The Customer Service Survey

Customer Experience and Home Repair

by Peter Leppik on Fri, 2013-07-26 15:57

It's not just big companies which provide bad customer service. Just ask any homeowner. Contractors are notorious for providing inconsistent-to-terrible customer service.

In my home, we just finished an insulation upgrade project. Of the first four contractors I reached out to last fall, only two ever got back to me. The other two came and looked at our project and promised to send us bids, but we never heard from either of them again (this is sales 101, guys, c'mon).

So we found two more contractors through Angie's List; they were both more responsive and did write estimates for us, but one of them didn't respond promptly when we had questions about his bid, and wasn't able to provide good answers.

The contractor we eventually chose did everything right from a customer service perspective: they scheduled the work well in advance, showed up right on time, explained what they were doing and answered questions, finished on time and cleaned up after themselves.

But the amazing thing is that five of the six contractors eliminated themselves not on the basis of price or the quality of their work, but because they couldn't handle basic communicating with the customer (i.e. me). And I don't think my experience is all that unusual, either.

So why does this happen? And how do companies like this stay in business?

Some issues are just unique to the world of home repair and contracting: schedules slip, weather causes delays, employees are sometimes unreliable, etc.

But I think there's something else going on. Most home contractors are small businesses. Sometimes the owner has the customer service gene, but often he's a tradesman first and sales/service come far behind.

And there will always be customers who hire the first guy they can reach, or who have an emergency and will put up with almost anything to get the job done quickly. So without a brand to protect, a contractor can get by even if he doesn't respond to every sales inquiry or communicate well with customers. He may not build a big business, but that might not be what he wants.

That's why homeowners like me have to call a half-dozen different companies in order to find the one who is easy to do business with.

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