What's the most important thing you can give your customers, that will have them coming back to you again and again?
A feeling of trust.
Of course, you want to provide a great service with a high first-time fix rate. But every field service business does that (or at least claims to do that), and trust is that secret ingredient that will set you apart from the rest.
How can I build trust with my customers?
Here's what you need to build trust and loyalty in your customers—so they keep coming back, and also recommend your business to others:
- Good communication.
- Tech savvy.
- A proper customer management system.
- Positive online reviews.
These trust-building factors are based on Trustmark's cornerstones of quality: good trading practices, good customer service, and technical competence. Let's do a deep dive into each one to help you make it work in your business.
1. Good communication
The way you communicate with your customers not only shapes the quality of your service, but also how it's perceived.
It's a tough balance: Too much communication—especially inappropriate, intrusive or badly timed communication—is as bad as none at all. So start with the basics.
For example, if you provide gas engineering or similar services, the simplest and most appropriate form of communication is a timely service reminder. This shows that you have your customers' interests at heart when it comes to preventing future problems.
From your perspective, service reminders 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 and landlords.
To do this well, you need to have a lot of information at your fingertips, including:
- Basic details about each customer.
- Each customer's type.
- Their service history.
- What appliances are installed at each property.
- The customer's preferences.
You also need the ability to communicate through the right kind of media—Is sending a letter best? Or would email, texting, or calling be better?—without imposing a major administrative burden.
2. Tech savvy
Information technology will not make you a competent architect or plumber—that's down to your training and your abilities. However, poor use of information technology can certainly create the impression that someone is not a competent tradesperson.
This means that as the speed and scope of technological change continues to accelerate, it's becoming more and more important to make sure you've got the right IT system support to help you quickly access the information you need, when you need it. (Nowadays, that's usually through a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet.)
For example, how easy is it for you to discover whether you have a particular part in stock when you're in the field? If you don't have that part, is there an alternative?
Your company’s information—parts inventories, service records, and so on—can often provide the answer.
Also, 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.
Effective customer service is largely a matter of being reliable.
With the right technology—including a customer database and service applications—your business becomes more process-oriented and systematic, and relies less on your engineers' memories or a paper trail.
An excellent example of where this can make a difference is invoicing. After all, just about every customer wants to be invoiced accurately and on time. If you send an invoice late, the customer may even forget that you provided the service and question the invoice—a waste of their time and yours.
It's worth investing in a system that automates as many processes as possible, so your customers know they can rely on you.
4. A proper customer management system
How you're perceived by your customers increasingly depends on how well you manage information about your company, your employees and, most importantly, your customers.
Consider your own bank or telecommunications company. You have certain expectations for how you'll be treated by these businesses. You expect:
- 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—for example, if you could get a better return on your savings or if faster broadband service becomes available.
- Transparency over the fees they charge.
- Accurate and detailed invoices sent to you in a timely manner.
The way your bank or telecommunications company meets these expectations isn't by accident. Large companies invest in IT so they can win and retain customers through high-quality service.
Customers are increasingly starting to expect the same level of treatment from SMEs and tradespeople, highlighting the importance of effective data management to meet quality standards and build your reputation.
It's safe to say that almost no one has access to the IT resources of a major bank or telco—and luckily, as a field service business, you don't need to! A system that lets you manage your customers more effectively and make your business more process-oriented can be set up in just a few days.
You'll have to commit to a bit of time and effort to set it up in the first place, but the system will quickly pay for itself.
5. Positive online reviews
People trust the word of other satisfied customers, and a good review is worth much more than promotional advertising.
If you look at the reviews for gas engineers, plumbers and similar tradespeople on TrustMark's website and other review sites like Capterra, you'll find that endorsements often focus on the 5 key points above.
Follow the tips here, and you'll get the rave reviews that will help you to build your business even further. Also, click below to get free review request templates that will help you get even more testimonials from your happy customers.