s not like I ordered an elephant sitting on a bun!” he cries.

Companies that give us bad service can make us all feel like that. You may recall from my last blog that I spent several frustrating weeks trying to get a simple quote to refit my bathroom – leading me to wonder why so many firms could afford to ignore the prospect of £10,000 of work.

You’ll be glad to know I finally got my bathroom installed and the service I received got me thinking about what providing excellent service means. If you run a service business, see how you measure up against my suggestions!

1. Tailor your service to your customers needs
If you have a business, the way to make sure you get a steady stream of referrals is to create joy rather than hassle. The other week, we took delivery of a brand new fridge freezer from an independent firm in Chelmsford. When we opened the door, we realised the bulb didn’t work.

We called the firm, expecting them to send someone to replace it, or at the very least post us a new bulb. Instead we were asked to drop by and ask for a replacement next time we were in Chelmsford.

Irritated, that’s what we did, only for a salesman to tell us: “We don’t stock bulbs.”

“But you told us to collect one.”

“Siemens don’t guarantee bulbs,” he replied

Another salesmans – one of three chatting nearby – chipped in: “There’s some in that box, mate.”

The box was empty.

“Tell you want, ” said the original salesman, in a tone that implied he was doing me a favour “I’ll give you a pound from petty cash and you can go round the corner and buy one.”

We won’t buy from them again, and this goes to show that how you manage the little details can make a big difference to your business. If that firm had come out to replace the bulb, I’d be naming them with praise in this column. Instead I’m sharing their poor service with lots of their potential customers.

So treat each customer as though they were your best. If every detail of your work is designed with the customer in mind, they’ll rave about you.

2. Be upfront about price
People don’t like unpleasant surprises, especially when it comes to money.

So don’t try and win jobs by putting in a low quote and then try to recover your margins by charging for ‘unforeseen extras.’

If you do, you’ll damage your business in two ways: you’ll only ever attract the lowest paying customers (who may be the most reluctant to settle their bills) and you’ll never be recommended to others.

Be upfront about costs, provide exceptional service and you’ll soon get plenty of customers willing to pay a higher rate for the quality you offer.

And if ‘unforeseen extras’ genuinely do crop up, warn your customer as soon as possible about the additional costs and get their written permission before proceeding. They’ll thank you for your honesty – especially if every other detail has gone to plan.

3. Create the right tone
Treat your customers and their property with care and respect at all times. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many firms don’t.

One of the most successful landscaping companies I know has a waiting list of over 12 months for its services. Its landscapers use two sets of wellington boots on every job – one for use on mud, the other to be worn on lawns only. That level of care and attention gets the business talked about, and it now has more work than it ever imagined.

4. Put problems right
If your customer has a complaint, don’t dig your heels in and try to win the argument. Many business people think that as they are the experts, being right is all that matters. That approach won’t help you in your quest to maintain good relations with your customer.

Instead, do what you can to put things right. It might cost you a little extra, but the good will you generate is likely to be worth much more. A happy customer will recommend you. One for whom you’ve grudgingly rectified a problem won’t.

In Japan, they say ‘Okyakusama wa kamisama desu’ – literally meaning – ‘the customer is God.’ In Britain, surely the customer can at least expect to be treated as a King?

5. Say ‘Thank You’
If you hear someone has recommended you, or you spot them singing your praises on Twitter or other social media, write a cheque for £10, hand-sign a ‘thank you’ card and pop them both in an envelope with some chocolates.

After the package arrives with their morning mail they’ll sing your praises from the highest mountain – all without you having to train an elephant to sit on a bun!

Avatar for Jon Pryse-Jones
About Jon Pryse-Jones

Since joining THP in 1978, Jon Pryse-Jones has been hands on with every area of the business. Now specialising in strategy, business planning, and marketing, Jon remains at the forefront of the growth and development at THP.

An ideas man, Jon enjoys getting the most out of all situations, “I act as a catalyst for creative people and encourage them to think outside the box,” he says, “and I’m not afraid of being confrontational. It often leads to a better result for THP and its clients.”

Jon’s appreciation for THP extends to his fellow team members and the board.  “They really know how to run a successful business,” he says.  He’s keen on IT and systems development as critical to success, and he continues to guide THP to be at the cutting edge and effective.

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