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Five Things Customers Require

Originally published: 07.01.09 by Mike Callahan

From the time a customer calls for a quote until the time that the job is complete, hundreds of individual transactions must occur in order to successfully install the job, satisfy the customer, and put the money in the bank.

Managing internal customers properly is critical to both bringing in revenue and turning revenue into profits. Think about a typical replacement job. From the time a customer calls for a quote until the time that the job is complete, hundreds of individual transactions must occur in order to successfully install the job, satisfy the customer, and put the money in the bank. Internal customers perform every one of these transactions. Assuming the job was priced correctly, only their knowledge and attention to detail determines whether the job is profitable.

Don’t believe it? Think about the jobs that, for whatever reason, you sold at a low price and expected a low profit. Yet, because everyone involved in the job did their tasks correctly the first time, the job made more money than expected. Now think about the job that you sold at a high price, expecting a big profit. However, because of mistakes, re-dos, and call-backs, the job ended up a loser.

Make no mistake: Profit is solely a function of employee performance.

Let’s look at five critical components necessary for consistently meeting the requirements of our external customers. They are all equally important and can be used to focus hiring and training efforts.

1. Reliability — the ability to provide what you promised dependably and correctly. Reliability frequently comes from a high level of all-around competence, so train employees for both technical and customer-relations skills.

2. Responsiveness — eagerness to help customers and provide them with prompt service. This really is a two partrequirement, the first being the ability to help customers. It may sound trivial, but at some time or another, every one of us has taken on a job that we weren’t really capable of doing. It’s O.K. to say no to a customer. Taking on a job you can’t do well can have worse results than passing on the job.

The second part is about promptness. Customers have different definitions of promptness. Some think it means immediately; others think same day; still others think something else. You can please all of these types by committing to a given time and then living up to the commitment. If circumstances prevent you from being on time, call to make other arrangements as soon as you know that you can’t make the agreed-upon time. The phone call that comes when you are already late is only slightly better than not calling at all.

3. Assurance — the knowledge and courtesy of your employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence. Buyer’s remorse is what happens in the absence of assurance. The customer has made a deal with you but now is secondguessing that decision. Once again, properly training employees can provide customers with the assurance they need.

4. Empathy — you and your employees genuinely are concerned about the customer’s needs and will do what is needed to fulfill those needs. Being a good listener is the major component of being empathetic. Listening is a skill that requires the active use of hearing, vision, and occasionally — touch. It is honed only through consistent practice. Train employees to use positive body language, make eye contact, ask open-ended questions, and openly show concern.

5. Tangibles — all things that are a visual representation of your company: personal appearance, vehicles, paperwork, telephone communications, etc. The most important element of tangibles, however, is one that often is overlooked or given the least attention — confidence. Your employees need to feel good about themselves and your company. Proper training and a positive, supportive work environment will give employees the competence and the confidence necessary to justify a high level of self-esteem.

Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, Empathy, and Tangibles — the five critical components in meeting customer requirements. You can use an acronym to make them easy to remember. Simply change their order of appearance and use their beginning letters to spell RATER. This is easy to remember because it’s what your customers are constantly doing.

The five critical components of internal customer service are exactly the same as we have discussed. After all, you want to treat your profit providers at least as well as your revenue providers — don’t you?

Articles by Mike Callahan

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