A customer service philosophy refers to the ways in which you think about, and develop, your business. Your service philosophy is the total of all the strategies you employ in order to deliver a high-quality service that “blows your customers away.” We’ve talked about how to market your services in a past article. But you have to have an excellent service to market because no amount of marketing will sell a service that’s not good. You may fool people for a while with your dazzling marketing strategies, but word will get out if the service is not up to snuff.
If you offer a professional service, you must deliver good service. You can market your service as “the best in town,” but if you perform below standard, you will not sustain your customer base. This section will help you develop ways to approach customer service to create a winning business.
Strategizing Excellent Service
Create Customer Service Blueprint
The first step in developing a top-notch professional
service is to identify every point at which you contact the public, a process called blueprinting your business process. Blueprinting is a kind of map that shows you the points of contact where you can enhance customer service.
Draw a horizontal dotted line in the middle of a piece of paper. Label it “line of visibility” or “line of interaction.” Above this line, write the section or sections of the public with whom you interact. Below the dotted line, draw a flowchart showing the flow of your business. Draw an arrow to connect the points between the public and your business to show each time they interact. Each point of contact is an opportunity to offer exceptional customer service. Most home inspection companies have very simple blueprints for this process. Figure 1 shows a typical home inspection company’s customer-service blueprint.
In Figure 1, the blueprint chart, report delivery is one of the significant points of contact. Let’s say that you mail your reports to your client. The client receives the report without any personal contact with you. What can you do to spice up this aspect of your business? Let the brainstorming begin. You can send the report by courier, deliver the report in person and spend time discussing it with the client, email the report, or upload the report to a secure website and email a link and a password to the client. The report has built-in links to documents that contain more information on the condition described. A floating document box allows the client to type in questions as he or she reads the report. After reading the report, the questions document gets emailed to you for a response.
The key to effective brainstorming is writing down your ideas without criticizing them as you go. For example, the last idea above is fairly elaborate and might cost a lot to set up. Don’t worry about it. Just write down the ideas, no matter how difficult or even ridiculous they seem. You will have time to reject them in the next step. Brainstorming is a creative process, whereas evaluating each idea is an exercise in logic. Don’t mix logic with your brainstorming or it will stifle your creativity.
The next step is to consider each idea, evaluating it
• the impact the strategy will have on your clients,
• the cost of implementing the idea, and
• the time commitment it requires.
Let’s evaluate the idea of sending the report by courier. If you give your client a summary on site, they may not have a sense of urgency about receiving the report. Sending it by courier has little advantage and little impact, but it will consume a significant amount of profit from each inspection.
Now let’s look at the website idea... Implementing the dynamic website reporting system may be expensive, but if it creates an extraordinary point of distinction for your company, it could launch your business to levels you never thought possible.
Point of Contact = Service Opportunity
You might have a completely different chart for your relationship with real estate professionals. It would include items like office presentations, calling agents, lunch with agents and so on. What’s the point of blueprinting your business operations? It forces you to think about a strategy for every point at which you interact with the public. Each of these points is an opportunity for you to create exceptional, and memorable, service.
Spend Money to Make Money
Each idea has advantages and disadvantages. You need to weigh the long-term benefits, factoring your client’s needs into the equation. Yes, you will save money if you decide not to implement a dynamic website system, but a dynamic site imparts distinction to your company and might make customers happy. Customer satisfaction leads to referrals that lead to increased business volume. More business means you can pay for your website. Once the initials costs are covered, websites are relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain. You can’t always calculate the benefits based on cost alone. There are returns from customer satisfaction that don’t always show up immediately as revenues.
In the previous example, we made a key assumption: we know what the customer wants. This is a typical but dangerous assumption. It’s amazing how wrong we can be when we assume what customers want. For example, what if most of your customers do not have Internet access? Or, what if most of your customers think posting their report on a website violates their privacy?
We will touch on these questions in a future article. Here we have just briefly introduced our concept of service philosophy, and examined this using the lens of strategizing excellent service. Later we will look at developing your ability to have the customer’s perspective in mind, where we will discuss home inspections as a customer-centric business and how to develop different levels of service.