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The Job Is Complete When The Customer Says So

The following blog appears on TWICE sister site Residential Systems.

Every installer has experienced the dreaded follow-up phone calls from customers wondering how to switch between TV and Blu-ray, or asking why their satellite channels aren’t coming in.

The best installers don’t ignore the calls because they know how important it is to provide quality service to maintain customer relationships. Important as they are, these calls can take up a significant amount of time, and are often about a simple solution, or an issue that requires the attention of a service provider.

I know that I am preaching to the choir. I’m a strong believer in quality customer service and though picking up the phone can set you apart from your competitors, there has to be a balance between providing service and becoming a tech support hotline. Mitigating a barrage of service calls can start with simply educating the customer on what their system can do, and how to use it up front.

Some projects are a one-day job, while others take weeks or months. Regardless of the size or complexity of the install, it’s essential to train your clients to use their new system. Time is money, and when a job is complete, the next one awaits. But, taking the time to teach clients how to use their own newly installed system can prove valuable later on, in preventing additional service calls, user questions, even adding and selling them new technology later on.

Avoiding frequent service calls can start with spec’ing the system, where dealers should take the time to truly understand the customer’s needs. Now that customers can learn more about systems online before the installation, dealers can discuss various possibilities before they start installing. And although upselling can be fruitful, listening to what the customer wants and asking the right questions to understand their vision for the project creates a better experience. Truly listen to the customer and consider what they are asking for, and look for ways that they might want to expand on that system in the future.

If a customer is getting a security system without cameras today, isn’t it possible that they’ll come back to their dealer next year and want cameras? As the expert, it’s the dealers’ job to think of these possibilities, and set up a system that has the ability to grow when the customer is ready for it. Entering a discussion with the customer will establish a better relationship with them, and will keep them happy down the road by using your expertise to future-proof for them. This is where education becomes a critical part of a dealer’s success, and why PowerHouse Alliance distributors prioritize dealer training nationwide across products and new solutions that they can offer customers.

Dealers nationwide who work with our distributors have found it helpful to leave behind a one-sheet (or even put it on your website), that provides instructions on how to maneuver through questions and the most commonly used parts of the system. Even a chart with the step-by-step instructions on ways to perform common commands such as switching inputs, rebooting devices, or activating different features can do the trick. Another useful tool is a troubleshooting guide with instructions on what to do about specific error messages. Sort of an if-this-then-that for customer service, where you provide a guide such as: “If X goes wrong, call your cable company (with cable company number),” or, “if Y goes wrong, press X.”

The simpler the instructions, the more likely the customer will work through the document to troubleshoot on their own before calling you. Introduce the document to customers at the end of the installation when you teach them how to use the new system so they’ll remember to check it before reaching out to you. Providing a tour of the system is essential, and many of our dealers have found it more cost and time efficient to bring in customer service staff for the final walkthrough and Q&A. This person then becomes the point of contact for the customer, freeing up the installer to move on to the next job.

Taking an extra hour at the end of the installation to get the customer comfortable with using their system can prevent three hours of wasted time on a truck roll later on, and will keep the customer happy. Ultimately, good customer service is the key to dealer success. But putting in a little extra time and effort up front can save hundreds of phone calls, money, and headaches down the road.

Dennis Holzer is executive director of the PowerHouse Alliance, a national consortium of 12 regional wholesale distributors serving custom installers, specialty dealers, large retailers and buying groups in the residential and commercial A/V, home entertainment, security, IT and CE accessories markets.