Providing excellent customer service has become one of the most highly effective ways to increase business. Consumers have time and again recognized the value of this component — and are willing to pay a premium for the kind of customer service they have come to expect, and nothing less. While it may sound like a daunting task, providing unparalleled customer service can be easier than you think. Here are five customer service tactics to help you take your business to the next level.
#1 Know Your Customer… and Connect with Them
Most small business owners realize that getting to know their customer is essential. First of all, when it comes to effective marketing, it helps to know what your customer wants and understand their buying behavior. It’s also helpful to recognize what type of customer is going to seek out your service.
For home inspectors, it’s easy to default to identifiers like “REALTOR®,” but it’s important to go past the title and dig into the person. And it’s good to have general demographic information (name, age, real estate experience, etc.), but beyond that, once you have gained that customer, connecting with them on a deeper level is a great way to offer the kind of customer service that makes them feel like a valued client, versus just a number. Get to know them as a person. For example, get to know your customers’ hobbies and interests. What are their values? What do they care about? Which social media platforms are they on? Knowing your customer better allows you to connect with them on a deeper, more meaningful level – and when this is done right, it can lead to enhanced real estate agent loyalty and repeat business, which is gold.
#2 Make it Easy
Speaking of connecting, one of the most effective ways to ramp up your customer service efforts is to simplify the process of connecting… literally. While it seems like a very simple thing, customers need to know how to reach your company. An article on Entrepreneur.com notes, “It is necessary to ensure that all your customers can reach you.” And when they want to reach you. Sounds simple enough in theory, but it’s gotten more difficult through the years.
Most businesses these days provide multiple options for their customers to get in contact. Phone, email, text, business and referral websites, social media, etc. And more customers all the time expect to have these multiple contact sources available to them. For inspectors, this is great for capturing more leads, but it is also increasingly challenging to effectively manage these lead sources - because customers become less and less patient when it comes to a response time from an inspector. In fact, it’s been estimated that as much as 85% of callers who can’t reach a company on the first try will not call back. And 75% of those same callers will not leave a voicemail. It’s also been proven that companies who contacted leads within an hour were seven times more likely to qualify a lead than the companies who decided to contact a lead just an hour later and sixty times more than the companies who waited 24 hours or longer.
Bottom line: Make it easy for your customers to contact you, but also make sure you have a reliable process in place for them to communicate with your company straight away, or at the very least, a process to get back to them ASAP.
#3 Follow Up… and Make it Right
Home inspectors know all too well the multiple steps required to book, process the inspection order, and complete a home inspection for a client. Once an inspection order is booked, there’s often the basic follow up communications to the client or buyer’s agent to secure all pertinent inspection appointment information, as well as coordinate property access details with the listing agent or showing service. With customer expectations higher than ever, basic follow up with clients has to be fast, efficient and pleasant. Three key components to creating a delighted customer.
It’s tough enough to maintain the communication speed, efficiency and friendliness required to keep your customers happy and satisfied when things are going smoothly, but when there’s a problem, it’s even more important. On top of that, when issues arise, small business owners must make themselves even more available – demonstrating not just a willingness to make things right, but signifying an urgency to the client that their issue is important and will be resolved quickly. Entrepreneur.com notes, “When it comes down to it, customers really only want a few things if there's a problem with your service or product. They want to interact with friendly company representatives, and they want a personalized experience. They also want to get information on their problem easily. Finally, they want to do business with a company that has a good reputation. If you cover the bases above, you’ll be well on your way towards earning that.”
Some inspectors struggle to manage follow up in a way that is fast, efficient and friendly. And worse, some simply are too busy to make themselves personally available when problems rear their ugly heads. In these cases, the business owner should employ alternative resources and solutions for managing the basic and critical needs of their clients, such as trained personnel to listen to the customer, display empathy, gather all the necessary information, and assure them the inspector will investigate and get back to them.
#4 Retain, Retain, Retain
While many home inspectorsfocus on getting new customers (which is always important), retaining their current clientele list is paramount. A real estate agent who has been a long-term customer will almost always be of more value than any one-off. Also, the cost to acquire new customers is far greater than the cost and time to nurture and grow a current one. Of course, inspectors should go out and acquire new customers, but if they can maintain a larger percentage of customers for a longer life cycle, they will build revenue on a foundation that is more profitable and predictable; two factors that have created tremendous wealth for some of the most successful home inspection business owners in our industry today.
Piggybacking on that, Hubspot.com minces no words on the necessity of retention, stating, “The numbers don't lie: Retaining customers brings companies a ton of ROI… returning customers spend more and buy more often, and refer friends and family. Only a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%.” Bottom line, inspectors should place a greater emphasis on retention over new agent acquisition — and the most effective way to do so, is by providing great customer service.
#5 Be Human
Customer service, by definition, is about serving people; it should be genuine, personalized, and compassionate—or, simply put, human.We’ve all heard the phrase, “People buy from people, not businesses;” yet, somewhere in the race to be more efficient, fast, reliable and affordable, business owners lost sight of this to a degree. And the data proves it. Recent studies by McKinsey & Company tell us that 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services and 67% of customers say they’d definitely be willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
Yes, it’s important to have a solid product and provide great service if you want to compete in a competitive industry like the home inspection industry. However, at the end of the day, we’re still talking about humans interacting with humans – and humans are complicated!
An inspector can conduct an efficient and well-informed inspection and follow it up with an insightful and downright beautiful report. And you’d think that having a trained professional diagnose the health of a home’s mechanicals, structure, plumbing, roof, and all sorts of other components and provide a comprehensive account of that home’s health would be enough to satisfy any client. And…you’d be wrong. A study by Dimensional Research found that 65% of surveyed respondents were happy with a customer service interaction simply because the person who helped them was "nice.” It’s not enough to be a skilled inspector and provide expert service to your clients. To truly stand out in a crowded space, it is best to provide the superior end-to-end customer experience. From the very first call, email or text, through the lead sales process, through the booking process, through the order processing, through the onsite inspection and inspection report, and through to the post-inspection follow up communications. This is the difference between a good experience for your customer and an exceptional, beginning-to-end customer experience.
It was found in a recent survey performed by American Express that “90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.” What do your customers want? A great product and service…AND great customer service.
Providing an exceptional beginning-to-end customer experience has never been more challenging. The expectations from consumers are high, and you can bet, will remain so for the foreseeable future. However, with such a large emphasis being placed on customer service to drive a consumers’ overall satisfaction, it’s in your best interest to allocate more time and resources toward providing excellent customer service. From initial contact to post-inspection follow up call and every step in between, if you place exceptional customer service at the forefront of every customer touchpoint, you’ll build a lasting business with a healthy bottom line and a competitive edge that’s hard to beat.