Note: This content has been updated; we want to provide the most relevant advice possible!
Any good working relationship is built on a solid foundation of trust.
Fortunately, laying the groundwork to achieve that needn’t be a difficult task: not if you use the right tools to help make a great first impression...
You may already have a well-established business that provides a great service: you’re making money and have a high first-time fix rate, but then so does every other business that you’re in competition with. The question is: how do you make your business stand out?
Earning the trust of your customers can really help to set you apart from your competition and so the process to obtain their trust is something that you really want to get right, especially as your competition will be fighting to lure them away!
However, the real struggle—no matter the size of your business—is about maintaining trust once it’s been earned. Take a look at the five steps we’ve outlined so that you can start giving customers excellent reasons to trust and keep on using your services:
- Establish clear lines of communication.
- Implement tech-savvy solutions, like an engineer portal.
- Demonstrate your reliability and accountability.
- Make use of a great customer relationship management system.
- Actively request (and respond) to online reviews.
1. Establish clear lines of communication.
The way you communicate with your customers not only shapes the quality of your service, but also how well it's perceived. If you’re not communicating well with your customers from day one, then you’re not setting yourself up to make a memorable first impression and definitely not the one you want to make.
To communicate clearly and accurately, ideally you want to be making use of a customer database. This will provide your staff with a lot of information at their fingertips, including:
- Basic details about each customer (name, address, email, the usual)
- What type of customer are they (private, estate agent, tenant, etc.)
- Their service history
- A list of the appliance/s installed at each property
- The customer's preferences i.e. is sending a letter best? Or would they prefer email, text, or a phone call? Knowing this can reduce the administrative burden.
It can be tough to strike a balance though. Too much communication—especially if you start spamming a customer whenever they inquire—can seem intrusive or even aggressive and so put them off.
Customers may expect responses to be quick these days, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed, either. Not enough communication, and they’ll go elsewhere.
So, first off, if they do make an inquiry you should be sure to respond within 24 hours (or earlier if possible). An automated response that’s funnelled through your job management software is a great way of acknowledging receipt of their inquiry and is far better than having them wait days for a reply.
Communication also needs to be clear. Don’t waffle. When information is clear, customers can be confident their request has been acknowledged and help them understand, on the other hand, what you might be asking or telling them.
Let’s say you provide gas engineering or a similar service; the simplest and most appropriate form of communication is a timely service reminder. When it’s set up properly, it acts more like a light nudge, giving customers notice to attend to a task before it becomes a problem. This provides peace of mind for them and can mean money in the bank for you.
See how much you could make with our Recurring Revenue Calculator.
From your perspective, service reminders also provide an opportunity to promote other services you think might be appropriate for an individual customer. For example, you might want to promote smart or environmentally friendly technology to certain tenants or landlords, so mention other installations that your service is capable of alongside your message.
Clear lines of communication can help your office staff and engineers operating out in the field, so they can deliver messages quickly and easily via their computer or smart devices. This keeps communication flowing and can prevent jobs from backing up, getting delayed, or being lost altogether.
2. Implement tech-savvy solutions, like an engineer portal.
Building trust with customers is about being transparent: customers don’t want to be blindsided by details that weren’t clearly explained beforehand, or receive important notices late, like an unexpected invoice, either.
If you want to be a trustworthy company, then you need to ensure that you’re being as clear as possible, at all times. Using digital tools, through job management software, and taking your business down a paperless route is a great way to help you achieve this goal.
There are a number of tech-based tools that you can use to make sure you achieve clarity across the board, but one that’s particularly useful is an Engineer Profile Portal.
For customers who require an engineer to visit their home or private residence, it’s an especially welcome feature. After all, even when a scheduled appointment is expected, it can still feel intimidating to not know who exactly will turn up to the address. You might be given a name, but is that enough?
That’s where an engineer profile portal comes in.
A quick text message or email from your company to the customer can provide them with a link to a web page. On this page, they can see the engineer’s name, their qualifications, professional credentials, and even a smiling photo. Not only do they get a visual idea of who’ll be helping them out, but they’re also reassured that the engineer (or tradesperson, as the case may be) is appropriately qualified to do the job.
Want to take it up a notch? If you implement vehicle tracking alongside an engineer portal, you can open yourself up to a technological powerhouse of data that can really elevate the customer journey that you provide.
With trackers, you can provide customers with real-time data that lets them see the engineers estimated time of arrival, which obviously benefits your office staff as well. For one, it saves them time spent trying to track engineers by phone (which can be painful) and can even help with scheduling, or working out optimised routes, as well.
3. Demonstrate your reliability and accountability.
Effective customer service is largely a matter of demonstrating that you’re reliable.
A simple way to do this, of course, is to do the job that you’ve been hired to do and do it well. This helps you to build a reputation for quality, but that’s the bare minimum you should be doing!
To take it further, you should show that you’re capable of displaying accountability, which can boost your business even more, as you aim to build trust with your customers.
This doesn’t mean taking blame when there is none, but similar to the previous example, it’s about clarity. For instance, making sure customers are aware you’re complying with GDPR is one way to do this, as is listing other policies that your business needs to abide by. You can use your website to display these more in detail.
In addition, listing methods of communication, such as an office number, email address, booking form will give customers a wide range of options to contact you. They can then choose the one that’s more appropriate (e.g. they would most likely email you if they’re at work rather than call).
Even listing the names of senior staff on your website can humanise your business and make people feel comfortable about who they’re doing welcoming into their house.
It’s also about behaviour. If you take steps to ensure your engineers act responsibly when out on a job i.e. instruct them to follow good etiquette, arrive promptly, be polite, dress appropriately, tidy-up after themselves, then it implies you’ve taken the time to do your due diligence: they’re accountable (and take pride) in the work they do and their attitude shows it.
The same goes for office staff. Being polite and considerate over the phone, recording data accurately and listening or responding to customer queries often goes toward elevating the customer experience. Consequently, customers will feel valued which leads to a stronger relationship based on trust.
It's important to provide training opportunities as well; even keeping staff up-to-speed on the software and hardware you use can make a huge difference!
With the right technology—particularly a customer database—this is easy to do. Tasks become more process-oriented and systematic and rely less on your engineers' memory or on a confusing paper trail. It's worth investing in a system that automates as many processes as possible, so your customers know they can rely on you. If you’re making information clear, it means you’re honest, open, and therefore hold yourself accountable.
4. Make use of a great customer management system.
Customers are increasingly starting to expect the same level of treatment from SMEs and tradespeople as they do from big businesses.
Consider, for a moment, the way you interact with your bank or telecoms company. You have certain expectations for how you wish to be treated. You expect:
- Transparency over the fees they charge.
- Accurate and detailed invoices sent to you in a timely manner.
- To be treated like an individual.
- For the person you speak with to be aware of your service history.
- For them to contact you in a timely and responsible manner if circumstances change
- To help you solve or prevent a problem if/when they arise.
The way they meet these expectations isn't by accident. Large companies invest in IT solutions so they can win and retain customers through high-quality service. In much the same way, how you're perceived by your own customers will also depend on how well you manage their information as well.
Fortunately, great customer service isn’t only achievable by these big businesses who have massive budgets to purchase expensive tech and software. The ability to manage your customer’s information is more accessible than ever these days thanks to excellent job management software and customer relationship management systems.
A system (like, say, Commusoft) that lets you manage your customers more effectively and make your business more process-oriented can be set up in just a few days and is designed to grow with your business. You may have to commit to a bit of time and effort to set things up in the first place, but the benefits that come with it will quickly show their worth.
To help you out, we’ve prepared an 18 Point Checklist to Efficient Customer Relationship Management so be sure to click the image below and download. It’s free!
5. Actively request (and respond) to online reviews.
It’s one thing to say that you’re trustworthy and do a good job by talking yourself up on your website, but the real impact comes from customers talking about their experiences.
Feedback can be your golden ticket to success, and getting a great review can be a huge boon for your business. A good review is worth much more than promotional advertising.
This is especially true if you make an effort to actively request, display, and respond to reviews as well. Even a simple “thank you, we’re pleased to hear you enjoyed our service!” shows that you’re engaged with your customers.
Candid responses to concerned (or even frustrated) customers helps other prospects see that you care what your customers think of your business and that you actively tackle problems as soon as they arise.
If you look at reviews for gas engineers, plumbers and similar tradespeople on TrustMark's website and other review sites, like Checkatrade, you'll find it easy to work out what customers and businesses are focusing on, dealing with, and even how they might tackle positive and negative feedback.
Learn more: Discover how you can get more reviews with our Email Templates.
When you can easily record feedback from customers and engineers, you're far better able to follow the path of continuous improvement and adhere to quality standards set out in certification programmes like ISO9001.
Building trust with your customers isn’t going to be a “one and done” task but a continuous process. However, this doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. If you follow the tips we’ve outlined above and make an effort to use a few digital tools that are available to you, then you’ll find it easier than you might have expected.
Of course, when it comes to the work you do, it’s not just about digital tools, but also about the people who’re there on site, meeting and greeting your customers, and providing an awesome service.
With that in mind, we’ve prepared an infographic you’re likely to find useful.
With a lot of help from other field service businesses, we’ve designed it to help you ensure your engineers and admin staff are making a great effort to engage and win customers over, no matter the work they’re doing. Download it here!