Customers at the Center

By Thomas Diaz, 365 Pool Service, Inc. / info@365pools.com

The customer is at the center; the term for it - customer-centricity.  This means that the customer is at the center of everything you do. Customer centricity should be part of your overall company culture. Customer centricity is more than just setting the customer as the priority. It is ideal; it is a way of doing business; It is part of the DNA of your business. The first step is to create an environment within your company where employees want to be customer-centric. I discussed steps for a healthy company culture that leads to customer-centricity in my article in the September issue. 

There have been many studies over the years which have shown that a customer is willing to pay more if a company provides superior customer service.  I would invite you to think about the mind-blowing fact that customers will spend more for better customer service.  What I am saying is that customer service is more important than the product you are selling. In my opinion, I have found that pool service is a mundane offering. We clean your pool, we repair your pool, it’s not a life-altering decision for your customer to terminate your contract. I am not downplaying the years of experience that are needed to do those two things.  However, there are swarms of contractors who can provide services with great know-how and precision. 

Now, let’s take that same group of contractors who are the best at their craft in the state. How many of them answer the phone by the third ring? How many of them show up on time? How many of them go the extra mile regardless of profit? How many of them deal with complaints in a timely manner? What is the response time in general to issues?

I have found that most of my new customers are switching companies, not because of a swimming pool problem; they are switching to my company because they are looking for something that they are already accustomed to - superior customer service. As pool service professionals we need to understand that our customers are used to doing business with companies that provide superior customer service. AT&T was ranked number one in customer service by JD Power and Associates in 2020. Customers are accustomed to quick response times and they expect communications to be executed perfectly.  We need to aspire to deliver the same kind of customer service. As pool service professionals, if you want to compete you need to place the same priority on developing a customer service skill set as you do laying that perfect glass tile.  How can we possibly deliver the same customer service as a Fortune 500 company you ask? It is much easier than you think.

Start by training your employees. Most of our employees are great at what they do but they don’t know what a customer pain point is; they don’t know what perceived value means. They don’t understand any of the fundamentals of customer service. Train them. Have weekly meetings where you share your expertise about how to treat customers. Explain response times. Explain to your employees why customers sign up for pool service in the first place. These may seem like simple thoughts but when you can include your employees in your overall customer service strategy, they become part of the vision. When they become part of the vision, you begin to overcome and work together as a collective instead of every person for himself. Here are a few things that can drastically change the way your company engages customers.  These are things that I hear most of our new customers saying when they fire their old company and hire us.

They don’t answer the phone. They don’t call back! Your response time should be no greater than 24 hours. Customers know there will be problems with their pool. It is never the problem that is going to get your customer upset, it is your response time. Customers love a company that calls them back promptly. Aspire to answer 97% of all the calls that come in during business hours. The goal is one call resolution.

They don’t show up!  Be realistic about your schedule. If you are really spread thin be honest with your customer and set a time and date that allows you to engage with the customer to truly meet their needs. Customers are more interested in a quality customer service experience. Slinging prices over the phone falls short of showing up to the site, meeting the customer and getting to know their needs, and helping them overcome the obstacles. A handshake and a smile go a long way.

They sound terrible when they answer the phone!  Make sure that when you answer the phone you are announcing the name of your company and thanking them for calling. When a customer calls your company looking to spend money a “hello, who is this?” is not going to create a lot of confidence with your customer, even if you are the best installer on this side of the Mississippi.

They broke something and didn’t tell me!  We are all going to make mistakes. When you make one, be the first one to communicate the issue and fix it at your own cost. Remember that reputation is more important than money. 

They don’t communicate!  Technicians must be a part of the chain of communication. They must be expected to report back customer issues and equipment breakdowns. The use of a good customer relationship management software is worth its weight in gold.

These are just a few items that we hear every day but are simple things that you can do to provide excellent customer service. When I started in the business I once asked a seasoned contractor, “What’s your business strategy?” He responded very simply that I just need to get more customers than I lose. I find that to be an all too common philosophy in our industry. Take care of your employees and build them up; then they will take care of your customers. Train, train, and train some more. Teach soft skills, as well as hard skills and you, will beat out the competition in no time. Always remember that it is more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an existing one happy.